second guessing

Some of you may have read Elle Griffin’s post The Emotional Causes of Endometriosis. The post, although interesting, and a new way to approach the disease, lacks understanding and credibility in relation to medical and scientific evidence.

For those who want a quick overview,: In her post Griffin identifies three emotional causes of endometriosis: The Dependent, The Business Woman and The Reluctant Woman. She then goes on to say that

“by turning inward, women with endometriosis can discover a wealth of wisdom about what it is she truly wants. And by realigning her life to the wisdom of her womb, she can find healing, comfort, and yes, ease from the pain.”

If you read through the post and specifically the emotional causes any woman who works outside the home, has a close relationship with her family and is pushing 30 without children, can easily be classified into one of the causes, but only of course if you have endometriosis.

If you can identify with one of the causes and don’t have endometriosis, well I’m not sure what to tell you. And if you have endoemtriosis and have turned inward to discover what you want (most people do have some good moments of self reflection every now and again) and you are still living with the disease, then you may be living a lie and should search harder, because your mind and womb are not centred.

It appears that Griffin, rather than provide a solution that women can easily access, merely perpetuates age-old taboos surrounding the topic of menstruation, all the while promoting her services as a feminine vitality coach.

The idea that endometriosis (a disease) can be cured by “realigning one’s life to the wisdom of the womb” is reminiscent of the Hippocratics description of menstruation being a sign of women’s wandering womb (Dean-Jones, 1994, pp. 69-70).  Their solution of course, was to encourage women to stop menstruating all together, but the idea of the womb being linked to one’s mind and having influence is prominent, and as science has taught us, incorrect.

More specifically, when Griffin talks about the cause of both the “Reluctant Mother” and “Business Woman” is she not echoing the discourse of the seventeenth century where Immanuel Kant described the fluid nature of the female body as irrational and warned against taxing the minds and bodies of women with educational or employment training (MacDonald, 2007, p. 345)?

And what about the ideas prevailing from the 19th century when entire books were written warning against what would happen if women didn’t follow through with their reproductive purposes? Melissa L. Meyer (2005), in her book Thicker than Water, draws on Edward F. Clark’s 1874 book, Sex and Education, in which the nineteenth-century doctor states that menstruating women should be excluded from the “mental strains” of learning as these were seen to weaken them, leaving them susceptible to disease (Meyer, 2005, p. 151).

Similar “concerns” were found by the authors of The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (1976) who borrow from the message of Doctor Azel Ames’ 1875 book Sex and Industry, stating that allowing a woman to work “would mean the destruction of their menstrual cycles and thus the end of the human race” (Delaney, Lupton & Toth, 1976, p. 58).

Now we read these and think: really? People actually though these things and put them into action? They most certainly did. And it appears that still today, any irregularity of the menstrual cycle is somehow a woman’s fault and in some cases viewed as a punishment for her being successful, or a working mom, or not a mom at all, etc.

Erin Luyendyk, RHN wrote an excellent response to Griffin’s post, drawing attention to the science behind the disease and the raw reality that unfortunately no matter how hard you try, you cannot will a disease to disappear.

Griffin’s post could have done a lot of good for women with endometriosis and based on the comments some do find comfort in her words. Sometimes your emotions can influence your health, but emotions don’t cause diseases like endometriosis. We wouldn’t dare suggest that emotions cause reproductive cancers, and so why would we suggest they cause a disease like endometriosis?

I would argue that while a horrible disease to live with, endometriosis has taught me to live a much healthier life and to be more in tune with my emotions. It’s taught me to hope, to be patient, to chart my cycle, to sympathize as well as the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. 

I’ve had a reason to research, to investigate and to ask questions when my doctor prescribes medication and treatment. I’ve learned that although just the patient, I can, and often do say no!

So dearest Elle, your formula is simple, but flawed. You assume that women with endometriosis are ignorant of the root cause of their pain and discomfort. You feel the cause can be found deep within, and it can… along my bladder, my bowel and the outside frame of my uterus.

