The Wage Health Rights Gender Gap

…with liberty and justice.. for all?

Staying comfortably alive is, unfortunately, much harder as a woman than you’d think. Collateral damage of war, terrible domestic violence, and a surprisingly insidious gap in medical care — and rights. Most medical knowledge we have is based on research on male bodies. Knowledge and effective treatments for women’s health conditions and diseases are shockingly in short supply. Women are regarded as more “emotional” than men, dismissed as “hormonal” when concerned about alarming physical symptoms, and are often dismissed in a way that makes the “hysteria” diagnoses of bygone days seem not that far away after all. Black women and other women of color are disproportionately affected. Heavier women are told to lose weight as a catch all solution to every ill. Pregnancies are more dangerous in the U.S. than any first world country has a right to be. And a whole host of reproductive health concerns have been made violently worse by the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade. Abortion access is imperiled in much of the country. Safe and easy medical treatments for other reproductive issues will be harder to receive due to the ban of practices deemed to close to those used for abortion. In short, women’s health care in the United States is a travesty. It is an environment that is negligent at best — and malevolently hostile at worst — towards female bodies.

A smattering of recent news:

According to the 2021 Global Women’s Health Index, not only did women’s health get worse worldwide in 2021, the United States was ranked 23rd in the world. Twenty third. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we don’t even crack the top 20 for women’s healthcare.

Recent reporting in the New York Times brought to the forefront how very little we actually know about an organ possessed by approximately half the world’s population: the clitoris. Virtually no one is studying it. Most medical literature ignores it completely. Surgeries and procedures regarded as routine and straightforward have documented injuries to the organ as a result of anatomical ignorance. And even though regular examinations are recommended, most providers “neither know how to examine nor feel comfortable examining the clitoris.”

Abortion bans in the 100 days since Roe V. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court have resulted in incredible harm to women’s healthcare, including but also well beyond abortion procedures themselves. “Abortion bans have impacted healthcare beyond reproductive care, keeping Americans in some states from obtaining treatments for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and even cancer because the medications can be used to induce a miscarriage.”1 Women in the middle of life-threatening medical emergencies are sitting and waiting until legal teams, not doctors, decide if their lives are threatened “enough” to provide care.2 Other very basic, safe medical procedures that utilize similar methodologies or medications as abortions are in serious jeopardy due to the potential legal ramifications for the providers. A miscarriage has become a prosecutable crime. As Jia Tolentino pointedly explains, “We’re not going back to the time before Roe. We’re going somewhere worse.”

What can we do?

PlannedParenthood.org remains a steadfast resource for women’s healthcare, including issues related to menstruation, endometriosis, UTIs, PCOS, pregnancy, contraception, and more.

Abortionfunds.org lists abortion funds in every state if you’d like to donate, as well as links to resources to help find a clinic near you or get more information about safe, effective abortion pills.

California Black Women’s Health Project provides a variety of resources for Black women and girls, including mental health, aging, and sexual empowerment.

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center advocates for policies, offers resources, and holds events and trainings in support of the mental and physical health of indigenous women in the US, extending even to housing instability and gender-based violence.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has excellent advice to keep your digital privacy safe, whether you are seeking an abortion or a provider of abortion or healthcare support. What was benign data can now potentially be used as criminal evidence, so know your digital rights and protect yourself accordingly.

We are in this together. Let’s do all we can to close the gap in our rights to healthcare and bodily autonomy. Women’s rights are human rights.

The gift

“… burn this candle to embrace your entire spectrum of identity and bloom like never before.” — Boy Smells

Just before my birthday last summer I was out shopping and eating with friends in LA, and I stumbled upon a candle in a little shop that I kept coming back to. The vessel was a bright, shiny gold, with an artful label of all text. The scent was deep and woody, and the name? “Polyamberous.” The quip made me smile, as I always love a good wordplay. It took me a bit to decide between it and another candle I liked as a little gift for myself — I was apprehensive about making it mine, to be honest, in more ways that one. I finally said “yes” to it in my head, and as soon as it found a home on my nightstand, I felt seen. Yes, I was – I am – polyamorous. I wasn’t out to anyone but myself, and I wasn’t seeing anyone yet. But I felt like I had finally embraced this part of me.

The smell of amber and tonka bean is heady and rich, much like my life these days. I’m grateful and scared and learning and growing every day. What I am not doing every day, though, is asking myself, “what’s wrong with me?” Not anymore. And that, more than anything, is the true gift — a gift to myself that was long overdue.

