Reviewing “Whole Woman” — a few years after the hoopla

Hi all!

Today’s entry is a bit of a review (of sorts) of “Whole Woman,” founded by one Christine Kent who claims all sorts of studies support her particular view of postural issues being the main culprit for prolapse (uterine, bladder, and/or rectal). I recall thinking, the first time I went to her website, that if the focus is *whole* women (what does that actually mean?!), why is the sole focus on the vagina? — but to be fair, that was the feminist skeptic in me that bristles at the notion of women being reduced to our genitals (since it isn’t merely the presence of a uterus and vagina that defines women, and I loathe the TERF-iness of any outfit that dismisses transwomen for “natural reasons”). But I shelved that initial impression, and -because I’m largely overwhelmed with research- contacted a trusted friend to do some compare/contrast.

Meanwhile, during my own downtime (which is limited), I’ve been exploring other areas connected with matters of prolapse, along with urinary incontinence experienced by women post-childbirth and/or perimenopausal (with or without having had children) because of the hormonal association with decreased pelvic organ strength. What piqued my attention back to Whole Woman, though, was the ability to become a “practitioner” through Ms. Kent’s program…and the support of the program by one Dr. Christiane Northrup. I became curious about her after reviewing the application to the Whole Woman program, since sure…I thought about it, and was very curious why there aren’t any practitioners in Oregon (of all places!). Make no mistake, I’m not in any way averse to holistic care and intervention where it makes sense, but the support of a bona fide MD would seem to present legitimacy to the strange postural practices espoused by Whole Woman, right? Hmmm, then looking into Dr. Northrup herself, my skepticism meter went a little haywire. I don’t care what honorific one has after his or her name, a quack is a quack is a quack.

Looking more closely at the practitioner application for the 2018 training, a few things stood out to me starkly.

From page 3, one Carol Bilek (Senior Whole Woman Practitioner) is touted as one of the primary instructors, and her honorific is MEd., which means she has a master’s degree in education. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a retired special education teacher is not exactly the first person I would consult about a prolapse.

From page 5, “While Whole Woman has been established as a modality by the International Institute for Complementary Therapists for the purposes of obtaining liability insurance in a number of countries, there is no licensing requirement in the US. Other countries may have other requirements. This is another reason why women with existing practices may have a licensing umbrella under which women can integrate the Whole Woman work.” — this sent up all sorts of alarm bells (mainly legal, in terms of liability).

Also from page 5, “You must have a uterus. Our experience in working with post-hysterectomy clients makes it clear that women without a uterus can no longer experience what women who still have their uterus can feel for themselves. This has been a difficult decision, and we regret any disappointment it causes our post-hysterectomy friends. However, we feel it is a critical qualifier.” — so a woman who has had a hysterectomy is no longer a “whole” woman. How nice.

From page 6, and probably the biggest red flag for me, was “You must understand and be committed to the Whole Woman philosophy and work. If you are continuing to look to your doctor for guidance, or are committed to traditional approaches of Physical Therapy or Yoga lineages, this program probably isn’t for you.
Traditional postural models are demonstrably inaccurate. If you are unable to let go of traditional approaches, it is unlikely that you will be an effective Whole Woman Practitioner. We are not asking for a leap of faith. We have exhaustive research to back up every Whole Woman assertion. But we have found that those women who will not let go of their traditional beliefs about Western medicine and Yoga are rarely successful in applying Whole Woman methods in their own lives.
We are not against either Yoga or Western medicine. Quite the contrary. However, where research has shown problems or inaccuracies with these systems, assumptions and practices need to be challenged. A challenge to assumptions or practices is not to be construed as judgment about the entire system.” — and yet, the “exhaustive research” is where is the major question mark happens to be. If the research is so very exhaustive, why not present it plainly? That question got me a bit curious, so I went to Amazon where Ms. Kent’s book is sold (for around $35-40 — a bit steep for trying to “save all women” — there again, not as steep as the “Kegel Queen’s” $299 book, so I suppose that is a plus.)

I read through the rest of the application, closed it up, and went to Amazon, where Ms. Kent’s book is reviewed, and came across this review:

Take a quick glance at wholewoman.com and click on the forum link to the left. Under emotional issues you will find a post by Christine Kent herself written February 29th, 2012 with the title ‘Amazon Reviews’. There she complains about a poor customer review on Amazon and asks her ‘followers’ to write positive reviews. I found this alarming although I’m not at all surprised after I purchased this book and found it to be of no value. Thankfully I have found OTHER alternatives that changed my life even though according to Christine Kent that’s hardly possible! If a book is good the author doesn’t need to tell a sob story to get positive reviews. The book will speak for itself without that.

…followed (inevitably) by several of Ms. Kent’s supporters on a rampage. That entry can be found here, and I find it astonishing that someone who is SO VERY CERTAIN of her program would ask people to do what she asked…though I’m less surprised that her supporters agreed to obey, since that’s what cult members do, after all. Likewise, when engaged by the “Kegel Queen,” Ms. Kent’s defensive maneuvering was equally transparent.

Further, as I have chronic lower back issues, the postural “modality” presented by Ms. Kent is impossible for me. Even though I possess a uterus, which still “qualifies” me, I don’t know if I could ever physically perform the PT-refuted postural “treatment” suggested, which never mind the quackery, I simply couldn’t do it…even if I were interested in becoming a Whole Woman “practitioner,” which…I’m definitely not. I’m especially disinterested in a program that asserts that post-hysterectomy women aren’t “whole” women.

Note: I’m not suggesting here that other women wouldn’t benefit from Ms. Kent’s program. Far from it. I’m a firm believer in informed decision-making, and if some essential woo-woo that eschews Western medicine and yoga in favor of some radical (and mostly ineffective) postural shift, more power to ’em. I’m just not interested in throwing thousands of dollars down the toilet for a program that I know wouldn’t work for me or any woman I happen to know. If it works for others, though, that’s fantastic.

Cheers,
DW

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