If Sex Ed Isn’t Critical, Can We Really Call It Comprehensive?

“Comprehensive sex education” has become a lightning rod for controversy, igniting moral panic around young people learning about gender theory, sexuality, safe sex, abortion care and more. But my experience designing sex education programs has taught me that “comprehensive” sex education isn’t comprehensive enough. What’s missing is a critical approach to sexual education that examines the political, cultural and economic factors shaping sexual decisions and health. 

Menopause in Three Parts: Where Rivers Flow, Split and Unravel

When Rivers Flow: “Menstrual blood came with its own set of messages, whispers from my womb space that only I could decode. It was like embarking on a treasure hunt within myself, armed with nothing but a compass made of intuition and a hefty dose of trial and error. Creating my own map of this internal landscape wasn’t easy. I had to channel my inner cartographer and chart new territories with each cycle.”

When Rivers Split: “There was something special about a bunch of Black women who had already been where I was calling me with joy in their voices. … forming a kinship with our wombs is about learning to love ourselves, to treat ourselves with the same grace, kindness and high regard that the world demands of us as Black people with wombs.”

When Rivers Unravel: “Menopause would be that queer initiation, that modern-day rite of passage I had so longed for. And it would come at a price. My transition initiated a second puberty that changed everything about my body. This rite of passage pried off the mask of societal expectations I had inherited from my foremothers. Menopause set the mask on fire.”

Out of Touch on Menopause: Experts Respond to The Lancet’s ‘Over-Medicalization’ Claims

Menopause is gaining attention in the media and highest levels of government, including the White House—but we still have a long way to go to ensure women get the support they need. A recent series issued by a respected journal, The Lancet, proves this point. 

The series claims to promote an “empowerment model for managing menopause.” To us—more than 250 obstetrician-gynecologists, family medicine physicians, cardiologists, internists, urologists, medical oncologists, psychiatrists, orthopedic surgeons, nurse practitioners and licensed therapists—this was an unexpected and welcome opportunity.

The series was awash with misstatements that do not reflect the lived experience of women in this stage of life or our clinical experience in treating them.

Women Know Best About Their Bodies: Fighting Doctors’ Disregard and Colorectal Cancer

As a seemingly healthy 39-year-old mom of three young boys, five years after I first questioned what was happening to my body, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer—and it had advanced to stage 3. A lime-sized tumor had gone undetected. I realized something I knew the whole time: I am not crazy; I know my body better than anyone else. My gut was right, something was very wrong. 

One doctor, a gastroenterologist at UCLA, finally saw me. She knew that new cases of colorectal cancer has nearly doubled, resulting in a new standard of care that required colonoscopies beginning at age 45. She knew this disease had become the leading cause of cancer deaths for Americans 20 to 49 years old.biopsies, CT and MRI scans.

So it is urgent: If you are experiencing even one of the symptoms—like bloody stool, stomach pain, urgency to go, and/or anemia causing fatigue—go straight to your doctor and ask to be screened. If the doctors push back or minimize your concerns, keep going.

Embracing a ‘Soft Life’: Redefining Strength and Identity for Black Women

As enticing as the idea of the “strong Black woman” sounds, this myth of fierceness, fearlessness and resilience doesn’t hold up under the weight of the racism and sexism Black women face in trying to thrive daily. 

Enter the “soft life.” Soft life intentionally pursues an easy and peaceful life. A soft life is a lifestyle of comfort and relaxation with minimal challenges and stress. Black women rarely get to experience that and often are expected to be the backbone of their families. The ultimate goal is to thrive and enjoy life without having to endure hardships, pain or burdens. 

Our Abortion Stories: ‘I Knew Something Was Wrong, But My Doctor Wouldn’t Listen’

Abortions are sought by a wide range of people for many different reasons. There is no single story. Telling stories of then and now shows how critical abortion has been and continues to be for women and girls. (Share your abortion story by emailing myabortionstory@msmagazine.com.)

Two women detail their experiences with miscarriage and abortion healthcare in this edition of Our Abortion Stories: “It was one blow after another. It turned out the doctors there wanted me to have a hysterectomy. I laughed at them.”

Is Academia Safe for Black Women? How Bias and Racism Affect Faculty Mental Health

Antoinette Bonnie Candia-Bailey, a beloved professor at an historically Black University in Missouri, committed suicide on Jan. 8, reportedly as a result of racism by the school’s president. Harvard University president Claudine Gay recently resigned amid accusations of plagiarism. Many view her resignation as an illustration of the broader issue of marginalizing Black women within the predominantly white male academic space.

Academia is not inherently designed for the success of Black faculty. These institutions were initially created for and catered to white people, placing BIPOC in a position where they must succeed within systems not designed for their success. Centering Black scholars in roles critical to the institution involves challenging the role of white supremacy addressing systemic issues within academia that create unrealistic expectations.

Women Need Better Menopause Guidance. Here’s What Doctors Should Do.

An increasing number of women are hitting menopause than ever before. Each day, an estimated 6,000 U.S. women reach menopause at an average age of 51 years. This fact, combined with women living longer, means that women generally spend the last third of their lifetime in menopause. 

But most women face this life change alone. Gynecologists in the U.S. receive little formal education about menopausal health, how to reduce symptoms, and the fear around those symptoms. As a result, women and their partners often have misconceptions about how these normal hormonal changes will affect them.

Luckily, Dr. Lisa Chasan-Taber provides her own set of handsets for menopause.

Britney Spears and the Punishment of Women’s Pain

Stories like Britney’s so often go underexplored in modern discourse—ones that impact our lived experience of health, that engage gender, disability, culture and politics. That’s why I created United Bodies, a podcast that explores how different components of our health—mental, physical, social and spiritual—interplay with one another and intersect with the whole of our identity.

United Bodies will launch early in the new year on MsMagazine.com and wherever you get your podcasts.