On having body parts that are “inappropriate”

I am not going to name my school or any of my professors in this story. If by chance you can figure it out, please note well that everything has been resolved and there is much respect all around.

I’m in 4th year engineering. In 4th year, or if you’re American, “senior year,” every engineering student must complete a 4th year design project. Most people design car parts. I’m contributing to a really cool project that is designing amphibious houses for areas that are prone to flooding or hurricanes (specifically New Orleans) and that makes me happy because it is important to me that I use my technical skills for good.

A female classmate of mine decided she wanted to design a better speculum, because everybody knows that pap smears are basically the worst, and surely there is room for improvement on that mechanism, right? On Friday we all submitted our project outlines for approval. My female classmate was told to pick a new topic, because hers was inappropriate.

Again, let me stress here that everything has worked out, and she will be designing a speculum for her design project, and I bear no ill-will to the male prof who said it was inappropriate. Things are a-okay.

BUT. I doooo want to make a note on what is and is not inappropriate.

My body is not inappropriate. Clinical procedures are not inappropriate. Health care is not inappropriate. Checking your blood pressure is not inappropriate, taking vitamins is not inappropriate, and therefore getting a pap smear is not inappropriate.

Uncomfortable? Yes, which is WHY this girl wants to redesign the speculum. Oh, you mean it makes YOU uncomfortable to talk about? Well, deal with it.

Pap smears aren’t sexually explicit. It’s clinical. I feel like sometimes, anything to do with female sexuality, that isn’t about the male consumption of it, is considered inappropriate or taboo. I’m so proud of my female classmate for pushing the boundaries of what makes certain males comfortable, and asserting herself on behalf of what is right.

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6 Responses to On having body parts that are “inappropriate”

  1. Kat says:

    Not to be one of those people who just comments “Awesome post!” but, um, this is an awesome post.

    “I feel like sometimes, anything to do with female sexuality, that isn’t about the male consumption of it, is considered inappropriate or taboo.”

    This, especially, is spot-on.

  2. alinabp says:

    I’m so excited to read more of what you women come up with! Genius!!!

  3. Bex says:

    I’m so happy everything worked out! I hate that women’s health is still such a taboo. We did a survey of a few male friends last night and none had an accurate idea of what a speculum was. Best response: ‘isn’t it something they swab with during a pap test?’. We gave him half points.

  4. Zippa says:

    This post makes me go “hmmm.”

  5. Heather says:

    I am adding you to my Google Reader stat. Brilliant!

  6. Doug says:

    I’m not sure it’s just girly bits that are off-limits.

    Not to get in the way of a good rant, but it would not surprise me if a new design for a male-circumcision tool would have been similarly dismissed.

    Now, I know that circumcision isn’t quite the same as a pap-smear (and I’m not a fan of circumcision to begin with) but I’m having a hard time thinking of medical procedures that involve only the male bits that require a special tool. Perhaps there’s something for looking at a prostrate?

    Or going for stuff that’s not gender specific — a catheter? A new design that’s less uncomfortable? Or how about whatever that device is that lets you look in somebody’s colon (the sliver cadillac?) I imagine that’s extremely ripe for an ergonomic upgrade, and yet would be similarly frowned upon.

    Would more comfortable/better performing adult incontinence garments (adult diapers) be treated similarly? Or a better bra? A better jock strap?

    Sorry, but I’ll bet people would get uncomfortable with any project that’s designed to get near anybody’s genitals, breasts (for women) or anus, whatever their gender.

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