You tell me to state what I am looking for? Well Elle, I’m looking for what most women with endometriosis are looking for: a cure. Many women (not all) with endometriosis have faced our desires and our true selves, we have a profound understanding of reproductive health, are in tune with our emotions and don’t have the energy to (nor would we want to) rage a constant battle with our mind and heart. It is because of these reasons (coupled with sound evidence from the medical community of course) that your post is hurtful.

Here at dropsofscarlet I do on occasion have heated conversations with my uterus. Sometimes I sympathize with my U while other times I’m just plain mad, but either way it’s not the reason for my endometriosis. While everyone hopes to be able to pinpoint the root cause and solution, a lot of grey area still remains.

One things for sure, I am more certain of what I want, what I feel and who I am as a woman because I have endured endometriosis.

And yet, still I suffer.

Does this mean that the life I am living (the life I enjoy) is not the life I really desire?

Provably not the case, but the tone of Griffin’s post seems to suggest that I need to re-evaluate most every aspect of my life, quit my job, maybe have children and possibly move very far away from my family.

End Note: (Written after writing my initial response to “The Emotional Causes of Endometriosis”)

“The Emotional Causes of Endometriosis” is just one post of many written by Elle Griffin. If you take the time to read through the other posts on her site you will probably not respond in the same way to this post. I probably would have still found it offensive, but if I had an understanding of Elle and the work she does, her beliefs, her treatment strategies etc. I probably would have written this post a bit differently. Griffin draws deeply from the spiritual and while her post can be viewed as lacking medical facts, often “medical” anything is seen as disruptive to the holistic healing process. She herself also has a history of disease and cycle problems and so while her treatment may fall outside of mainstream methods, she does bring experience to her writing. 

That being said, it is because of some of the content of her other posts, like the ideas found in Why I Love my Period, that I feel responses to her diagnosis of endometriosis should be called into question and most definitely reframed, removed altogether or rewritten.

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my grammys

In June I attended a conference that in the realm of menstrual cycle research could be classified as something akin to the Grammys.  Although it only had one award ceremony it truly was a showcase of the best of the best in menstrual cycle research! 

Being among the writers and scholars who help organize my thoughts for my Masters MRP was inspiring. I was quoting and citing studies in my presentation to the very people who wrote the texts. Engaging in conversation with like-minded individuals, people who “get you” and are just as enthusiastic about analyzing a femcare ad is a wonderful feeling.

I am talking about the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Biennial Conference.

For two and a half days I was immersed in menstrual cycle knowledge and teaching. I learned about organizations that I never knew existed. Met with artists that make beautiful works inspired by the menstrual cycle. I had dinner with scholars that have written texts that have transformed society’s view of the menstrual cycle and brought to light the dangers of disposable femcare products.

Because the menstrual cycle is so dear to my heart, and due to my everyday management of endometriosis, this conference really challenged me to think about my reproductive health and what it is I want the next year or so to look like.

Children, or no children, prescription drugs or holistic care, the disease will always be something I have to manage.

Discussion of endometriosis and the medical treatment of such a disease were ever-present at the conference. Dismissal of symptoms, experimental treatment, side effects of treatment… I’ve experienced it all and it was refreshing to know that the way I am feeling is not out of the ordinary.

I also realized that even though I don’t agree with how society pushes women to terminate their cycles completely, for some women, and maybe even for myself, this option… may just save our lives (or our sanity at the very least).

I hope all who have an interest in menstrual cycle research will join the SMCR as well as attend the 2015 conference! Hope to see you all there!

“Party Hard” with Playtex

Fresh and Sexy WipesOver the last number of months, Playtex has been getting quite the attention for it’s “Fresh + Sexy Wipes”. But it is the kind of attention that probably isn’t going to encourage women to love the brand, at least not any woman who knows a little bit about her vaginal health. “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” are basically baby wipes that couples can use to “clean” themselves before and after sex.

