Providing Safe, Supportive Space for a Friend: Emily Boyes-Watson

By OBOS — April 29, 2010

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Alexis Greeley

Nominee: Emily Boyes-Watson

I have known Emily since we were 5 years old. We met in kindergarten class and now, 19 years later, we are like sisters. While Emily does not work in the health field, she is my health hero.

Women’s health issues are often treated as matters that are not meant to be seen or heard, and women are taught to deal with such issues discreetly and quietly. This can lead to feelings of shame and isolation when problems or curiosity occur regarding health and sexuality. Women aren’t offered, and aren’t encouraged to seek out, very many safe spaces to talk and share about their health and sexuality. In addition, women can end up viewing their health and sexuality through only negative lens, rather than as parts of themselves to celebrate and explore.

Emily provides the necessary space for me to be open about issues regarding my health. It is truly invaluable to have a friend who I can turn to about anything and everything. I can confide in Emily about issues ranging from struggling with body image to feeling ashamed about relationship choices I have made. I don’t have to worry about judgment at all, and Emily helps me to work on my confidence and feel comfortable in myself. She doesn’t make me feel bad about mistakes that I have made, but rather helps me learn how to move forward and grow from them.

Many of my women friends have admitted lying to their doctors because they feel ashamed for choices they have made or they are too embarrassed to ask certain questions. This fear and shame can lead to mental, emotional and physical risks. When women are able to open up to one another and support each other, it usually is realized that a lot of the same themes, worries, experiences, etc., are shared in regards to health and sexuality. Emily provides me with a space to voice my concerns, share my experiences, and learn how to celebrate who I am as a woman.

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