Playhouse Pickings sat down with Josephine Shipp, Producer of Baby Box, to talk about chronic pain.
Are the males in your life grossed out by your period? Do you hide your tampon up your sleeve when you go to the bathroom? Whilst angry have you been subjected to the, “are you on your period?” comment? I suspect that, if you’re a woman with a vagina, you’ve probably answered yes, yes and yes to the three questions above – which really is quite depressing, if you think about it.
Issues like periods and female sexual pain live behind closed doors. They’re discussed in hushed tones behind hands – “do you have a tampon? I just came on.” Heartbreakingly, when it comes to female pelvic pain, it is often never mentioned at all even to the best of friends, out of fear, shame and the worry of disgusting or displeasing the men in our lives. Sex should be pleasurable for everyone involved, and if it’s not, you should be able to discuss it openly, not just grit your teeth, go through unbearable amounts of pain, make the noises and hope it finishes quickly. #LieBackAndThinkOfEngland – we’ve all heard the saying before, and it’s quietly depressing. Modern society has moved past having to wear skirts that cover our ankles, we’re no longer required to be housewives first (not that making a full-time job out of raising the next generation of humans isn’t kickass), and we got the right to vote. So shouldn’t all that mean that we should be at a place where we can mention painful sex and the monthly visit from Aunt Flo without half the population cringing in fear? Apparently not.
Female pain has slowly started creeping into the theatre world, the taboo shrouding it for so long starting to thin in the wake of the #MeToo movement – and through the mist we’re getting new shows and new opportunities for female stories to be told. One such opportunity is the brand new female playwright festival ‘Who Runs The World’, created this year by The King’s Head Theatre. Four whole weeks of female-led theatre, broaching topics many would shy away from, such as the second play of the run, Baby Box by Laura McGrady. Baby Box tackles the topic of Endometriosis (En-doh-me-tree-oh-sis), a chronically painful condition affecting 1 in 10 women (yet I’m willing to bet a pretty penny that you’ve heard nothing about it). With Endometriosis, the same cells which make up the lining of the uterus can be found elsewhere in the body. They still act the same way: growing, bleeding and shedding, but the blood has nowhere to escape, so, trapped inside the body, it causes inflammation, pain, and the buildup of scar tissue and cysts which can grow to the size of oranges. This leads on to chronic pain, fatigue, depression, pain during sex, and more often than not, infertility.
Unfortunately, sufferers of Endo pre and post-diagnosis are met with a great deal of scepticism from the medical industry and even other women, because feeling pain, as we well know, is just part and parcel of being a female- “stop being overdramatic”. On average, getting a diagnosis takes a whopping 8 years and, when you finally get one, you’re patiently told that there is no cure. Don’t worry, they’re trying to find one – not as hard as they’re trying to find a cure for erectile dysfunction – but meanwhile you can just go on the pill, control your diet or get a hysterectomy (sounds fun right?) and just be aware that these doctor-approved suggestions may not even help at all.
That’s why undertakings such as Baby Box are so important. They help by spreading awareness of this relatively unknown disease. They help women realise that they shouldn’t accept pain as normal. AND they welcome a new era of stories being told by women for women, but also for men who need to hear stories about women too- we’ve certainly heard enough of theirs…
BABY BOX by Laura McGrady and directed by Helena Jackson is at King’s Head Theatre 1st – 6th May, 8.30pm.
Who Runs the World? is at the King’s Head Theatre until May 12. For more information go to kingsheadtheatre.com