‘Below the Belt’ Director Shannon Cohn on Why You Should Care About Endometriosis

WrapWomen Blog: “I can say with 100% certainty… you either have endometriosis, you love someone who has endometriosis, or you absolutely know multiple people who have endometriosis,” filmmaker Shannon Cohn says

About one in eight women suffer from endometriosis, making it about as common as diabetes. Despite it recently being recognized as one of the most excruciating and debilitating medical conditions on record, it takes an average of eight doctors and 10 years to diagnose, due to the lack of awareness surrounding the disease. As a result of the untreated pain, women lose 11 hours of productivity per week. On average, one in six women lose their jobs due to symptoms, putting a burden on society of $119 billion loss in wages in the U.S. alone.

“It’s not just a women’s disease, this is a societal disease, and everybody should care about it,” “Below the Belt” director Shannon Cohn told WrapWomen during a recent Zoom interview. “I can say with 100% certainty… you either have endometriosis, you love someone who has endometriosis, or you you absolutely know multiple people who have endometriosis.”

According to Cohn’s website endowhat.com, Endometriosis is tissue similar, but not identical, to the lining of the uterus that is found elsewhere in the body. This tissue creates lesions that may cause pain, inflammation, organ dysfunction and may lead to infertility. Endometriosis is most often found in the pelvis, but has also been found in the bladder, bowels, diaphragm, lungs, kidneys and even the brain. 

“Below the Belt” is an inspiring documentary that follows several women battling endometriosis, shedding light on an important issue that affects a significant population of women across the world – and yet still lacks awareness. Executive producers on the film include former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as well as actress and activists Rosario Dawson, Corinne Foxx and Mae Whitman.  

“[The film is] basically everything I wish I had known as a 16-year-old, so that I could start taking control of my body and my health and making good decisions,” said Cohn, who eventually received treatment for her endometriosis, but continues to suffer the long-term effects of living over a decade with the disease undiagnosed. 

“A lot of times, unfortunately, media gets endometriosis wrong,” according to Cohn. This isn’t on purpose, but rather because the medical information and educational materials in circulation are outdated. Cohn describes this as “systemic misinformation.”

Besides “Below the Belt” and her one-hour educational film “Endo What?” released in 2016, the only other project Cohn could name that accurately depicts endometriosis is Hulu’s new limited series “Conversations With Friends.” With something as common endometriosis and so few projects about it, the filmmaker calls on Hollywood to use their power as a tool for change in educating the world about the condition. 

Excruciating period cramps aren’t “normal” and endometriosis isn’t just a “period disease.” If you or someone you know could be suffering with endometriosis visit Cohn’s website www.endowhat.com to learn more about the film and how you can get help. 

View the full interview with Cohn up top. 

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