For those not familiar with the campaign, the flack it’s getting has much to do with a series of ads whose messaging suggests that the vagina is dirty, and in need of continual maintenance, especially when it comes to sex. On the other hand, it is also a campaign that was created to reach out to a market not normally reached by Platex, men.  But, is this really the way we want men to be brought into the conversation? Through sexualized discourse that promotes sex as a victory and the vagina as something that continually needs improvement?

Probably not.

ADKTo top it all off, Playtex enlisted Andrew W. K. as the official “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” spokesperson.  What woman doesn’t dream about nights with a man like Andrew W. K? A man who parties hard and whose Party Hard Philosophy  only applies to those who don’t have full-time jobs (did I mention he is a motivational speaker?). Yes, we should all do what we enjoy as well as give our all for the things we love, but I doubt Andrew’s philosophy could actually work outside of a rock and roll lifestyle.

Playtex 3

A polished knob always gets more wood.

A clean peach always gets picked.

A clean peach always gets picked.

What’s more, the campaign echoes past hygienic vaginal discourses that encouraged women to continually be cautious about their smelly and dirty vagina (Ahem… Lysol ads). The discourse in the “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” ads  lend to a negative historical discourse with suggestive ad copy that reads: “A clean beaver always finds more wood.”, “A clean peach always gets picked.”, “A polished knob always gets more turns.” and “A clean pecker always taps it.”.

Basically, if you use these “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” you are always going to get laid.

This suggestive discourse is highly fueled by phallocentrism, encourages the objectification of women’s bodies and treats the act of sex as one women and men can achieve so long as they follow a prescribed cultural code laid out by Playtex.

playtex 2

A clean pecker always taps it.

The Group Marketing Director who led the creative on the campaign, Erik Rahner, said this about why such a product is even necessary to market:

“Sex isn’t always a planned event that can be prepared for. With Fresh + Sexy wipes, couples now have a way to be clean and ready for even the most spontaneous moments. They can be ready for intimacy whenever – and wherever – the mood strikes.”

The main question I have for Mr. Rahner is, what did people do before Playtex gave us the option of this all too important product?

Were we all just having dirty sex?

I’m curious as to whether there was any market research that went into this campaign. If there had been, and the response to these wipes was positive, there is concern for how much understanding men and women have about the vagina. Most women know the dangers of douching, and likewise the dangers of putting scented products in or near the vagina. Any doctor would recommend that when it comes to vaginal health, you stay away from anything scented, especially disposable wipes that contain traces of chemicals that can irritate the sensitive tissues around the vagina.

A clean beaver always finds more wood.

A clean beaver always finds more wood.

The campaign sends a very strong message about vaginal health and to some extend penal health. Basically, cleaning “it” is essential to a happy (and better) sex life. What’s more it appears that with the help of Andrew W.K. the campaign is encouraging a lifestyle that may not result in a healthy ending, just a good time, with the promise of well… only sex.

From a marketing standpoint is the ad campaign “good”. I’d have to say yet, but it is accurate? No! Does it promote positive talk about sex and women’s health? Again, probably not.

Yet, even with all this being said, couples will probably buy into this discourse. Sex can be messy and the idea of having something easily accessible to “freshen” you up, is appealing. However, ladies (and men) it’s important you know that the vagina is self-cleaning and good vaginal hygiene isn’t too hard to obtain with just water and old fashion fragrance-free soap.

preservations aside

stem cellsLately, I’m seeing more and more news about stem cell therapy from cells extracted from menstrual blood as well as cord blood and tissue. Since I have never experienced pregnancy, I’m going to share a bit about menstrual blood banking and leave the cord talk for someone else.

Banking your menstrual stem cells is actually quite simple. Right now there are two ways to do this.

You can either order a kit from a bank like LifeCell Femme or have your flow collected in a doctor’s office using a bank like CryoCell.

