Tag Archives: menstruation

“HelloFlo”: The Viral Ad That Empowers Girls to Embrace Their Periods

“For these campers, I’m their Joan of Arc. It’s like I’m Joan, and their vag is the arc.”

These words come from the mouth of a young girl in a recent ad for HelloFlo, a new company that specializes in making menstruation as painless as possible. You can help but do a double take (did that girl seriously just say “vag”?), and that is perhaps exactly what the ad creators intended.

But neither the company nor the controversial ad were rooted in any “feminist agenda,” says HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom. The company functions by sending boxes of tampons, pads, and candy to women in alignment with their personal cycles, all for $14-18 a month.

As Bloom said in an interview with CNN, “I just wanted to talk the way women talked and the way I talk and talk the way I am teaching my daughter to talk.” But even that is remarkable. After all, how many girls really feel this way about their periods? For that matter, how many moms, teaching their daughters about menstruation, feel this way?

The onset of puberty is happening earlier and earlier for girls in the United States, a trend that does not bode well for future generations’ rates of ovarian and breast cancer. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and exposure to toxic chemicals can all affect the timing of puberty, and the increase in all three in this country has obviously contributed to an earlier onset of menstruation.

On top of that, menstruation has been a consistent point of embarrassment for girls and women, and this has unfortunately perpetuated a culture of body shame. Whenever menstruation begins, it is not something to be ashamed of nor fight against. Girls need all the information they can get to be prepared, both physically and emotionally, for this powerful rite of passage. In a way, periods are what makes the world go ’round. Right?

What’s your relationship with menstruation like? Tell us your stories in the comments section below!

5 Quotes From Dr. Christiane Northrup That Will Make You Proud to Be a Woman

 

christiane_prodPeriods, PMS, menopause, morning sickness… Is there any aspect of the body’s cycles women can be proud of? According to the media and mainstream Western culture, women have more to feel ashamed and plagued by than proud of when it comes to their bodies. With messages of body positivity only barely making a dent in women’s overwhelmingly conflicted relationships with their bodies, something has got to give.

Enter, Dr. Christiane Northrup, the women’s health expert shaking every belief we’ve held about the female body for decades. Northrup’s reality check: Menstruation is a sacred experience that demands rest and self-regeneration. So-called “PMS” is really a flourishing of creative energy that surges through the female brain at certain points in her cycle. Menopause is a process of transformation, during and after which women can experience the best sex of their lives.

If any of the above statements contradict your own feeling about your body, then read on. In these 5 soul-shaking quotes from an interview featured in the latest issue of Spirituality & Health Magazine, Northrup offers a rallying cry for women to embrace the powerful bodies they inhabit:

1. The key is to understand that every woman has the keys to the kingdom inside herself, and those keys are found in doing those things that she loves to do.

~

2. You [women] have a cycle where you bleed in tune with the moon. It is the cycle responsible for all human life on earth. It is the cycle that connects you to your creativity and to the very essence of the tide coming in, the tide going out, the seasons, the sap going into the roots and then rising up, and we have been taught for 5,000 years to be ashamed of that cycle.

~

3. Did you know that we have as much erectile tissue inside our pelvis as men have? only, theirs is on the outside. What we have is the clitoris, which is the only organ in the human body whose sole function is pleasure.

~

4. Menopause is when you really move into your goddess energy in a big way. You’re no longer losing your blood, so you move into this phase now where your FSH and LH hormones in the pituitary gland are at the same levels as when you’re ovulating. and for many women that is their peak time
of sexual desire.

~

5. What we women are sure of is that there’s a man out there who will complete us. That’s what every movie tells us. But what it’s really about is doing that inner work of completing oneself.

Only as complete, proud, self-loving individuals can women experience the fullness of life that they deserve. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

*****

 

SH_JulyAug_CVR_lrgSpirituality & Health is a magazine for people who want to explore the spiritual journey and wake up to our capacity for self-healing, vitality, and resiliency. Read the entire conversation with Christine Northrup in the July-August edition of Spirituality & Health, on newsstands now! Get your first issue FREE here.

