Fragility, Femininity and Pain in Kristin Kempa’s Empowering Series on Endometriosis
“Over the past few years, I have been documenting my life as I live with endometriosis: a painful, debilitating condition in which tissue similar to the endometrium grows outside of the uterus, affecting the reproductive system as well as invading other organs. I hope to start a dialogue concerning endometriosis as a feminist issue, both in terms of treatment options and general awareness in mainstream society. The treatments available for endometriosis, which affects 1 in 10 women, are extremely outdated. The average diagnostic delay of 7-10 years is not acceptable. No woman should have to fight for her pain to be taken seriously by the medical establishment. Self-documenting my life as a woman with endometriosis has served as an empowering way for me to take control of my physical and emotional state.
The ongoing series offers a glimpse into daily life with endometriosis, and is a reflection of the impact it’s had on me in my prime years. I named the series “Fragments of Femininity” because it shows the painful fragments of my life caused by an all too common yet taboo disease. These moments captured don’t define my womanhood as a whole, but have greatly impacted my life and identity. A dozen doctors told me I shouldn’t discuss or address my pain and symptoms until my fertility was at risk. It felt as though my livelihood as a woman would only be valued once I was ready to perform my biological “duty” of becoming pregnant.. or they just thought I was exaggerating. As the disease progressed, it seemed hard to achieve my creative goals. I felt disconnected from my work, and my own body. I felt like a ghost of my former self; I channeled these emotions into my photography with initially no intention of ever sharing these sides of myself so publicly. After proper treatment (excision surgery) I had some relief, but am still dealing with the chronic nature of the disease. I realize it’s important for me share the images because society does not appreciate the severity in which endometriosis can affect a woman’s productivity, mentality, energy, sexual identity, and how isolating the crippling pain can be. Lacking control of my internal health, the series shows a broad spectrum of my mouldable physical appearance and is a product of my realization of the fragility of the human body.”