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International Women’s Day: Women Don’t Poo & Other Lies

Despite what fairy tales and cartoons might portray of women releasing nothing but flowery smelling pink sparkles, us women do indeed fart, burp and poo (in fact, it can be worrying if you don’t but that’s a whole different story) and, these things don’t make us any less ‘feminine’, beautiful or worthy – they simply make us real.

With unusual bowel symptoms or habits, often comes added feelings of embarrassment, disgust and even shame. So, it’s not surprising that when women undergo surgery that results in a piece of bowel being pulled through the wall of the abdomen in which faeces is passed into a bag that women often feel further dirty, less beautiful or unworthy.

It’s so so important to emphasise the need to talk to someone if you’re experiencing any bowel symptoms that are unusual to you – not your neighbour, not the opposite gender, not your friend, you. Although pooing frequently or passing blood may not feel the most glamourous or ‘feminine’, it does not make you any less of these things.

Gender & being an ostomate

I’ve had multiple interesting conversations over the past few years with both male and female ostomates with regards to gender and being an ostomate. Interestingly, while everybody seems to agree that being an ostomate hosts its own difficulties for each individual, most male ostomates I’ve spoken to have said that they feel being a female ostomate would be more difficult due to societal conforms and expectations.

However, when speaking to female ostomates, they recognise that male ostomates face other unique difficulties such as less choice in terms of fashion or feelings of being less ‘macho’. Conclusively, there is no ‘easier’ body to be in, everybody faces their own challenges but, although it may feel like it on occasions, having an ostomy doesn’t make you any less or more than who you are.

I’ve touched on this before but, as do many young, confused adolescents, I had a pretty tough time when it came to accepting myself over the years. Dealing with a chronic illness and surgery certainty didn’t help with this…

It’s important for everybody to be made to feel included and beautiful always but, I must admit, I noticed this more than ever having undergone ostomy surgery. I noticed that there now certainly wasn’t anyone that I could find representing people like myself. Surprisingly, to many (including myself), although this period following emergency ostomy surgery was one of the most difficult and confidence destroying, it somehow was equally one of the most empowering seeing my body in combat and come through the other end still working but, in a slightly new and alternative way.

This is what inspired me to start working to raise awareness of living life as a young woman with a stoma because as daunting as it was if nobody did then how would change transpire? This is when I started sharing what could be described as more ‘daring’ content in terms of my stoma however, I have never seen it that way.

I had grown up seeing women of all shapes, sizes, races etc being scrutinized for simply being them – I thought to myself, what’s the worst that can happen? Someone might have an opinion about my new body but so what, they probably had an opinion about my old one too. Instead, I saw the positives and the informative, influential importance seeing and learning about this ‘different’ type of body could have on the lives of others. Today, I still work endlessly to try and share this ethos that what people may perceive as ‘different’ is normal and should be used and portrayed in normal advertising, media and representation as is any other image.

Individual journeys 

In particularly online at the moment, there can be a recognised sense of pressure or competition; who’s speaking about the most taboo subjects, sharing the most graphic images, getting the most likes, involved with bigger companies, managing to do the most etc and this really isn’t great for anyone. Don’t get me wrong, all of this stuff is great but, people creating a sense of competition around it isn’t. We have to remember that everybody’s at their own stage of their own unique and individual journeys.

Often, the people you’re helping the most are the ones you’re unaware of. We have to be mindful of the most difficult times and how big some seemingly insignificant achievements are at those times such as getting up, eating a slice of toast or holding a 5-minute conversation. Anyway, I feel like I’m running on a tangent here but I think you can understand what I’m getting at…

As a community, it’s so important that we are accepting of one another and open to learning about peoples individualities but, most importantly that we are supportive and uplifting of one another’s unique journeys, achievements and stories. After all, beauty really is different and beyond aesthetics, there are so many other things that contribute to our individual aura and beauty.

Loving my body

Learning to love my body has been a long and bumpy road. Despite publicly sharing my story and images from an early stage, this doesn’t necessarily mean I was fully accepting or loving of my body at this point. As cliché as it sounds, this is very much an individual journey that comes from within of which I don’t believe there is an ultimate ‘final’ destination (unless there is and I’m yet to reach it…). There are 100% periods which are easier and periods that are tougher than others but, it’s important to know that’s completely normal. I’ve touched upon this in another post recently but, below I will list some of my personal favourite things to keep both a happy body and, a happy mind;

  • Happy Place podcast by Fearne Cotton
  • – As simple as it sounds, develop yourself a routine
  • – Do things that make you feel good (Now I do things such as running or going to the gym for a completely different reason to why I did initially – for the way they made me look – rather, now, I recognise that doing these things make me feel good which is the motivator for keeping them up).
  • – Listen to both your body and mind and recognise the things that perhaps don’t make you feel so good
  • – Associate with those who are supportive, uplifting and inspiring and cut ends with those that aren’t (this applies to who you follow online too!)
  • – Be honest about the way you’re feeling whether this is simply with yourself or, by chatting to someone else about it
  • – Be selfish at times, do things for you and not just for others
  • – Make plans
  • – Read

We’ve got this gals (and guys), not just on this International Women’s Day but, all year round.

Amber x

Follow Amber on Instagram here

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