Would you like to win a FREE year-long subscription to Spirituality & Health magazine?

This month, Intent is giving away 5 year-long subscriptions to Spirituality & Health magazine. To enter, simply comment below with your favorite empowering quote. Be sure to include your name and email so we can contact you if you win.

 

A Year and $100,000 for Positive Birthing

One year. One hundred thousand dollars.

It sounds like a dream, or a twisted prank. But this is no joke. Gold Peak Tea is offering $100,000 and a year off to one deserving candidate. It is a chance to relax and rejuvenate, or to pursue some ambition, or realize some goal. This is a once in a lifetime offer, and I have a BIG imagination. So here goes the wildest, most exciting and ambitious $100,000 Year:

The Birth Connection

As a trained birth doula and aspiring midwife, I am passionate about reproductive health and positive birthing. I believe in a woman’s power and innate ability to bear her babies (at least without, though sometimes in spite of, pre-existing conditions); I believe in the sacredness of menstruation and all aspects of fertility; I believe in sex-positive education; I believe in the wisdom of our bodies.

The first two months of my year would focus on creating a comprehensive database and online social network of doulas, midwives, parents, politicians, anthropologists, social workers, yogis, professors, students, artists, media experts, and writers. We would develop a virtual forum and an unprecedented platform on which to discuss sex, birthing, bodies, gender politics, and reproductive rights. The network’s mission would outline clear, actionable goals to foster ongoing, international dialogue on the above topics. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google + would be employed to maximize connectedness.

Stage 1 Costs: $0

The Birth Conference

With a comprehensive network well underway, I would spend the next four months planning an international conference. The conference would focus on maternal and infant mortality and the power of positive birthing. Sierra Leone and Afghanistan have the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios (number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.) Ideally we would host the conference in one of these countries, which would require tireless strategic planning and cooperation on the part of politicians, diplomats, NGOs, anthropologists, and local grassroots organizations.

The three-day conference would feature speakers, panels, and breakout workshops aimed at addressing the global crisis of maternal and infant mortality through education, women’s rights, and medical anthropology. That means: how to train local midwives and doulas in communities that suffer from particularly high MMR rates and restricted medical access, the need to encourage local governments and schools (worldwide!) to support sex-positive and women-positive values, and how to work with doctors, midwives and local healers to envision a new medical model that is as wise as it is effective.

Stage 2 Costs: $10,000 Airfare for our team, $10,000 Food and Paraphernalia, $10,000 Other Stuff I Would Know About If I Regularly Planned Conferences

The Birth Center

After a successful conference, my team of positive birthing strategists would begin work to open a birth center wherever there is the greatest need (in Sierra Leone or Afghanistan). The aim: to create a space in which to train local midwives and doulas, accommodate expecting mothers for their births, and welcome teenagers and young adults for classes on reproductive health, self-care, and parenting. Anthropologists and grassroots organizations would be critical at this stage to ensure our project be executed with utmost respect, intelligence, and efficacy.

The greatest expenses in this stage would be land and building costs for the physical center, labor and travel costs for our contributing doctors and midwives who would help train the first round of birth workers, and medical supplies. We would enlist the support of local organizations and community members to create, decorate, and promote the space. And hopefully, with time, money, love, and cooperation, we would find ourselves six months later with a building, a group of soon-to-be-fully-trained midwives, and the promise of a thriving birth and community center.

Stage 3 Costs: $60,000 Land, Building, Training, Etc. – Yes, I’m an optimist.

Misc. Costs: $10,000 Antonia’s Coffee, Cat Food and Bus Fare

This is my passion and my sketch of a challenging, ambitious, and potentially rewarding year. What’s your passion? What would you do with $100,000 and a year off? Dream big, and ask not what is probable, but what is possible.

photo by: aturkus

Do you Pre-Read Your Kids’ Books? Censorship vs. Sensibility

From Stories are Good Medicine

I started voraciously reading middle grade and YA literature when my big reader 8 1/2 yo was about six.

