University of Tampa hosts Annual Women's Conference This Weekend

10/02/09 Arielle Stevenson
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Today at the University of Tampa, the Florida Consortium for Women’s and Gender studies held their annual conference. The first panel of the three day conference was on Women and Health.

Jennifer Ellerman is a women’s studies graduate student; Women and Health is a topic she is quite familiar with. This afternoon Ellerman presented her paper, “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: An Exploration of Experience and Contestation of Knowledge.” The paper was prompted by Ellerman’s own experience with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS, which causes increased levels of testosterone in females leading to infertility, coarse hair growth, and the lack of a regular menstrual cycle. After years of unsuccessful hormone injections and oral contraceptives, Ellerman discovered she had PCOS, a condition of which her previous doctor had been aware, but had not informed her. She says for women with PCOS, it is the fear they are not viewed as female that causes the most distress.

According to the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association, 5 to 10 percent of American women suffer from PCOS. For Ellerman, the fact she did not have the ability to reproduce due to a medical condition was a relief. Ellerman discussed the cultural taboo that is often associated with women who chose not to have children.

Ellerman also examined the cultural pressures many women without PCOS face in regards to their outward appearance. Those that suffer from PCOS are challenged additional by society because they appear less feminine by current cultural standards.

Based upon Ellerman’s own experience in navigating the health industry, she encourages all women to become what she calls ‘bad patients’. Ellerman says that in order to get the most appropriate and instant care, patients must arm themselves with information and ask their doctors questions.

Tomorrow the Florida Consortium for Womens and Gender studies’s annual conference will continue at the University of Tampa throughout the weekend. Highlights scheduled for tomorrow include a panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. on Women and the Academy, which will examine women’s role in the industry of science and technology. For more information contact Judy Hayden at (813) 257-3535.

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