Oppression and Physical Illness as a Woman

Oppression and Physical Illness as a Woman

There are clear studies that help create a true clarity of gender differences and its effect on physical and mental health.


This article explains the physical differences in countries, such as men receiving more food in their formative years, due to them being the breadwinners, but does not go deep into the sociological oppression and its effects on the human body. As science looks for physical qualifiers to determine statistics, sometimes it can overlook the invisible traumas that are micro, though create macro effects in the human body.

As a woman writing this article, I am not even going to pretend to be completely objective. I have thought of myself as a confident and strong woman so, it has taken me a long time to slowly unravel parts of me that still fall into stereotypical patterns of old traditional and cultural norms without conscious intention. Due to my study within the emotional body map it has given me a unique perspective on my own illness and how they manifest from repetitive emotional patterns due so sociological behavior.

Before I get too deep into why I feel that women are more prone to many of these illnesses I will tell my own story of womanhood and illness. I have seen multiple parts of my body react to trying to unconsciously fit into gender stereotypes created by society. My mother was not necessarily the greatest example of a strong female leader. She often would talk about me meeting a man to take care of me and looked at the men I dated based off their financial backing without seeing that I was self-sufficient and that was not necessarily the needs that I was looking for in partnership. She was very much afraid of not being safe without a man beside her and validation was not received inwardly but externally based off of her looks.

Because of this she suffered with yo-yo dieting, exercising, and multiple eating disorders. Watching this as a child I developed anorexia as a teenager. I remember a moment my mother circling areas on my body with a black magic marker where she would pay for liposuction and how much better I would look if I received it.

I remember staring into my reflection and only seeing my imperfections.

Even still to this day there are parts of my body that bring up insecurity, but, I just focus on the ones I love instead.

only seeing imperfections

I remember staring into my reflection and only seeing my imperfections.

When I was 15 I had surgery for a deviated septum and mom begged me to get a nose job (as it was free with the surgery) to look like Michelle Pfeiffer’s nose. I am happy that I was strong enough at that formative age to listen to my intuition and stayed with my natural nose. I didn’t let her obsession with looks create that much dissonance to my inner love.

As a teenager I was beginning to see the very obvious differences between a woman and man. While my brother would go out with girls and get perks from my dad for having lots of girlfriends, I could barely bring home a guy that even liked me without him getting the 1st degree from both my brother and father. It was definitely a home where the son was the king/the namesake and I was meant to be intelligently quiet and submissive. My brother’s rebellious ways were just responded by my parents as, ‘oh, you know, boys will be boys.” While, I was slutty if I wore make-up.

By the time I entered college, I had not yet had my first boyfriend, as most were scared away by my family. I began to date a guy at 19 and I was so happy he noticed me that I got swept away in the illusion of safety and love. It became a five year mess of abuse that I allowed myself to stay in, still holding values from my family and not allowing my power to be seen. I thought I would never have someone like him, that I needed to stay in something that was abusive.

I carried empathy with others in abusive relationships and saw that I, myself, was allowing myself to stay stuck.

I lost many friends in the process that simply could not stay to watch the experience. During the five years my body began to break down exponentially.

First it started just with regular UTI’s, bladder infections, then, grew stronger into kidney infections and stones. I began walking with a cane most of the time and tried sobriety for 4 years due to thinking that alcohol may have played a role in what was creating my pain. It was not until I went to a holistic practitioner that explained to me of carrying the emotional guilt, anger and lack of safety and flow in my body. When she explained I was carrying my abuser’s anger in my body and that my body was in hyper safety mode I began to start meditating and clearing some of the trauma in my body.

I did ancestral clearing, energy work, gained confidence enough to leave the abusive relationship and within months my kidney went from 20% to 90% functioning. I stopped needing a cane and UTI’s became less and less regular, until the were obsolete.  Leaving my abusive relationship was a direct connection to my physical health.

After this moment, I began to seek more connections to the emotional body.