I’d always loved children’s literature, and been a huge reader myself as a young person, but when my son started exhausting chapter books and delving into MG novels, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time in our local library. Helping him choose books that were both appropriate to his reading level and his level of maturity became another full time job. I started reading book reviews, book blogs, author websites, and of course, all the books I could get my hands on. In fact, I was spending so much time with kids literature, that I switched from writing (grown up) creative nonfiction to children’s fiction. 

I was familiar with the classics, and it’s those to which I directed my son first. Roald Dahl was an early favorite, as was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Beverly Clearly, C.S. Lewis, and even J.K. Rowling I’d read all before I became a mother. But I’d never heard of many of the newer authors. And so I familiarized myself with names like Judy Moody and Frannie K. Stein, and later, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, Septimus Heap. I wasn’t really reading to censor, rather to get a sense of what was written at what level, and direct him to books that I thought he’d enjoy. And ultimately, I was having an incredible amount of fun with what I was reading, and I absolutely loved being able to talk about the finer points of 39 Clues or other series with my son. 

There was rarely something I didn’t let him read, rather, I might honestly alert my son to a book’s topic. For instance, when he was first reading the Harry Potter series, I urged him to stop at book 3. When, after having read the first three volumes at least twice, he insisted on reading on, I eventually gave in, urging him to come find me if there was anything he wanted to talk about. Scary things happen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (book #4), I told him, and it would be ok if he wanted to put it down. (*spoiler alert next para*)

But that didn’t stop me from feeling like a horrible mother when he came home from second grade ashen faced and distraut. "Cedric Diggory died," he wailed, and, having been an avid adult Harry Potter fan myself, I could utterly empathize. I too had been heartbroken with that particular fictional turn of events. And hey, I’d been an adult when I’d read it.

I learned an important lesson thereafter, however. My son has now stopped himself at Harry Potter #5. He’s heard that a rather important, erm, character dies in the latter books, and although he knows the fact of that death, he’d rather not experience it just yet as a reader. And I respect his feelings, and appreciate his judgment about his own ability to handle certain fictional content.

I still read a ton of MG and YA literature, but I’ve stopped reading ahead of my son. In fact, he’s read plenty of things that I haven’t (although most of them are on my to be read pile) – The Children of the Lamp books, and Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist are some recent examples. 

But recently, I picked up Lisa Yee’s fabulous Millicent Min, Girl Genius. My son had already read her Bobby the Brave books and was itching to read more of Yee’s writing. But I’d heard, via a post on this very blog on menstruation in YA and MG books, that the book’s 11yo main character dealt with the very understandably 11yo girl-appropriate topic of periods, and I’d decided to go back to my old habits of pre-reading.

Now, the problem is, that which is an appropriate 11yo girl topic isn’t always an appropriate 8yo boy topic. Menstruation occupies about 2 pages of Millicent Min – it’s very appropriate to the story and very sweetly and believeably handled. If this were my 8yo daughter , I’d have absolutely no problem handing her the book. If (that 8yo daughter) had questions, I’d also have absolutely no problem answering them – ie. this is something that will happen to you too, maybe not for a few years.

But what about my 8yo son? He knows grossly about the birds and the bees, ova and sperm. But do I really want to go into the mechanics of periods and tampons with him right now?

I sound like a ridiculous prude, I know. I’m a pediatrician, and feminist, and teach issues in gender studies for goodness sake! Yet, my mommy-self is somehow living in an alternate universe to my scholarly and professional self.

I know, I know, the period pages will probably go right over his head. And it would be a crime to deprive him of Millicent as a character, and Yee’s fabulous writing voice. (In fact ANYONE wanting to know how to write an authentic and believable MG voice must RUN not WALK and get Yee’s books)

Yet, when it comes to my son, I hesitate.

