I recently noticed that my menstrual experience is rooted in a “culture of I” mindset. I make my own decisions with what product I will use, the pain reliever method I will carry out and the activities I will participate in.
This “culture of I’ is very different from cultures that view menstruation as a social experience.
In some cultures women retreat to a menstrual hut during their cycle. Other cultures (and ones I greatly want to be a part of) hold celebratory ceremonies for menstruating women. Still in others women are barred from touching food, interacting with males and entering certain buildings (mostly religious places).
Here in Canada, when a woman has her cycle, there is very little difference in her day-to-day activities and no one really wants to know her menstrual business. If I were to ask people on the street if they saw menstruation as a personal or social experience, what answer do you think I would get?
In 2010 U by Kotex took the topic of menstruation to the streets in one of their social experiment web commercials.
As funny as this commercial is, it is scary to know that most men want little to do with something so valuable to a woman and life processes.
When I get my period I often think that something is wrong with me. That I have somehow brought the pain, nausea and emotional instability on myself. I feel responsible for taking care of what I am experiencing on my own, without publicly declaring my situation to the world.
Let’s take a closer look at the above sentences: I, I, I, MY, I, ME, I MYSELF, I, I, MY… interesting.
This analysis led me to the following question: Is menstruation a personal or social experience. I wonder if you could take a moment and give me your honest opinion before reading further.
The first thing I usually do when my menses arrives is take a pain reliever. If I don’t “catch” the pain in time, the end result is debilitating. I do this because I have learned that to play in the game of life one must ensure their bodily functions do not interfere with the score. Sitting out on the bench is not an option.
Why is this the case?
Have we come too far in the feminist movement to sit out on a workday because of self-care reasons? Some would say, YES! Do employers look down on women for taking a sick day because of her menstrual cramps? From my own experiences, YES!. Do men look at women as fragile beings because they are “slowed” down by their reproductive organ? In my personal experiences, YES! (Side note: These experiences may explain my dislike for working).
What I think we can agree on is that there is a problem with the way menstruation is managed in our society and as such it is time for us to challenge the popular belief that menstruation is solely a woman’s business.
Below are some ways that we can promote an open dialogue about menstruation and even include others in our menstrual journey.
- Tell people around you when you are menstruating.
- Create a menstrual journal, recording tips, remedies and general feelings about your cycle. This can be passed on to your daughters, nieces and friends as a personal testimony guidebook.
- Educate your friends and family about menstrual culture.
- Celebrate when a young girl gets her first period.
- Talk openly about menstruation with your kids.
- Try using a menstrual cup or reusable pad instead of a disposable product for your next cycle.
- Take moments to relax with friends and family when menstruating.
- Stand up for your uterus when negative comments are made about Her.
- Organize a menstrual art party with a group of friends.
- Put updates on your Facebook status or Twitter account about your menstrual experience.
- Buy the women in your life a Diva Cup or set of Lunapads for their birthdays.
- Make your own cloth pads and tell others about your sewing experience.
- Have a menstruation coffee table book. My personal favourite is Flow, it always sparks a conversation and can be a great gift for those on your Christmas list.
- Donate a financial gift, or your time, to the menstrual advocacy work of She28, Pads4Girls or a local menstrual awareness group.
- Serve raspberry leaf tea at your next gathering and explain the health benefits it can provide during pregnancy and menstruation.