Touching spines

Last night
I read a book
that I could have written.
Lyric and melancholy,
musing, yearning, seeking —
philosophical, if you will.

Today’s book,
the pages are full of you,
have you all over them.
A novel of tight, clipped prose.
Simple. Deceptively so.
Something new for me to touch
that feels all too familiar.

Maybe somewhere these books are on a shelf,
touching in ways that we cannot seem to
no matter how much I ache.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

little affirmations

Today, how about you give yourself a little boost?  Cell phone affirmations, anyone?  I saw this idea on Instagram several weeks ago and thought I would give it a whirl.  In the screenshot I saw, the basic folder names on their home screen had been replaced with affirmations — so instead of “Finance,” my money apps folder now reads, “I am rich.”  Gone is the “Games” label — now it says “I can play.”  Health and medical-type apps proclaim, “I am healthy,” while social apps remind me that “I am connected.”  House and home apps remind me, “I am sheltered.”


I’ve been thinking about these little phrases off and on over the last few weeks, curious to see if I noticed any changes to my outlook, and after a month or so, I think I can confirm a change for the better.  More and more lately I have been feeling the collective societal clapback against “screen time” and media influence, to the point that Instagram can feel like too-guilty a pleasure, or playing a game on my phone to unwind feels like time I should use to do other things.  While there are definite issues with too much time spent online, guilt for me was sometimes pushing the pendulum too far in the other direction.  Reminding myself that “I am connected” when I go to open Instagram now reminds me that I am able to connect with a bigger world of inspiration and ideas, people and places.  “I can play,” reminds me to approach games with that spirit – not as mind-numbing time wasters, but small opportunities for play amidst a busy day.  And even though “I am rich” can feel a little wry when ye olde bank balance is low, it is also a great reminder that I AM rich, regardless of that balance — rich in love, in friends, in joy, and in opportunities.


As far as remembering to do affirmations or other such gratitude practices, this one seemed low-lift and easy.  I didn’t have to remind myself to make time for something extra: I swipe my phone open all throughout my day, and there they are waiting.  Maybe give it a try, even if it feels a little cheesy?  You might just make yourself smile a bit more this week.

seasons

Pomegranate, La Jolla, August 2021


some fruits wither and fall away
so that others can flourish
and ripen
and burst open
when it is their season

do not mourn the harvest that could have been
when a bounty of sweetness
was/is/will be
exploding on your tongue
even now
in this very moment
alive with every possibility



–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Little altars everywhere

For months I have been admiring the beautiful little altars Nichole of California Sister has been making. They are beautiful, and I loved the idea of a spot to gather inspiration, focus my breath, and put forth intentions. I’ve been watching and waiting for juuuuust the right one to come along and resonate with me. Ever a can-doer and also not entirely patient, this week I finally decided to try my had at making my own, and I am so pleased with the results.

For my little altar I scoured FB marketplace and then went thrifting, where I eventually found an inexpensive wood clock I thought I could repurpose for my own ends. I carefully took it apart, peeling away old gobs of glue and disassembling the clock mechanism, and then sanded the whole thing to help my paint adhere. Two coats of spray paint+primer did the trick, and then I hand applied gold leaf to the glass before back-painting it black to make for a decorative background for the top area of my altar. The piece de resistance was the leather-mounted lion’s head I repurposed from a cool old bottle I thrifted. He is my altar figurehead.

For me, the lion represents my fierce loves and fierce protectiveness and loyalty. The way I try to radiate light to the world around me. And the beauty I want to embody, like a big cat’s sensual grace. The items I have placed inside for now include:

  • a small Blockshop printed card, for creativity
  • a tiny handpainted Chinese bottle, to honor my family and my heritage
  • a little photo of my two dogs who have passed on, to keep them close
  • a smooth heart-shaped labradorite stone, for romantic love and also as a reminder to choose myself
  • a sweet-smelling votive, to be a light in the dark
  • a baby disco ball given to me by a dear friend many years ago, for friendship and memories
  • a fairy I’ve had since I was young, to remind me to dream

Thank you, Nichole, for your talent and inspiration. I’m not entirely sure yet what small rituals or practices will grow from this new little space of mine, but for the moment I’m content to focus, breathe, and enjoy. I brought in a single plumeria yesterday, just for the simple tiny joy of it. Right now, that feels like enough.