He’s read books about death, about (I’m pretty sure) decapitation, about spies and wizards and ghouls and goblins. And now, I squeamish about letting him read – for about 2 seconds – about tampons and maxipads? What’s my problem?

Have you ever pre-read books for your kids?

Are You There, YA Readers? It’s Me, Your Period.

From Stories are Good Medicine

Judy Blume invented puberty. Or at least, that’s what this fascinating article from The Boston Phoenix contends. And, after thinking about it, I’m inclined to agree.

As a bookish library goer – even as a girl – I got a lot of my information about puberty from nonfiction books culled from the children’s section.  Books called things like Period featuring cartoon images of showering mom-parts and dad-parts.  Informative, and yet still pretty euphemistic.

Where I (and probably every other woman my age) really got all my pubertal know-how was from Blume’s iconic Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret…even if, by my time in the late 1970’s, Margaret’s menstrual pad and belt contraptions sounded positively archaic. (In fact, the Boston Phoenix article quotes Blume saying she has update the "equipment" Margaret uses in later editions of the book from belted pads to adhesive ones – I’m not 100% sure if they’re with or without wings … and for the record, this cover was the same one I had as a little girl. Note Margaret’s very psychadelic 70’s dress)

And yet, despite the change in, as Blume says, the menstrual equipment between then and now, I wonder if the sheer audacity of Blume’s novel is still relevant – in other words, is talking about menstruation still fairly taboo in children’s and YA literature? After all, Otto Frank apparently edited out parts of Anne’s diary that dealt specifically with puberty and menstruation.  Menstruation is never mentioned in any classic children’s texts- or adult texts for that matter. (How do those little girls become Little Women anyway? And did Jane and Eliza Bennet have any home remedies for monthly cramps?)

I was recently reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s excellent YA novel Wintergirls – and was caught short by the protagonists’ conversation about menstrual products with her stepmother. Of course, the conversation is highly relevant to the plot – the character has an eating disorder and is hiding the fact that she no longer menstruates.  But the reason that passage jumped out at me was entirely different – it was because, I realized, despite my steady diet of (modern) MG and YA literature, it’s still fairly rarely that menstruation is mentioned.

This to me is not a trivial issue. As someone whose training is in both pediatrics and public health, I know that silence around menstruation is secondary to shame about menstruation, and shame about menstruation is directly linked to the shame girls and young women around the world feel about their bodies, body parts, and bodily processes. Such shame is crippling, isolating, and among other things, exposes us to social and personal violences. In fact, menstrual product activism is a critical part of feminist activism in many countries. Check out this wonderful innovation– banana leaf based menstrual pads- which were developed in Rwanda, a country where, like many other places, girls and women often miss school or work due to the high cost of menstrual products and shame around the physical process. Similarly, women in South Asia frequently find themselves experiencing vaginal infections due to the necessity of washing their reusable menstrual cloths quickly and at night, or half drying them in secret locations,out of the eyesight of male family members. My mother recently visited a village menstrual pad factory begun and operated by local women concerned about their own economic independence, but simultaneously, their own health and the health of their fellow village women.

Even in the U.S., menstrual product advertisements (like this onefeatured on the fabulous sociological images site), make clear that menstruation is a process to be hidden, dreaded, and at best ‘dealt with’ (certainly, for instance, not celebrated). After all,why else do tampon ads rarely mention the word menstruation, and, as the sociological images ad points out, feature women wearing white clothing?  The discourse here is clearly about technology and commerce (in the form of menstrual products) being the key to, as a popular tampax ad suggests, "outsmarting mother nature."

The issue is clearly a feminist one – refer please to Gloria Steinem’s now classic essay entitled "If Men Could Menstruate" which suggests that men would undoubtedly be high five-ing each other and bragging about their monthly flow if the biological shoe was on the other, er, foot.  The issue is also a literary one – menstruation is a real part of young women’s lives – and should have some space at least in their stories, lest such narratives perpetuate age-old social silences and shame.

