Kezia Lubanszky

HerSwab Lets Women Test Themselves for Cervical Cancer and HPV

Detect sexually transmitted infections from the comfort of your own home.

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Cervical cancer is the 14th most prevalent cancer in the world. According to the World Health Organization, the disease affects 530,000 women each year and takes 275,000 lives.

However, it is the easiest cancer to prevent among women when proper screening and follow-up take place. Lesions found via pap smears can be treated before they become cancerous, and early stage cervical cancer can be managed relatively well. The crucial factor in stopping the disease is to find it before it reaches an advanced stage.

Many women affected don’t have access to sexual health care. Without being regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), they are at risk of becoming infertile or developing cervical cancer.

Even those of us with access to sexual health care often aren’t tested as regularly as we should be. Pap smears and STI tests aren’t fun. They can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Many women are reluctant to be tested for fear of judgement and discrimination from their doctors.

That’s why Jessica Ching, co-founder of Toronto-based sexual health startup Eve Medical, createdHerSwab. While speaking with women about an upcoming appointment, she was prompted to find an alternative way to manage sexual health.

Read the full piece at Future of Sex. 

Image source: Manuel Medina

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New Background Check Technology can Thwart Sexual Violence and Harassment

facial recognition technology

Facial recognition and text analysis are preventing women from meeting attackers.

There was no way for Katia to know the man she’d met online was planning to rape her. Like many women using online dating apps and websites, she was cautious and did everything right.

On the night of their first date, the college graduate told her mother and best friend where she would be. She presumed safety in the public locale of a city bar, and she was right, for a time.

Katia continued to see the man, text him, and speak to him on the phone. Having gained her trust, he was privy to her home address. It wasn’t until after the fourth date that things started to go wrong.

One night the man she’d met online, and had considered up until that point to be a “cool guy,” showed up at her apartment with a bottle of wine laced with Rohypnol and raped her.

Katia was beaten and threatened at knifepoint in a five-hour aggravated rape and assault. Despite surviving the ordeal, her life was torn apart. And sadly, even retrospectively, there had been no way to predict it—until now.

New and innovative reverse image searching

Named after one of the many victims of aggravated rape, KATIA aims to stop women from ever meeting an attacker. Responding to the flaws of traditional background checks, which require both first and last names, the program takes advantage of the assets women often have: pictures and text.

An evidence-based rape screening tool, the program uses two unique programming techniques with “R,” a statistical computer and graphics language, to highlight potential dangers.

Read the full post at Future of Sex.

Image source: NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons License 

First U.S. Womb Transplant May Allow Infertile Women to Give Birth

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Trans women and men could one day become pregnant, too. 

Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic have become the first in the United States to perform a uterus transplant. The nine-hour surgery took place on Feb. 24 when an organ from a deceased donor was successfully implanted into a 26-year-old patient.

If the trial’s success continues, it may give women born without a uterus, or who have had one removed due to uterine damage, their only chance to carry a child. This transplant is one of ten test procedures planned by the clinic.

The uterus, cervix, and part of the vagina are removed from the donor. Surgeons also remove the small blood vessels that are connected to the uterus. These vessels then connect the donor’s uterus to the patient’s larger blood vessels on the outside of the pelvis. If the patient still has fallopian tubes or ovaries, they are left unconnected.

Because of the nature of the transplant, it’s impossible for recipients to give birth naturally. They will have to wait a year after the procedure for their bodies to heal before starting in vitro fertilization (IVF). When ready, the baby is delivered via caesarean.

Like all transplants, the patient is required to take anti-rejection medication. Because of this, the uterus is removed after one or two babies have been born.

Read the full post at Future of Sex.

Image source: Eric Schmuttenmaer

 

 

The Value of a Comfortable Abortion

Untitled-e1447144340358When I was 19 I had an abortion. It was an obvious choice and one I’ll never regret. Fortunately, I lived somewhere where terminations were legal, accessible and safe. Still, the experience was in no way ideal.

