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Why the Emmys Were a Big Night for Women's Health

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Women's health took center stage at the 2017 Emmys, & it's about damn time

There was no escaping politics at the 2017 Emmy Awards last night, and in most cases, that wasn’t a bad thing — especially when it shined a light on important women’s health issues. From reproductive rights to sexual pleasure as you age to domestic violence, here are some of the most memorable women’s wellness moments from last night.

Nicole Kidman continues to put the spotlight on domestic violence

In Big Little Lies, Nicole Kidman played a woman who dealt with domestic violence in her marriage, and she used her acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Limited Series to address the problem again, noting that she show “shone a light on domestic abuse.”

"It is a complicated, insidious disease,” she said. “It exists far more than we allow ourselves to know. It is filled with shame and secrecy. And by you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more.

The Handmaid’s Tale wins big

Hulu’s take on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book The Handmaid’s Tale took home five Emmy awards last night, including outstanding drama. The fact that the series — which depicts a dystopian world with some extreme limitations to women’s reproductive rights — resonated with so many during this political climate is not surprising, and the Emmy wins, which include Best Lead Actress Elisabeth Moss, cement the show’s importance in current pop culture.

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Both Atwood’s novel and the Hulu series center on a reality where widespread infertility means that women who are able to bear children are rounded up, assigned to serve powerful men and their families and are routinely raped, forcing them to become pregnant, thereby propagating the species. In other words, women are reduced to walking wombs — a terrifying concept that is unfortunately not that far from some current politicians’ views. The win for Outstanding Drama increases the visibility of the reproductive and women’s health issues raised in the show. We see you, Offred.

Dolly Parton appreciates a supportive bra

Just before presenting the award for Best Supporting Actor alongside 9 to 5 co-stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, Parton used the category to reference her ample bosom and the importance of an effective brassiere.

“If it hadn’t been for good support,” she quipped, “Shock and Awe here would be more like Flopsy and Droopy.” 

A properly fitting bra can be a game-changer, making Parton’s comments not only useful, but incredibly relatable.

Lena Waithe makes history & thanks ‘LGBTQIA family’

When Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari won the award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for co-writing the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None, they immediately received a standing ovation. Appropriately, Aziz stepped to the side as Waithe gave a powerful acceptance speech about the episode, which was mined from her own life experiences. She made history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing.

“And last, but certainly not least, my LGBQTIA family,” she said, concluding her speech. “I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”

Both the “Thanksgiving” episode and Waithe’s speech focused on the importance of normalizing and respecting the LGBTQ experience. This may seem obvious in 2017, but for so many people, growing up in an environment that was unwelcoming to their sexual orientation and/or identity is a major blow to their mental health.

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Dolly Parton reminds us that sexual pleasure is important, regardless of your age

If we believed what we see on most TV shows and movies, mature women have not only lost any sexual value, but also age into a life of asexuality and patterned sweaters. Luckily for us, we live in a time when Netflix’s Grace and Frankie is on the air, dispelling those rumors one at a time. The idea that women simply lose interest in any sexual pleasure as they age is addressed head-on in the most recent season of the show, where Grace and Frankie go into business together, creating and selling a vibrator designed for people of advanced age who also have vaginas.

Even though she hasn’t been a part of the show yet (Dear Netflix: Please make that happen ASAP), Parton, 71, did not hesitate to reinforce what her 9 to 5 co-stars have been saying all along about remaining a sexual being as you age.

"I'm just hoping that I am going to get one of those Grace and Frankie vibrators in my swag bag today,” she said before presenting the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, which went to Alexander Skarsgård for Big Little Lies.

Amber Tamblyn addresses believing women about sexual violence

Although this didn’t happen at the Emmy awards ceremony itself, that morning, The New York Times published an op-ed by actor Amber Tamblyn in which she details her experiences with sexual assault and harassment and the struggle that she and so many women face in order to be believed.

“For women in America who come forward with stories of harassment, abuse and sexual assault, there are not two sides to every story, however noble that principle might seem,” she wrote. “Women do not get to have a side. They get to have an interrogation.”

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Last week, Tamblyn took to Twitter to weigh in on the claim that actor James Woods allegedly had relationships with much younger woman, saying that he hit on her in Las Vegas when she was 16. Woods responded by saying she was lying.

While that reaction is so common, it’s hardly news. The fact that Tamblyn stood up for herself — and all of us who were not believed — against men in Hollywood on the day that celebrates achievements on television is significant. I hope her op-ed gave those in the television industry something to talk about later that evening as they were waiting for the Emmy awards ceremony to start and that maybe, this time the message will stick.

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