And yet, as this odd web interchange about portraying menstruation in a children’s novel demonstrates, such portrayals need to be accomplished accurately as well as respectfully. (Note the writer here seems to suggest that a young woman’s period "gushes" – something that is clearly not probable nor biologically likely in a normal, healthy menses)

So I’m on a quest – to find out more about portrayals of menstruation in MG and YA literature. Apparently, Millicent Min, Girl Genius discusses it in some detail. I’m running out to get it tomorrow to check it out. Can anyone think of other books?


Undoubtedly, Margaret did a fantastic job of breaking the menstrual silence. But she’s lonely. Who else will join her?

Are Your Ovaries Making You Buy Sexier Clothing?

Ladies, are your ovaries dictating your shopping decisions? A new research study shows that women who are ovulating are more likely to buy sexy clothing after being shown a picture of an attractive woman. The general interpretation being this: women are hardwired with the biological need to out-sexify their female competition for a male provider.

Great, just what we need: more research confirming petty female competition.

Can we be ushering in a scary brave world where, as one Salon writer puts it, mass advertising orchestrated towards the ups and downs of your menstrual cycle? Will women start receiving advertising deals for lingerie, clingy clothing and stripper heels at the peak of their ovulation? Scary.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel sexy. Caring for your personal appearance is a form of self-love. But when sexy turns into a pointed strategy for making other women feel insecure or a never-ending quest to live up to the impossibly high beauty standards of airbrushed models, then that’s sexy turning into an ugly beast.

What are some ways to genuinely look and feel sexy from the inside-out without having to bring other women down? 

– Sexy intelligence. Read challenging books, learn new hobbies, keep up-to-date on current events. Nothing says sexy like a worldly, well-informed individual capable of creative and critical thinking. As a starting point, here’s a list of non-celeb blogs that make for good brain food.

– Sexy health. Do you exercise? Eat you vegetables? Drink 8 glasses of water daily? Meditate? Doing all of the above on a regular basis keeps your skin beautiful, your body slim, and your energy level high. Now that’s sexy. 

– Sexy passion for something. Living for your very unique life passions–whether it is traveling, making art, cooking, or helping the homeless–gives you instant charisma, poise, and confidence. Roughing it out on a hiking trail in an old T-shirt and dirt-caked boots for your love of nature? Sexy. 

– Sexy strong relationships. My loving and amazing boyfriend makes me feel sexy even if I’ve just rolled out of bed with no make-up on. My amazing friends make me feel sexy for the warmth, energy and creativity that they share with me. Being surrounded by good people on a regular basis is the best way to feel sexy, attractive, and happy. Beats getting hit on by creepy men in shady bars, no? 

– Sexy giving. Whether you volunteer for a cause you feel strongly for or simply give your time of the day for friends who need a good listener, a giving heart spreads joy and happiness to others. Rather than needing to feel more beautiful than others on a superficial level, you are making others feel beautiful inside-out.

The lipstick and the heels–just icing on the cake, my dear.

 PHOTO (cc): Flickr / bass_nroll

Period Pieces: How One Woman Triumphed Her Menorrhagia With Art

Periods are bad enough just regularly so I can’t imagine the pain of a woman with menorrhagia. Menorrhagia is a condition that causes heavier and longer menstruations, usually upwards of seven days with three times as much blood. 

Eck!

But Lani Beloso, a 42 year old artist, photographer with a license in nuclear medicine (talk about a credential!) decided to make the best of her disorder by turning it into art.

"One day," she says, "I thought: I’m gonna sit over something and I’m going to see exactly how much comes out of me-because I thought it was a gallon. I thought I was bleeding to death every month. I wanted to actually see the amount…I’m just going to sit over great a canvas and make a painting out of it while I’m at it."

