Now hear me out – I think it’s time to take the “us” out of “uterus”.
I know this sounds strange, but I think I understand now why there is all this confusion about who gets to manage what goes on inside the apparently troublesome organ currently known as the uterus.
I believe I have found the root of the problem. The problem is there is no “i” in uterus.
The Strength of the Letter “i”
The letter “i’ seems to help with the clarity of ownership related to anatomy. Think about it - there is an “i” in “penis” and “testicles”, and there seems to be no doubt about who gets to manage what happens to those.
During my career as an ED nurse, I have many times tried to tell patients with penises what to do with them with very little success. I have tried to help people with penises stop putting things up them that should not be there, remind them of the often infectious repercussions of placing their penises in holes without protection, and request them to stop touching their penises in front of myself and other ED staff at inopportune times (AKA all the time). Each time I make recommendations or assertions about a penis attached to another person, I have been reminded in strong, colorful language that the owner of the penis can and will do what they want with it. I can always ask, but ultimately, the person that penis is attached to is in charge of what happens to said body part (at least, in some cases, until the cops arrive).
And don’t get me started about trying to get someone with “testicles” to do anything with them. As soon as I ever mention an idea or procedure having to do with the testicles, a hand goes over them like a vice. It is often a moot point before it is can even be verbalized.
Furthermore, there is an “i” in both “fallopian tubes” and “ovaries”. And while there has been comments from people without either with thoughts on how to manage biological processes that occur in and around fallopian tubes and ovaries, there does not seem to be as much fuss about these organs as with the “uterus”. I really think it has to do with the letter “i”.
The Problem with “us”
The biggest debates right now seem to be around two things with names that contain “us” – the uterus and the fetus. It seems that certain parties feel entitled to telling humans with a uterus how to manage it and once a fetus is involved, to take ownership of said fetus even if – 1) it is not quite yet a fetus, 2) it is not housed in their bodies, and 3) they do not seem to quite understand how the process of pregnancy works. Their entitlement claims to have been founded in the name of numerous causes – religion, ethics, the law. I feel that the presence of “us” in the name “uterus” makes them feel as if they are a part of that organ, even when they are not. “Us” seems to imply a collective ownership of a uterus to others. And I really think people might be confused because of the “us”.
I cannot otherwise understand why someone else would feel the right to tell me, the person with the body that contains an organ, how to manage it. Organ trafficking is definitely illegal, at least the last time that I checked. Organ donation and procurement is HIGHLY regulated in the United States. Consent dealing with anything having to do with organs in the hospital is a complex system of legal paperwork with signatures and witnesses. And as the uterus is an organ, there must be some big misunderstanding about the ownership situation around it.
(And I want to take a moment to be very clear on a certain point – this is not just an issue for me because I identify as a “woman”. The issue of who gets to dictate what happens to the organ called the uterus will affect all kinds of humans who identify all kinds of ways. I know that this will be confusing for some people, but this is something that I want to emphasize. I am speaking out as a human with a uterus - not just as a woman.)
The Difficulty of Adding an “i"
I really love languages, but English is a hard one. The letter “i” is often used, strangely to me, to make singular words plural. This is one challenge with my thought of taking away the “us” and adding a letter “i” to the word “uterus”. “Uteri” does not work for this reason, talk about confusing. And other variations are just plain bad. “Utire” is terrible as it will make every nurse (and most humans with a uterus) think of infection or a gross outfit. “Iteri” sounds like a snobby word for a place to get lunch (EW). These won’t work, but I have another idea.
The Power of “me”
I have come up with this solution: I think that we should now rename the “uterus” with the new moniker - “uterme”.
A “uterme” definitely makes ME feel that it is an organ in me and when I say “My uterme”, I feel it is doubly stated that the organ is inside of me and MINE. When I say “uterme”, the listener is reminded that me and myself are going to be navigating the events of what goes on inside my organ and most importantly, there is no implied group ownership of my uterme.
It even gets down to an almost primal level of communication that Tarzan enthusiasts might enjoy – “Me human. Me uterme.”
It definitely seems like everyone can understand that – even the most primitive humans.
And as a human with a uterme, I am going to go two steps further in declaring my ownership of this organ that resides inside me:
I am first going to say here, in plain words, that I and only I will ever make decisions about my body. No other person, law, or religion will ever dictate what I decide to do with it. And that should apply to ALL humans. Your body is YOUR body.
I am personally renaming my own uterus/uterme – my “utermine”. Other humans should feel free to use this nomenclature if they so wish. #uterminesunite
For more information on how to support humans with a uterus, uterme, or utermine:
These opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or other affiliates
About the Author - Sarah K. Wells, MSN, RN, CEN, CNL is an educator, speaker, blogger and owner of New Thing Nurse, a professional and academic coaching company for the nursing world. New Thing Nurse is organized to provide support and guidance to aspiring nurses, newly graduated nurses, and veteran RNs looking to make a change in their life.
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