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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Louise

'Good Girl, Bad Period': A Talk with Author, Silvia Young

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

The powerful book ‘Good Girl, Bad Period’ features the stories of over 80 women across 4 continents in 13 countries and 22 states, to break silence on gaslighting and misogyny within Endometriosis.

Author, Silvia Young, was diagnosed with Endometriosis after “25 years of medical gaslighting" and is now post-infertility, post-ablation, post-hysterectomy, and post-excision. ‘Good Girl, Bad Period’ is her fifth publication through FemTruth, a catalog of published work which aims to take back the narrative on women’s health.

“Growing up I was taught to be a 'good girl.' I was taught to be quiet and polite, to never speak

out of turn, and to always put the needs of others before my own. I was taught to be ashamed of

my body and its functions, and to hide the evidence of my monthly period and pain from the world. But as I grew older, I began to realise that this 'good girl' mentality was not only harmful to me,

but to all women and society. I realised that the silence around women’s issues, specifically around the taboo topic of menstruation and pain, is oppression.” - An excerpt from ‘Good Girl, Bad Period’.

Published on 16th May 2023, ‘Good Girl, Bad Period’ showcases the prejudice in plain sight when it comes to Endometriosis. “The years of seeking appropriate medical interventions left me with PTSD, like most patients”, Silvia explained. “So I’m committed to alleviating any of the trauma for others. I don’t want another generation living in the dark, or surviving a hijacked life of chronic illness, when they could be inspired to act early. This community deserves to be seen and heard. Their experience isn’t ‘other’, they aren’t ‘other.’”

Endometriosis is a chronic condition whereby cells, similar to the lining of the womb, start to grow in other parts of the body such as the bladder or bowels. It affects 1 in 10 women globally, with no cure or certain treatment and the NHS have labelled it as 1 of the 20 most painful conditions.

Also, research doesn’t currently include non-binary and trans communities, but these communities are also impacted.

Silvia’s book is an intentional double entendre to show the history and cause and effect of gender roles within women’s health with a focus on gaslighting, misogyny, mental health, education, menstruation and endometriosis. Silvia draws parallels with past social justice movements and women trail blazers who came before her in the hopes to show that “the personal is truly political”.

Along with Silvia’s commentary, the book features the experiences of over 80 women. “My policy work led me to understand that if we want change we have to break the cycle of stigma, shame and silence, and bring as many stories to the forefront as possible”, Silvia explained. However, this was not Silvia’s first time gathering stories, her previous titles ‘FemTruth - Endometriosis Edition: A Collection of Stories From Courageous Women’, ‘My FemTruth: Scandalous Survival Stories’ and ‘Flo’s Friends: A Wellness Guide Beyond Menstruation’ all feature women’s powerful experiences.

“I have been collecting stories for almost a decade”, she explained. “I started with publishing my own memoir - If I was going to ask others to revisit the trauma and put it into words, then I had to do it too. These women took a big leap of faith to trust me with their story; to revisit the trauma, write it, and share it. It’s a vulnerable place to be in, so their contribution is not taken lightly.” A call for stories was put out across social media over a timespan of many years, Silvia credits the evolution of social media normalising vulnerability and taboo subjects, in helping women to come forward.

However Silvia would have to take “grief breaks” between gathering stories: “It was mostly heartbreaking, the weight of the oppression was really heavy. But I was determined to not let that stop me.” The stories provide a deeply personal and emotional insight into the global experience of seeking medical attention for Endometriosis:

“I was thought of as weak, depressed, too emotional, over dramatic, a hypochondriac, and lazy by a lot of people in my life. My husband even started to doubt me because my gynaecologist said that everything is in working order…” - Elayne Hill, New Jersey USA.

“‘Calm down, pelvic exams do not hurt…’ when do we not experience improvement with the ineffective treatment, we must be nuts, right? Of course, it is easier for caregivers to believe we are neurotic than to accept there is something wrong with primary endo care” - Nancy Peterson, Oregon USA.

“It’s bewildering that one can go to the emergency room every month with abdominal pain, always at the start of menstruation - and doctors don’t put two and two together” - Margret Finney, Jonsdottir, Iceland.

“Even though gaining the diagnosis was a step forward, my mental health had declined in the time it took, and the pain was crippling. I was hormonal and depressed. The emotional scars were made worse while investigating me for the condition. This meant very invasive physical examinations which no woman finds pleasant. This intrusive examinations all started before I lost my virginity and were so uncomfortable…” - Louise Hearn, England, United Kingdom.

The book addressed two main themes within Endometriosis and the global response to women’s health: misogyny and gaslighting. “They’re such big themes in the book because it’s how our society, and medical systems, are designed and continue to operate. It’s an invisible system of control, coercion and manipulation, with financial bottom lines on the backs of marginalised communities”, Silvia said. Misogyny is defined as an ingrained prejudice or dislike of women. While gaslighting has regained popularity in it’s usage after being coined in 1938 and then in 2022 named Merriam-Webster’s “word of the year” - it means to manipulate someone using psychological methods which can make them question their own sanity.

However, Silvia says she isn’t worried about changing the attitudes of the medical community: “They follow a doctrine that isn’t inclusive of the patient’s lived experience. We are living in parallel universes. They are incentivised to stay the course. What a perfect system to call us 'hysterical' instead of admitting there aren’t noninvasive diagnostic tools for a disease first mentioned during Socrates.”

Instead she created this book for the community of women affected by Endometriosis and by the lack of medical options available to them. “I hope this book is the bridge that brings readers out of the dark and into the light, from isolation to community, from apathy to compassion—and early enough in their journey and careers to be leading patient-centred solutions”, she said.

Silvia is a powerhouse of representing and fighting for women and girls and their health. Her latest podcast ‘She Opened a Door’ hosts conversations with the inspiring women Silvia has encountered along her journey and understanding which doors they opened for her, and others, within society.

She is also a seasoned organiser in California policy including Menstrual and Gender Equity, and is currently seeking legislative support for her proposed bill ‘Empower Pupils Women’s Health Training.’ However, she is already putting this bill into action with her non-profit organisation ‘FemTruth Youth’ founded in 2021, which promotes student-focused arts and education to create safe spaces and conversations about mental health, menstrual health, period poverty, and wellness. This includes screenings and performances of Silvia’s 2018 Gaslit, a 3-act play.

“Any positive legacy I can leave to take up space and make it easier for the next generation in

women’s rights, women’s health, menstrual equity, and the endometriosis community, makes my

heart happy", Silvia said.

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