That was the beginning of "The Period Piece," a project in which Beloso, already a painter/photographer, created 13 canvases with her own menstrual blood, representing a year’s worth of cycles. She wasn’t making a statement-she was just wanted to make the pain worth something.

"It was cathartic and made me not hate that time of the month so much anymore," Beloso says, but she also finds it beautiful and funny. "I don’t plan on having children, I’m not using my uterus. I just wanted to take it out and throw it in the garbage can." But the project did make the intense, painful periods useful to her and beautiful and inspiring for others. (She did bring that "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" bromide to a whole new level).

Gawker

Menstrual art isn’t something new although it’s definitely not widespread. Taking things really to the extreme was Charon Luebbers back in the 90’s. She actually used discharge present for each of the 28 days of the menstrual cycle and would then press her face against them on 28 different canvases to show the contrast of each of them. Completely overlooking the mere fact she’s using her bodily discharges for art, why in the world would she want to show the contrast by pressing her fluids against her face is beyond me! ICK!

Although she now collects her blood and then paints with it instead of hovering over canvases all day, what is interesting to me is that Beloso says after she finished her collection, her periods actually lightened up and were less painful. She says she now looks forward to her periods and is excited to create from them.

Talk about the power of positive thinking! 

Could this maybe be a new wave of art therapy?

Art therapy, although originally reserved for psychological disorders, is known to help with all health ailments, including chronic diseases. Although scientists have not put all the pieces together, it does show that the engrossment in art and creativity helps those riddled with health problems think outside of their diseases and become engrossed in memories, repressed feelings and immense joy of creation.

Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia conducted a study where women with cancer were instructed to sculpt and sketch for four months. Those subjects were found to experience less drowsiness, pain, stress and insomnia. Art therapy has shown also to facilitate healing in arthritis andother chronic disorders and has become one of the key elements of therapy for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Would you turn your fluids into art?

I definitely believe in using creative outlets but I don’t know if this one is for me! 🙂

Acupuncture Can Help With Painful Menstruation

I have always been plagued with rather painful menstrual cycles. There I’ve said it, and you all now know. And you thought we just were getting to know one another! This severe menstrual pain problem is part of the reason I have become so focused on women’s health and helping others. Often migraine headaches, severe cramping and light sensitivity accompany my periods.

To make a long story short, sometimes I am a total and complete mess. As a result of these painful periods, I have been willing to try quite a few things in hope of having an easier time.

In general, I try to avoid chemicals and I eat mostly organic foods. So when it’s that time of the month I really hate to take medicine, but sometimes there is no other choice. Chinese medicine has been using acupuncture to treat irregular periods, menstrual related problems and even infertility for quite some time. There is increasing evidence that acupuncture works for pain and, for the most part, this is completely true.

Respected medical institutions such as John Hopkins have recently thrown their weight behind the fact that acupuncture does help people. Most of the time doctors simply prescribe painkillers for menstrual cramping and pain, and as a result I have always been on the lookout for any alternative. Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate the nerve endings of the body, which in turn has a pain relieving effect. Western medicine is only now beginning to understand how it works, but trust me, it does. I have seen acupuncture work with several people and many people I know simply swear by it.

Other things that have helped me with my painful menstruation are the Allay Period Relief Patch, drinking 6 or more cups of chamomile tea a day, and taking long hot showers.

But back to acupuncture, one recent study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that roughly two-thirds of women reported some level of pain relief as a result of using acupuncture. Obviously, for some women, acupuncture worked very well, which is enough of a reason to at least give it a try. I know needles are a bit scary, but there are a few things you can do to help overcome your fear of the needle. Keep firmly fixed in your mind the vast numbers of people that have used acupuncture over the last few thousand, yes thousand years.

If you ever plan on having a child or you already have had a child, than you can handle a tiny little needle. A third way to overcome the fear of the needle is just to meditate or practice biofeedback techniques if you know them. Truth is you should probably have some ability to do both of these time honored stress reducers and pain relieving techniques.