As an avid menstrual cup user, I’d prefer to collect my flow in the privacy of my own home rather than in a doctor’s office, but I’m sure there are some hygienic concerns with going this route.

The home kit comes with a menstrual cup, instructions and something to sterilize the cup before insertion. You also get personal barcode labels, frozen packs and a vial for storing the flow.

After doing a bit of research on the LifeCell Femme webpage I learned that Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs), are important for cellular therapy and those obtained from menstrual flow are the best to use because they have a high concentration of “stem cell growth factors”.

This video by CryoCell offers a bit more insight on the overall process of menstrual blood banking:

Your very own priceless portfolio… (I think I’ll save my critique on the discourse of how this is marketed to women for another post).

The main question I’d like to ask: “Is banking menstrual stem cells something women should consider?”

An article from time.com suggests that there is less controversy and more benefits to banking menstrual blood stem cells from others such as the cells found in bone marrow. For one thing, it’s minimally invasive (another great reason to try a menstrual cup!). Next, it’s a pain-free retrieval process. And lastly, there is little controversy attached to this method. Most women don’t have strong opinions about what happens to their flow after it has made its way to whatever femcare product they use during their cycle.

If women, each month, have the capability to bank their flow, flow that can be life saving, why aren’t we?

Cost most definitely plays a part. CryoCell’s initial processing fee is around $500 and to store the cells is about $100 each year. That’s a fair bit of money to spend “just in case”. Obviously the arguments for and against this will vary based on an individual’s perspective and values of the life process.

Regardless of cost, it is exciting to see that more and more doctors are seeing how menstruation, that icky, taboo “women’s” issue, is actually quite awesome (minus the cramps, discomfort and change in mood of course).

Recent studies are proving what women have been trying to say for years; there is a reason for our periods besides pregnancy! The Endometrial Regenerative Cell is stirring up quite the conversation from both a proprietary and clinical perspective.

I find it fascinating that cells extracted from menstrual flow can help treat heart failure patients! However, I also wonder if certain individuals would refuse treatment if they knew where the cells came from?

If there is a chance of disease (proven by family history or gene testing) that could be helped by menstrual blood stem cells, I’d certainly consider “banking” on such an investment. 

and U thought U had me…

(Disclaimer: I wrote this on a bad day, in the hopes that a better day would come)

Dear U,

A friend once commented on a post and listed her user name as “mad at my uterus”. That pretty much sums up how I am feeling today.

It’s now been 3 months since I heard the depressing news that your lining has decided to attach itself to other areas within me. Lucky for U, no one really know why this happens, and because it is too dangerous to remove, I guess I’m stuck with more of  U than I’d like.

If U were an actual person, I’m convinced U’d be laughing at me, or maybe U’d be sad for me, one or the other. While I try to be positive that the many amounts of supplements (Progesto-Mend, Zinc, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Pro-biotic, Omega 3’s, Vitamin B6) and dietary restrictions (goodbye wheat, dairy, caffeine… all things tasty) I’ve been trying out may lead to improvement in symptoms, the symptoms of this past cycle suggests the opposite.

I’m going to be honest with U.

U make it really, really hard to like U.

To want to keep U.

To care for U and above all respect U and the life process U offer.

Basically, I find it incredibly ironic that U can carry both intense pain and life.

The body is funny that way, isn’t it?

I’m not giving up. I want to, really badly, but I’m not going to stop trying to find relief. I like to believe that U are on my side. Some days are easier than others, but I know if U could, U would try to make things better. Or that’s what I tell myself to keep from simply saying goodbye to you for good.

I want U to be a part of me for a long time to come. I know U’d want the same. So maybe, just maybe U can step up your game a bit and pitch in every once in a while?

breaking up is hard

Get with Gen KI’ve been enjoying the recent U by Kotex campaign, “GET WITH generation KNOW”. However, after studying their past campaign “Break the Cycle, for what seemed like an unending “cycle”, the same feelings of unease and frustration abound.

