the Lived Experience of Women

If you just scrolled passed the diagram above, scroll back up and take a closer look.

How do you feel?

What do you think?

The first time I saw this diagram, I was shocked.

“Different health issues may arise from the livelihood of each stage, some manifest as physical symptoms. Because health status in one stage influences the next stage, having knowledge of the framework of life stages can bring deeper empathic understanding in a clinician and lead to the discovery of potential problems and/or solutions.”

Not a clinician myself and definitely not adept to discover anything at all, but this framework of life stages is, not exaggerating, life changing, because it visualizes what I may have experienced, what I could be going through now and what I can expect in the coming years all in a simple, unassuming diagram. Looking beyond the graph of level of hormone secretion, the illustration encapsulates natural physiological changes, physical and mental health issues, life and lifestyle choices and even a tinge of social issues.

For someone who is used to looking at things from an episodic point of view, this perspective ties a thread through the episodes and suggests a continuous, linked narrative. It also hints that this narrative is as unique and personal to each and every woman, but at the same time also somewhat universal for all of us. The study was likely done in Japan before 2009 and it makes me wonder how similar and different is the lived experience of women in Singapore.

Do we go through similar experiences? Do we encounter the same problems? What are some problems that are more prevalent in Singapore? Adding a dimension of timeline, how do our grandmothers’ early, mid and late stages of lives differ from our mothers’ early and mid stages of lives differ from our early stages of lives?

If we have a better understanding of the lived experience of women in Singapore, can we answer personal questions like what can we anticipate and prepare for as we look forward to the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years? How can we understand and better support the changes and challenges our friends, colleagues, mothers, aunties, grandmothers are going through? As a society, where are the gaps we missed that we should be filling? What have we been fighting for so long but hasn’t improved much? What do we really need to fight now for the sake of the next generations of women?

Thoughts?

If I asked you to share your experience as a woman in Singapore, would you be willing to?

Presently, I have in mind 2 ways for women to share their experiences. The first is via an online survey that will not take more than 15min for those of us who might be busy and/or more private. The second is a meeting, either online or in person for those who prefer human interaction, and/or want to share more than what is covered in the survey.

The short term goal is to learn the lived experiences of 100 women, from various stages of life by the end of 2021, then create a nice visual to share with everyone. The mid term goal is to learn the lived experiences of communities of women who are not sufficiently represented and to improve the research approach. The long term goal is to refine and share the research approach, such that anyone keen can replicate it. The dream, is perhaps to document our lived experience and progress for years to come, until we don’t need to.

And I cannot do this alone. After speaking to a few people, I realized there are many aspects of this initiative that need polishing; the kind of questions to ask, the different women to speak to, the format and type of data to collect, the end result of the research… All of which I have minimal knowledge and zero expertise. So if you have any ideas to frame this initiative better, please share them with me. If you know someone who might be able to help, please connect us. If you want to do this together, PLEASE. I cannot do this alone.

It took me a while to decide on the use of the word “women”. I understand the distinctions between sex and gender and I also recognize the power of language. In this case, I am using this term (because I cannot think of any better) to make use of the general common understanding we all have to communicate this idea, while bearing in mind to not let the gender stereotypes and discrimination it connotes limit the research.

For the group of us who are educated about the differences between sex and gender, please bear with me a little. It is difficult to find an appropriate term to use in this case because this attempts to consider both the sex-based and gender-based experiences of a woman. If you have any suggestions, please share them with me!

Read the research paper where Yuko TAKEDA referenced the graph.

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