Don’t be afraid to give acupuncture a chance. There is a lot of mounting evidence that it helps people with all sorts of pain. Why shouldn’t you be one of the people acupuncture helps?

Visit my blog www.maryhadalittlehealthblog.com where I blog about other issues surrounding women’s health and help with painful menstruation.

Update Your Thinking about Menstruation

With one new book and one new film out on menstruation, My Little Red Book, and Period:  The End of Menstruation? respectively, women are being given an opportunity to update their thinking on a subject that still creates anxiety in the public.

To add my voice to the discussion, here is what women have had to say about it in my anonymous Women’s Realities Study.  If you’re at all moved by the poignancy of these women’s quotes, please feel free to add your own voice to my menstruation questionnaire.
 
Menstruation
This is the questionnaire with the highest response rate in part, I think, because it’s first in the chart of questionnaires, but also because it’s perhaps the most unifying feature of being female, so women feel safer telling their stories about it. 
 
Because of its “ordinary” nature there’s an almost mundane quality to menstruation. But what interested me in the responses from women (ages19-105) was that 65% of them wished they’d been taught about it differently. And this is what appears to be the essence of that sentiment: At its heart, our initiation to menstruation has largely to do with the quality of our mother daughter relationships. There were mothers who really came through for their daughters around this life change, but mostly, even when daughters were taught about it by their mothers, it wasn’t necessarily satisfying, and many were left completely on their own, or farmed out to other sources entirely.
 
The 105 year old woman I interviewed said that after she got her first period, about which she knew nothing before hand, her mother sent her off to “lectures for young ladies” at the Women’s Club. A 72 year old woman I interviewed was told nothing, got her first period and thought she was hemorrhaging to death. Even now as you’re reading this and probably thinking, well that’s to be expected of women of a different generation, I’m sorry to bear the news that women currently in their 20s report having been left to the school nurse, health teacher, or their girlfriends. 
 
Some remember this being an embarrassing conversation, and other women noted they were taught the “mechanics” but wish they’d been given far more texture and color to help them get a fuller understanding of what it’s like to live with your period. Many mothers presented this material in a clinical one time, brief encounter. Like an inoculation. 
 
The responses reflect that when girls were taught, they got the anatomical basics and were shown sanitary products, but rarely given much to contextualize it physically, sexually, emotionally or relationally. Even though girls can only absorb so much life altering information, the tone set in even the simplest explanations tended to be antiseptic and awkward. I think this is one of the reasons it’s difficult for women, even today, to assimilate our sexuality into the whole of who we are. 
 
There are societally reinforced splits in the perception of female sexuality. We don’t think of mothers as sexual, for example, although mothers usually have sex to end up that way. When many mothers taught their daughters, or left them to glean information on their own, the mother’s discomfort was read by, and absorbed by, the daughter. Often mothers gave them reading material on menstruation but then never discussed it with them, let alone augment it with their own sense of its meaning. Very few women referred to an emotional quality other than embarrassment in these moments, and the girls whose mothers weren’t embarrassed, were far less likely to feel uncomfortable.
 
So this seemingly mundane condition of being female hints at the fissures in our core vulnerability: we’re not fully comfortable welcoming our girls into womanhood because we ourselves aren’t fully permitted to be comfortable there.
 
“I do wish my mom had spoken to me about it. Not because I needed the information, but because I craved to have a bond with her as a woman and as her daughter.”
 
“I wish it had been taught to me in a way that made me feel excited and proud rather than anxious. I wish that we’d been given a whole book about it, giving us all the details about what to expect so we wouldn’t, despite the pamphlet telling us that we were normal, think something abnormal and wrong was happening when some detail about the whole process was not exactly how it was described to us.”
 
 “I wish my mother had sat me down, somehow revealing in the warmth of her face (which isn’t actually warm) the complex magic and pain in the ass experience that menstruation is. I wish it had felt for both of us like a shared rite of passage.”
 