My concern wasn’t ethics. Having been instilled with feminist beliefs from a young age, I knew better than to feel guilt or shame. It was the thought of the procedure that terrified me. I shuddered at the idea of stark white walls and clinical waiting rooms. The thought of entering a clinic seemed to me like crossing a threshold and handing over my ownership. I was a contradiction: this was what I wanted, but it intimidated me. For weeks I’d been living alone with the anxiety of my abortion. I wasn’t ready to give it away and make it real.

There were a lot of things I wasn’t prepared for. Protesters greeted me, throwing me immediately out of my comfort zone with their signs and pleas to ‘choose life’. In my head now things go differently. I say I did. I chose mine.

Read the full article at Feminartsy.

Image via Issara Willenskomer

Could Virtual Reality Revolutionize Safety for Sex Workers?

29-year-old Ela Darling is taking back her power via virtual reality. Beginning as a teen model and librarian, the now co-founder of VR adult entertainment company VRtube [NSFW], and secretary of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) is making a keen dip into the world of holograms.

In this piece I explore the ways that virtual reality is enabling female performers to take control of their careers, safety and lives.

Read the full article at Future of Sex.

Image: brh_images

Musings: Sailor Moon, Feminism and Hangovers

patriarchyI kind of like being hungover. It simplifies things, reduces one’s priorities to a glass of water or a heavily focused food craving (today it was pasties). Goals are more attainable, satisfaction easier to reach. Silver linings.

I was half-conscious, gnawing on said pasty and scrolling through my news feed when a friend’s post told me it was International Sailor Moon Day. Ah! If I’d known I wouldn’t have been up until 4am – drinking, smoking and slopping cider all over my dress – and could be half-way into a Sailor Moon marathon by now. Alas, I’m in true Bridget form.

Fifteen years since the gateway anime came twirling into my life it retains its magic. I still buy sparkly pink keychains depicting the sailor scouts and my cat’s name is Luna. But I found that, in many ways, re-embarking on the journey as an adult was even better than the thrill of my initial awe.

I like to think that a subconscious yearning for diverse representation contributed to my religious following of the series as a child – then again, it was probs all the pink. Either way, it’s easy to see retrospectively that Sailor Moon makes an effort to provide a balanced playing field and promote girl power at the same time.

What I was aware of was that Serena wasn’t a Mary Sue. She had flaws, obvious ones that were performed and put on display. Watching her scoffing down biscuits struck me – aligned with something – gave me my first hint at the uniformity of my then limited and unarticulated stresses about being a girl. Now, 23 and aware, it’s heartening to find so much good stuff in Sailor Moon.

Firstly, the glitz. It’s genius, really. Great long-term feminist propaganda. As well as giving young girls wide eyes, the girlieness of Sailor Moon serves a purpose. Rather than straying from traditional portrayals of the feminine, it embraces them – shoves them in your face. Weaponized femininity reclaims the stereotypes associated with being female, asserting that expressions of femininity can go hand in hand with power.

On top of this, its characters are extremely diverse. Each sailor scout has her own identity, her own place (aside from being a sidekick to Serena and fighting evil by moonlight). Their varying interests and personalities are a constant reminder to young girls that there is no ‘right way’ for them to be, and to embrace each person’s differences. As well as being super amazing heroes, the girls are relatable and real.

If there was any doubt about these themes being deliberate, they should dissipate with the knowledge that in uncut episodes Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune are a lesbian couple, travelling around the universe helping young girls come to terms with their sexualities. Pretty cool, huh? Unfortunately, these episodes were altered in an attempt to make them ‘more palatable’ and never aired in Australia, causing massive criticism to what was considered a key aspect of the show.

Upon inspection, Sailor Moon is laden with feminist quotes and ideals. It feels like a call to arms, like everything has been placed carefully and deliberately to achieve a common goal. Of course it isn’t perfect, but what is? Feminism is diverse, and Sailor Moon goes out of its way to acknowledge and identify with women of varying backgrounds and sexualities. Realizing this made my day.

Moon Prism Power!

