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10th Premise: Ignorance is not an excuse but a contagious disease.
When I heard about Terrilynn's Uterus Flag Project, I knew I had to contribute. She was looking for fiber artists to render their work over her pattern of a uterus, to be strung together, creating a long chain of traditional prayer flags. Terrilynn's impetus for the project came from one of the two most highly and unnecessarily performed surgeries on women: hysterectomies. I was not aware of this until I joined the project. For me, my connection was based out of my status as a DES Daughter.
DES, Diethylstilbestrol, was the first ever synthetic estrogen, given to women Internationally and between the 1930's to about 1972, when it was finally pulled off the market--DES is the original endocrine disruptor, known to cause birth defects relating to the endocrine system (reproductive, etc), as well as increasing breast cancer risks in women it was given to, such as my mother, as well as increasing the risk of breast cancer for offspring, both male and female--anyone with a nipple is at risk for breast cancer. Both testicular cancer and a rare cervical cancer are also potential factors for offspring. DES-related problems have driven many women to have hysterectomies, and while this has not been an issue for me, I was surprised and alarmed with the lack of knowledge regarding DES, most disturbingly at the medical level, but that it was even suggested to me before childbearing, and only in my early 30s with no pending concerns, that I should have a hysterectomy, just to be safe. I was horrified, and the fact that this occurs regularly in women's healthcare, along with the exponentially-on-the-rise mastectomy recommendations and procedures, it was important for me to participate in Terrilynn's Uterus Flag Project, especially having lost my mother to breast cancer, and knowing that people need to know about DES.
There's just something about the tradition of needlework and women's history that makes me want to sew, embroider, needlepoint, knit, crochet, macramé, or weave...adding to the tapestry, being a part of something so much bigger that connects women through "herstory" by participating in creating fibre art, textiles, and fabric, often done in "circles" of gathered women, something that doesn't work so well with my disabled upper extremities, which determine how much work I can complete at one time, one sitting, so an opportunity to contribute a Prayer Flag I could work on in my own method, fit me to a T.
On December 9, 2012, Terrilynn hosted a flash installation for the participants. In 2014, the Uterus Flag Project was installed at CSUSM.
Rêverend Tanya A. N.
The Uterus Flag Project(conceived by artist Terrilynn)
Kellogg Reading Room, California State University, San Marcos, CA
February 10 - May 20, 2014
Why Vox? I have long associated the "utterance" with the "uterus" and the Greek tradition that was to perform hysterectomies in an effort to cure women of their hysteria. There is some correlation with loss of voice, vox--sounds like box: vox utera. The notion that hysteria could be cured by removing a woman's uterus...I think if Nature's intent were to have the uterus removed, it would naturally fall out, at the right age, the ripe age. Unfortunately, to date and well into the 21st Century, with my near-five decades, I have witnessed an actual demise in women's health care. Birth control pills and other hormones are given out without consideration for long-term effects, and there are. We began giving an HPV vaccination to young girls, and I wouldn't be surprised if we are about to see an issue with that affecting reproduction, as those girls are now entering the age of having children.
A woman's uterus remains as much a mystery today as it was BCE, when the Greeks were removing women's uteri along with removing their citizen rights. Maybe there's a lesson there. This isn't to say that women aren't to be held accountable for the continuation of the "Dark Ages" approach to women's health (especially with foundations like Susan G. Komen that is worth millions...to its founder, investors, but!), because anyone who allows ignorance to fester (especially for profit!) is contributing to the problem.