The next two are from women in their mid thirties.
 
“My parents handled it all so poorly – it’s really shocking. I was completely mortified of my body – for most of my life – it totally started me on a path of disconnection with my sexuality.”
 
“I feel betrayed because my mother should have prepared me for this. I was very young to start yet she should have seen the signs.”
 
These next two are from women in their 20s.
“Nothing was explained to me. My mother threw the pads on my bed. That’s how she knew I had my period. I read the strip on the pad to know how to use it.”
 
“The day I received my period, my mother gave me a pad and told me never to let boys play with me ‘down there’.”
 
And lastly, a sweet one:
“I read Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Then my mother told me about it one summer night when she tucked me in.”
 
 
Yesterday afternoon I had occasion to be hanging out with my two favorite sixth grade girls while I had a coffee and they sipped a chocolate drink the consistency of concrete. They agreed to be quoted on the condition of “like, total, anonymity.” I asked how they felt learning about menstruation, and in a mixture of giggling, gravity, and eye rolling, this is what our sisters in the field had to report. One said, “No offense, but sometimes what I read about it is cheesy. If I talk to my mom, I like her to talk to me one day, then stop. Then wait for me to come back if I have questions.” The second said, “I love talking to my mom…but not for, like, hours and hours and hours and hours!” 
 
Every mother daughter relationship is different, and for those that are lacking, thank God for girlfriends, and literature written on our behalf. There are obviously many helpful ways to approach the topic of menstruation, but maybe the best place to start is to not think of it as “the talk”, but as the beginning of a life long dialogue between mothers and daughters, and women new and old.
 
 
 
 

Chatting with A Goddess

This month I asked a group of women on my blog www.letsgirltalk.net the question — If you could talk with any Goddess, who would it be, why and what would she say? 

Of course it would make sense that in the month we talk about YONI’s that I would come upon the Goddess Persephone. For all of January, I’ve seemed obsessed with Red Tents and Moons (aka our menstrual cycles)… I’ve been questioning my own use of pills that regulate my hormones and chlorine-filled cotton bullets I use to pick up my monthly visitor. So no surprise that I literally opened up this book I have called "The Book of Goddesses" and there Persephone, was, staring directly at me.

A little background on our lady Persephone… she’s the daughter of Demeter, whom she loved very much, but big bad Pluto came by and forced her to marry him. Although he loved her dearly, she never truly gave him her heart. And can you blame her? Brut! This life drama gave Persephone a reluctance to claim her own sexuality and an infatuation with  pomegranates and the power of menstruation aka our Moons (a term my friend Tarja uses, and I’m sure Persephone would approve of, but that I still can’t quite get out of my mouth).

Which leads me to what I want to ask this powerful Goddess:  What is the deal with why women are so weirded out by their periods? Why do we try to hide them, suppress them and force our way through them? For goddess sake, our guest podcaster Dr. Lissa Rankin told us she couldn’t leave surgery to change her tampons – just bleed right through, seriously? Where are the Red Tents that used to be the place women could go for the few days they would bleed… where they’d hang out with the girls, sing songs, braid hair, generally RELAX? Why can’t I refer to my period as "my moon" without squirming? Why when I got my period, did my mother simply say, "There’s a box in the closet." No wonder so many of us over-achieving women have stuffed our YONI in the closet, right next to the ‘feminine hygenine products!’

If I think about what Persephone would say, I imagine it would go something like this, "lf you want a Red Tent, build one, even if it’s in your bedroom giving yourself the day off when you moon starts… If you don’t want to say "my moon" don’t, but for at least pick something other than "period," it sounds awful… and Take if from me, don’t miss out on fully claiming your sexuality, not for your husband’s sake, but for your own. There is nothing more powerful than a woman in her divine sexual power, fully centered in who and what she is, at this time, in this moment, in all of her beauty and love of self."

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