A few years later I left running my NFP art center to the world of healing. I started by training in Thai massage, as my childhood, although confused, I was lucky enough to study many different esoteric healing arts. I began to notice my shoulder pains as a direct connection to carry the burdens of others.

brook woolf face

I started to see the patterns in others having similar dysfunctions.

Only recently though I am finally seeing the parallels of being a woman and how these pains and traumas are connected to the tangled expression of womanhood that we play into unconsciously.

For me, one of the hardest times was admitting that I was oppressed as a female artist. I would watch my male colleagues who I mentored get into multiple galleries and sell their art work while I was struggling to get interviews/sales. I would continue going to multiple art schools thinking if only I get better skills, then the struggles of getting less representation would dissipate.

There is an inevitable desire of physical safety that women inherently have that men do not. There is a need to ‘prove’ our space in existence, as taking up space is not necessarily allowed as a woman as it is for the aggressive take-charge man.

These stereotypes cause many women to question themselves as the world constantly questions them and their intelligence.

This self doubt and insecurity can persist in the body. The body carries these insecurities. The body carries all emotions, whether or not they are fully expressed, as the emotions have to go somewhere. Our body becomes a vessel for all that cannot/feels unsafe to express. The deservingness of space/love and things become a deep pillar of entanglement, and asking for help becomes a weakness.

Let us take a look at how some of these stereotypes can create pain in the body. As anxiety is built from not feeling comfortable to share, a lot of illness are digestive. Bones and nervous system related illnesses make sense too as strong people may try to control their situation, it is very uncomfortable to admit that we are in fact, being treated with oppressive beliefs. Usually, the stronger you are the more you want to empower yourself even in situations that are in fact disempowering.

List of diseases and illness more common in women than men (other than the obvious differences in reproductive illnesses)

  • MS - women are 3x more likely

  • Celiac Disease is diagnosed in women 70% of the time

  • Hypothyroidism - about 10% of women have some form of this

  • Lupus

  • Osteoporosis/Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Depression

  • Bladder infections

  • Breast Cancer

  • Eating disorders

  • Bowel cancer/digestive disorders (gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)), all more common in women than men

Now, knowing the emotional body map and looking at these illnesses differently it feels almost obvious that many of these illnesses come from our habits and issues trying to fit into a box given to us unconsciously.

Eating disorders and bone illnesses  are ways we cope with not feeling in control. Auto-immune illnesses and digestive illnesses stem from anxiety and over-worrying/overthinking and patterns and behaviors that are created from being in a male dominated society. Where being feminine or allowing some of our qualities to be fully expressed we stifle them and in turn, create more of a fitting character that is ‘more protected’. This more fitting character is denying the power of our whole self exactly as it is without fitting in for other’s comforts.

Depression, hypothyroid, and breast cancer is an even deeper level of feeling loss. A space of loss for a version of ourselves; a woman that is safe and supported.

I am not here to say all these illnesses can easily be alleviated if we only resolved some of the oppressive qualities of society, nor if we consciously maintain our divine expressions while remembering we are safe and supported by our God/Universe/loved ones. There are obviously both physical and emotional reasons many of these diseases exist in our body and nutrition, exercise and other physical additions serve to a part of all healing.

However, this article is here to touch on the possibility that potential healing is available with checking into our emotions. Checking into our relationship to the outside world and where we feel our power is being lost.

All healing begins when we simply ask ourselves, “Who/What am I giving my power to?”

who am i giving my power to


As a woman, unconsciously and consciously we are giving our power away as oppression is deliberately built for this reason. It is in the knowingness and the investigation that we get to take our power back.

I urge you, if you are a woman, to investigate this part of your womanness. Where have you accepted the oppression? Where have you subdued your power for the sake of others? Where have you done something for validation? Where have you found that you are afraid to be fully yourself? What do those qualities look like?

I love you and all that you are. You are beautiful and powerful. You are allowed to be all of that and you are safe.

Your future Emotional Body Mapper,

Brook Woolf

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