Featured Image: Blastr

Musings: Cannibalism, Feminism and Holistic Claustrophobia

Apparently I blinked and feminism became an entity, developed a conscious filtering system and an eerily biased opinion on equality. I don’t like its purpose being dictated. Women in the media are now victims not only to the opposition but to their own team, under constant scrutiny for their place on the scale from one to feminism. Female celebrities are under increasing attack for their behaviour, simultaneously judged and celebrated by the infinite amount of voices to be heard, each with its own idea about the ‘right kind of feminism.’

Sometimes I get stuck in the big picture. The other day I was reading The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism & the Problem with Domination. Typically, Freudian theories of domination (that it’s an inevitable effect of human interaction) sent me spiralling into an existential crisis. Now, I’m tied down by possibilities and scales, handcuffed by the largeness of life, gagged by the perception that my actions and beliefs are completely inconsequential. I can’t write. I can’t talk. Sometimes it’s hard to think.

I call it ‘holistic claustrophobia.’ Don’t steal it.

I feel that secularisation is important now, that it’s the next logical step in progressive open-mindedness. As a group, surely it’s vital to embrace the individual experience of owning one’s own religion, finding a unique path of ideals and tailoring them over time, releasing labels of gender, sexuality and belief – forever weaving the tapestry of us – and embracing the fact that there will never be enough labels. Diversity through wholeness. Harmony. Polarities.

We have to find a balance, a way to maintain our individual ideals but keep huddling under the same umbrella: even the cannibals. As long as there’s no killing involved, I’m vocal in supporting those who have, but more importantly have needed to, devour a friend. But that’s an opinion for another day.

Chickens eat chicken and don’t get no hate.

If given the choice, would you save a life?

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Yesterday I registered as an organ donor. I’m 23, but I’d have done it at 18 if the thought had occurred. Luckily it did. It’s nice to know my consent is confirmed, out of the way, sorted. What difference does it make? I don’t harbour spiritual unease at the idea of my body being tampered with after death. I can save a life after mine has ended (up to ten, actually), enrich a family, and all I have to do is sign on the dotted line.

There are approximately 1500 people on transplant waiting lists at any given time in Australia. Last year in Victoria, 378 donors gave new lives to over 1000 people. But that’s still only 16 donors per one million people.

Click here to read my full article petitioning Daniel Andrews MP to implement a compulsory opt-in/opt-out registration system.

UPDATE: This has been republished by Centrethought – a cool website where uni students give their opinions about the world.

Image: Donatelife

Please Stop Emotionally Investing in Beyonce

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - ShowHere’s something I wrote for The Morning Bell about celebrity idealization. Feminist women entrenched in pop-culture are raised up to a pedestal for their beliefs. However, we tear them down for the very same thing. In this piece I look at who is to blame for the outrage and disappointment felt by fans when a feminist icon lets them down.

Is it our fault for thrusting expectations onto celebrities, for labeling them as iconic for beliefs they may not have consciously adhered to?

Read it here: http://www.themorningbell.net/blog/2014/10/15/please-stop-emotionally-investing-in-beyonce

Why Bridget Jones’s Diary is Classic Feminist Literature

jonesI’ve been saying this for years. There’s something about Bridget – other than the fact that we would obviously be best friends – that makes believe she’s a feminist icon.

In this article I wrote for The Morning Bell I have pinpointed exactly what it is about Bridget’s character that radiates awesome female power. It’s her flaws. Her obvious, stupid and hilarious flaws.

Many believe that we’re in the middle of third wave feminism, a movement that takes place primarily over the internet. A large part of the fight is refusing to live up to the rigid standards we are expected to as women. And so, there has never been more need for Bridget Jones – an icon to bring us back down to earth and remember what we are: flawed, clumsy and a little bit fat. But she does more than just that, she helps us embrace it. Take a look here –

http://www.themorningbell.net/blog/2014/7/9/844xiwhs8d1nk2u9fxyqyj1n5gsl4q

Image: sweet mandy kay