Before anyone who does not experience a menstrual cycle turns away from this post thinking “it’s not for me”…get your fucking ass back here, please. This is for you, too. Because even though you may not personally have a menstrual cycle, you experience the menstrual cycle through someone you know, live with, are friends with…
Regardless of how far we have come, we still live within a society that likes to label periods as “women’s problems.”* Going to a doctor about anything mildly related to your menstrual cycle will likely end up with a prescription for a contraceptive tablet. There is so much shame attached to something utterly natural that people will whisper across to their friend with a red face, “…have you got anything?” and panic when their period starts unexpectedly. We are taught to hide it, that our genitals are the gateway to dirt and disgust for 5 – 7 days of the month.
Yeah, I’m angry. This topic has been heavy on my heart for the previous three years and I will jump at the chance to bring it into conversation with my fellow menses mates. In fact, it has become a normal part of everyday conversation with some of my friends to casually reference the fact that we are ovulating or we’re about to call out the bullshit because we’re on the cusp of bleeding. And, you know, the more we speak – the more natural it is to talk about it, the more engaged we are in our relationship, and the more we feel able to take on the day and feel supported by each other.
If this was an Oscars speech, I have Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer to thank first. Their book Wild Power was what started me on the journey of understanding my menstrual cycle and the power that it holds. However, the reason why I am not advocating it here is simply because of the use of language which doesn’t seem to acknowledge the experiences of my LGBTQIA+ menses experiencing folks. I am disappointed I feel prohibited to share this book as it does have so much wonderful stuff in there on a more…spiritual?… level, but the use of language being largely catered toward ‘She’, the use of ‘Feminine’ (even in the context of ‘divine masculine’ and ‘divine feminine’), and the use of the menstrual cycle awareness as a practice reserved for ‘She’ is a little too loaded for me. As a cis female, it worked for me. But I am not the majority.
So, my main thanks goes to Maisie Hill. Maisie’s book Period Power provided the ‘scientific’ knowledge that filled in the gaps of Wild Power. It gave me amazing facts about contraceptives, the hormonal knowledge of what was actually happening during the pre-menstrual time, and how to ride the waves of my hormones to my advantage. Instead of feeling utterly powerless, I was able to understand and throw in a fuckload of compassion toward myself, knowing when to draw my boundaries, knowing what to more or less expect for the day/week ahead, and viewing my body as a blessing not a burden.
Louder for the people at the back: viewing my body as a blessing not a burden.
I first started struggling with my menstrual cycle when I was around 23/24. I am not willing, right now, to go into the details. It was a scary, chaotic, powerless, and angry time. Eventually, I noticed that there was a rhythm to these feelings. I don’t know how or when I first noticed but, regardless, I noticed. Then, I started tracking my cycle to know what to expect, to know when not to make those big decisions, to know when to limit the social contact, and know when I’m more likely to be overwhelmed with stress.** Still, though, the experiences I had that week before my bleed were very often incredibly overwhelming and I found myself thinking each time “This can’t just be hormones, it has to be me. It feels too real.” And, then, it would pass and I would be left thinking “No…It was the hormones.” and then shame would love to rear her head and accuse me of losing my shit once again and being weak enough to fall for the same crap.
Eventually, I got tired of the same routine. I had briefly glimpsed the idea of working with your menstrual cycle on Instagram one evening but the idea wouldn’t leave me. I decided to invest in books and podcasts and online resources to help me navigate this natural phenomenon and help me understand myself. I had worked against my cycle for too long, what would happen if I leaned into it and learnt to really understand what the fuck was happening within me?
Things I am now angry about:
- The fact that young people are not taught sufficient information about their menstrual cycle from an early age and are, instead, taught socially acceptable ways of ‘managing’ it and hiding it.
- Young people are still majority receiving separate sex education classes, with boys being led out of the classroom when girls have to learn about the menstrual cycle. To this day, I still have no idea what the boys talked about at the tender age of 10 years old in their separate classroom. Not only does this reinforce gender binaries and leave no room for LGBTQIA+ topics, but it further consolidates periods as a source of shame.
- Doctors still are massively uneducated in this area which, largely, is the result of the social systems in place and expectations…reproduced in the ways above. As such, whenever somebody attends a doctors appointment about potential difficulties experienced within the topic of the menstrual cycle, we are met with blank faces, or a contraceptive tablet to stop them altogether.
- The food we eat during our cycle can massively benefit us. For instance, during the pre-menstrual and during menstruation, we are going to benefit more from proteins and fats than we are heavy carb-laden meals. For me, this would be a meal of avocado and fucking…I don’t know…egg. But, for so many people, access to these foods are limited due to economic standing. Individuals with lower economic status are likely to be hugely restricted in terms of their access to healthy foods anyway and, ergo, foods needed to sustain them adequately as they move through the various phases of their cycle. This brings in a whole host of race, gender, and class issues that need dedicated and sufficient discussion time.
- It is still framed in gender binaries. I’ve covered this. But it serves to stand as a point on its own.
There are more points that I have and more points I will undoubtedly find as I continue to research. This is something I have grown really interested and passionate about. It’s something I would definitely love to bring as a feature here at She Uncensored*** but I feel hugely unqualified and lacking in knowledge to pass on such important things to people at the moment. Hence why I will leave it to the experts for now but I will endeavour to develop my knowledge – personal and otherwise – to bring this to you. Because it’s important. So very important.
Anyway, buy the book. It’s really good.
*by the way, this is just another example of heteronormativity and an anti-LGBTQIA+ stance. Trans* individuals experience menstrual cycles, too.
**(To this day, I still do this. There are lots of apps available now that we can download but, if you don’t have access to these online resources, you can always use a good old fashioned pen and paper! I use the app ‘Clue’, but I’ve heard that ‘Flow’ is also really good.)
***You mention LGBTQIA+ but you have a gendered website name? And you’ve used gendered language before?! I am calling myself out on my own bullshit here. The She Uncensored name has been a point of wrestling for a while and it was never intended to banish anyone of any other gender orientation from this corner of the internet. You are all welcome here. It makes me so happy to see a diverse number of readers here but, when I first started She Uncensored, it was purely from my place of standing. After years of biting my tongue and listening to what other people said, or withholding my truth for fear of being heard, I decided to finally speak. It was uncensored, and I am She. I invite all of you to be Uncensored with me. Thus, please feel free to challenge me in any of my language fails to be inclusive, or my ideas appear harmful. This was never supposed to be a one sided conversation, ever.