Is U by Kotex sharing “truths” that women need to know? Yes. Are they doing it well from a marketing standpoint? Absolutely! Are they telling women the truths when it comes to the products they are selling?

No.

If you are not familiar with the campaign, this video will help you out:

This video features some great facts about menstrual and vaginal health that all women should know. The only thing I would discourage women from doing is to look to U by Kotex for guidance about period care. Women need to “Get with Generation

When a company doesn’t disclose that their products contribute to both environmental waste and compromises women’s health, they aren’t really letting their customers “in the know”.

And, let’s not forget the 2012 KC Natural Balance Security recall over bacteria traces and metal particles as well as and the case of the moldy tampon. Wouldn’t those in “the know” want to know what really happened with thees two cases? And isn’t this type of media platform a perfect place for such conversation to occur? If you are going to make a video unveiling the truths about period care, these two “scares” should definitely make an appearance.

I am well aware that KC sharing options like menstrual cups or reusable cloth pads with their customers wouldn’t be the best corporate decision, but if they can’t be honest, they should change their tag line.

Being “in the know” about vaginal health and menstrual care, and more specifically about the history of Gen know braceletfemcare products, should include honest discussion of the whole industry, not just the elements that contribute to U by Kotex’s profit margin.

One unique element of the campaign is their “i know” bracelet which fans are encouraged to request (for free) and wear proudly! While I agree that these little gems can be a good conversation starter… what will the conversation be about? Will it be about the taboos of menstruation? The fallacies surrounding proper vaginal care? Or will it be about their new tampon purchase?

My hope is that these bracelets will help spread the word about the truths of menstrual and vaginal health. However, my concern is that they may also encourage young women to buy a product that  is not different, but rather the same as those of decades past, laden with chemicals, plastics and a deep history of menstrual waste and shame.

I want to leave you with a video that is all about break ups. You read right and might be asking break up with whom?

In the summer of 2012, Sarah wrote a song (with the help of U by Kotex fans) about breaking up with her old tampon.

Merriam Webster online defines a break up as: “to end a romance”, “to bring to an end” and “to do away with” among many more. Given these definitions  shouldn’t a break up in femcare resemble an actual break up – moving from what once was (a tampon) to something new (a menstrual cup or cloth pad)? Of course, as with all products there are always upgrades in the KC product line: colour, width, length and ingredient list, but at the end of the day they are still selling women a disposable product.

I’m going to turn things over to Sarah now and just in case you miss what she’s saying, I’ve added the lyrics below! 

Help Sarah Break Up

Finally summer’s here again
It’s time to hit the beach with all my friends
Then I stop cuz it’s not cute
Looking insecure in my bathing suit
You’ve had me all out of sorts
I can’t even wear my favourite shorts
You keep trying to hold me back
Old tampon, I’m over that
Cuz I’m done letting you ruin my days
Listen here, I’ll make it clear that I’ve changed my ways
Cuz, the sun is shining. now that your gone and
Now I can rest assured knowing that your gone for good
And I won’t miss you
No not one bit cuz now I feel safe and sound
With the new protection that I’ve found
oh… oh oh…

“Now I feel safe and sound with the new protection that I’ve found”

What a great song! In addition to the lyrics taking away all my fears surrounding tampons, I’m glad there will be more sun shining as a result of U by Kotex.

If I may say one more thing… while the song presents itself as breaking free from the past, the mere fact that discourses of protection, shame, secrecy and femininity abound, makes me wonder if U by Kotex has actually come as far as they are letting women believe is the case. Is it wrong to suggest that maybe they are covering up what remains with bright colours, catchy tag lines and a cute bracelet?

results

I got my surgery results last week and have hesitated to write about them. My hesitation stems mainly from frustration, sadness and probably a little bit of denial. I won’t lie, I’ve had a few breakdowns and I’m sure there will be more in the future.
What follows is some excerpts from emails to friends about what I have been feeling and what my next steps will be. Rather than type out my feelings again I figured it was best to post them here, in raw form.