I love you, Daddy

Daddy and me, circa 1983-84

Yesterday my dad passed away. He was 88 years old. I sat there listening to my half-brother cry on the other end of the line as he delivered the news, stunned and numb for what felt like an eternity. Then I burst into tears.

My dad had the most fascinating, full life anyone could imagine, from growing up in Trinidad and a youthful sojourn in the merchant marines, working as a psychiatric nurse and a double decker bus driver in Scotland, and then emigrating to the U.S. even though he was barred entry here for years due to his Chinese heritage. He worked as a self-employed mechanic, raised two families, and loved his children fiercely. He was generous, loved going to the horse races (where I spent many a happy summer in the infield), was an excellent cook, and entertained us with Charlie-isms like “throosers” for trousers, “DOHg” for dog, and the very British “alumEEnium.” To this day I don’t know how much these quirks of speech were a result of 3 continents’ worth of accents, or how much they were his own little idiosyncrasies. We loved it either way. Most summers he spent a little time “up north” mining for gold with friends, he was a great bowler and miniature golfer, and he left this world on his own terms – independent, living on his own, and old enough see his oldest grandchild start high school, just like he wanted.

I wrote this poem a few years ago for him, when he was having one of his many health scares. I didn’t share it with him at the time, though. He was so very afraid of dying, and I thought the allusions to it in my poem would be troubling for him as he convalesced. I finally gave him a framed copy of it for Father’s Day this year, and I think it may have been his favorite gift I ever gave him. To say he loved it would be an understatement — he held it and read it over and over, mouthing the words and cradling the frame gently in his arthritic hands. He marveled that I had written it “all on my own,” and said I had “brought a tear to his eye,” — but I already knew. I could see the tears shining there. He told me almost shyly that he wanted to try to memorize it, even though his memory had gotten so much worse over the years. I was honored and so, so humbled. That was our last visit, and I am so grateful I was able to convey to him just how loved he was before he died.

father/time

so passes
the golden autumn
of this world
into a dark/light place
made of lengthening shadows
and warm tender moments alike.
poignant relief marks the passing
of each second and season,
pearls on a string slipping away
through fingers
roughened by time,
all the more cherished
for that which has gnarled them.
fear not,
though a shadow passes over your eyes
at the thought
of things unknown.
in the end,
you are loved.

— Charla M. DelaCuadra

I love you, Daddy, and I miss you already. I’ll always be grateful for your love. I know you were proud of me. I share your name, and you’ll always be in my heart. Thank you — for everything.

(never) yours

 

She’ll fly away one day.  A speck against the sun. 

Glorious and free.

But will she miss the ache of her chest, the yearning in her breast?  
The way his stubble might have felt on her throat? 
His lips on her pulse?
  
Oh, yes.

If only.  Wrong time.  Wrong place.
Missing him.  Pretending not to.

He was never yours.


— Charla M. DelaCuadra

A bookish-ish afternoon

You know how sometimes your brain can be on overdrive? Not for a little while, but for several days or weeks? Lots of things swirling around, lots of opportunities for growth to be had, lots of love and heartbreak, maturing, digging, seeking, pondering, and finding. Sometimes those days or weeks require something small, focused, and a touch mindless, even if just for a little while.

While I am always grateful for times of growth like this, it is hard. And draining. So what did I do today? After I got dressed and walked the dogs, somehow I wound up in our hallway facing my bookshelves. For the next couple hours, I sorted and purged. I organized, alphabetized, puttered, and shifted. The biggest questions I had to face were, “will I want to read this again?” and “if so, can I do it easily online or through the library?” Done and done. A couple books I kept for purely sentimental reasons beyond my read-it-again criteria, but by and large, the sentimental and the read-it-again columns neatly matched. And it was so. very. satisfying. I now have a few stacks of well-loved YA fiction to pass along to my niece and nephew, and still more to donate to the local library book sale, or to sprinkle into the little free libraries in my neighborhood. I now have no recent additions leaning haphazardly here and there for lack of space, and perhaps the best part — I had a couple hours of very Zen focus on a single enjoyable, achievable task.

This afternoon I’m feeling a little less frazzled, a little more calm, and a little more even-keeled than I have in a few weeks. For the anxious overthinker in me, that is a huge win. Big questions are good to grapple with, but sometimes we need small things to give ourselves time to rest in between. What kind of little win can you gift to yourself this weekend? May I suggest a bit of decluttering or organizing? For me, at least, this little thing felt big — in the best way.