March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and Essity – creator of Libresse, Bodyform, Nana, Nuvenia, Nosotras and Saba – launches its latest taboo busting activation,
#painstories, exploring the true extent of the pain women endure and inviting them to share their stories. #Painstories has been created to tackle the gender pain gap one story at a time and offer a new way to express and articulate pain, with a focus on endometriosis, via a newly launched Pain Dictionary. The launch will also see the world’s first Pain Museum created to educate and engage society on the extent to which this pain is overlooked, underfunded and often ignored. It shows how working together we can help close the gender pain gap once and for all.
The experience of pain for women is complex, complicated and desperately underacknowledged. Endometriosis is just one example of the agony being endured. According to The Pain Report, it affects one in 10 women but, astonishingly, takes an average of seven and a half years to be diagnosed due to the perceived notion that severe period pain is ‘normal.’ Enduring this pain has a profound impact on every area of sufferers lives with some people experiencing depression, loss of relationships and in some cases even considering suicide. As reported by Victoria Williams, Open University Researcher quoted in UK Parliament, this is also reflected in their work with research finding that over 40% of those with endometriosis had given up or lost their job because of it.
As part of its brand DNA, Bodyform is committed to challenging harmful taboos surrounding women’s intimate health through its change-driving initiative Project V. Project V is committed to listening to people, accurately representing their experiences and supporting them in meaningful ways until taboos have been challenged, understood and removed from society. #Painstories is one of the change-driving initiatives the brand embraces, and it started when Bodyform found out that 51% of women and 52% of men think period pain is something women should endure, as reported by Global V Taboo Tracker (a world first barometer to discover and track taboos related to all things vaginas, vulvas and periods created by Essity). This insight proves just how deeply embedded in society this taboo is.
Endometriosis Awareness Month: The Pain Dictionary
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. In order to better support those living with intimate pain, Bodyform has initiated The Pain Dictionary. This ongoing project uses real descriptions of pain from those with endometriosis, from which Bodyform has created pain words and definitions. The dictionary will bring these experiences of pain to life using descriptions and illustrations, to show the variety and intensity of endometrial pain. Healthcare professionals often ask: “Describe your pain on a scale of 1-10?” But pain is complex and unique and often can’t be reduced to a number. Descriptions in the dictionary include depictions of pain such as: “tightening barbed wire” and “a womb full of nails and daggers.” The Pain Dictionary gives sufferers a new language to express their pain to doctors, empowers people to recognise severe pain as a problem and to seek help, as well as raising awareness for endometriosis.
“Women have been putting up with excruciating pain for years – explains Tanja Grubner, FemCare Global Marketing & Communications Director at Essity. – Due to outdated taboos, women’s pain is systematically overlooked, and they are too often dismissed, ignored and misdiagnosed. By inviting women to share their #painstories we hope to overcome the culture of silence that holds women back – in this case, from proper diagnosis and treatment. We know that 176 million women globally have endometriosis, and we need a language to help them articulate their experiences so they can get the help they need. Through definitions, conversation and exposure, we hope to help women tell their #painstories, to raise awareness for endometriosis and other painful pelvic conditions. We want this initiative to help those who are experiencing similar things yet struggling to make their voice heard. Listening to how women feel is critical to driving change, and we know it’s so important to understand the problems, before we can start solving them. By sharing our extensive research, we now hope to work closely with charities and health partners together and we will start to bring about societal change and make the world that bit easier for women globally.”
The Pain Dictionary includes new words and definitions which have been visualised by artists and creators, whose powerful illustrations bring the definitions to life, resulting in a new verbal and visual language for endometriosis pain. Contributors include illustrator Venus Libido, and textile artist Ellie Pearce, both of whom suffer from endometriosis. Since March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, this book will give those with endometriosis the tools to express their pain properly to doctors, raise awareness of the condition, and help those still suffering without a diagnosis recognise their severe pain as a problem. The Pain Dictionary is available on Bodyform’s Instagram story highlights as an Insta-book, as an e-book, and as a physical book.
Endometriosis Awareness Month: The Pain Museum
To launch #painstories on the Endometriosis Awareness Month, Bodyform has created the world’s first Pain Museum for people to explore the gender pain gap one story at a time. It will take people on an expressive deep dive into pain –– telling the #painstories that need to be told, exploring the taboos that fuel the silence around pain through artwork, and includes interviews with endometriosis sufferers and medical experts. The Pain Museum is a true education into the experience of pain that brings women’s #painstories to life and addresses how we can create a language to confront it, to move towards a world where this suffering is not something shrugged off as “normal”, simply to be endured.
Endometriosis Awareness Month: Painful period is NOT normal
In order to highlight the extremely important work medical professionals do on endometriosis and ensure their point of view is included within the project, Bodyform has also partnered with Dr Shireen Emadossadaty. “There is a big problem in the world where people feel that women should just deal with their pain – remarks Dr Shireen Emadossadaty, GP and partner on Bodyform #painstories project. – A lot of women think painful periods is normal but actually, it’s not, particularly when the periods are starting to affect activities in your daily life. Opening up the conversation around period pain will encourage women to see their GP, to be persistent about their symptoms and hopefully we can bring down that diagnosis time. You’re not alone, period pain is common but it’s not normal and it’s not something you should be suffering with.”
Bodyform has also partnered with Lauren Mahon, who offers a human perspective from her own experience with the disease, encouraging the dialogue to shift towards open conversation: “When you allow a woman to be in her body and not fearful of it or feel embarrassed about it, you give her power. It is only by talking about our pain that what is abnormal comes to light and then we can get people looked after in the right ways. Let’s get comfortable with having these conversations and being much more respectful of the women that endure this pain”, concludes Lauren Mahon, BBC Broadcaster/Founder of GIRLvsCANCER and partner on Bodyform #painstories project who suffered Endometriosis in her early 20s.