Menstrual Shame

The menstrual cycle has been taboo for thousands of years, for many, many, many generations, across most cultures.

When something is seen in a negative light, relegated to the ‘shadow’, we know what happens, situations occur to bring attention to it in order for it to be seen, known, embraced and healed.

The effect of making the menstrual cycle taboo has been, and continues to be, that women have needed to reject a normal function of their body’s. This has very bad effects on everyone, especially the woman, and especially at young ages, when young women are formulating their perspectives and practices around self-care, mind-body connection, and the innate opportunities within the menstrual cycle for this, over and over.

When we reject our body and its natural functions, they don’t go away, they keep happening anyway and we feel shame.

We have been taught to ignore the call of our body’s for rest at our bleeding time, to carry on regardless and don’t let anyone know – “suck it up”, all this to our personal and collective peril.

 

We know the ramifications of Menstrual shame:

Cycles of Shame: Menstrual Shame, Body Shame, and Sexual Decision-Making

Deborah Schooler, L. Monique Ward, Ann Merriwether and Allison S. Caruthers

Menstrual shame leads to body shame, leads to risky sexual decision making.

The Journal of Sex Research

 

How menstrual shame affects birth by Sharon Moloney

Centre for Women’s Studies, James Cook University, 56 llluta Street, Rasmussen, Townsville, Qld. 4811, Australia

“In Western, industrialised culture, menstruation and birth are commonly seen as unstable, pathological processes requiring medical control. Girls learn to see menstruation as shameful and secretive. Menarche is a nodal event around which girls’ beliefs and attitudes to being female are organised. The perception of menstruation as a liability has foundational implications for future female experiences, particularly birth.”

and there’s much more, looking for the negative impact of menstrual shame is like opening Pandora’s Box.

 

The Menstrual cycle as an entity, the collective menstrual cycle perhaps, is calling for attention, very loudly. We know this as we see so many women with menstrual cycle ‘problems’.

The Menstrual cycle is in trouble, dysfunctional, hurting a lot of women and everybody else they live and work with, whether they realize it or not.

This manifests as PMT, PMS, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, infertility, over use of The Pill etc.

Ignoring the menstrual cycle is reinforced in our culture’s approach to sex equality in the work place. , Women need to carry on regardless and not draw attention to their body’s processes, their menstrual cycles or their experience of menopause, lest they be seen as weak and not as capable as men and therefore not equal.

Further denial of the female body’s experience, to our collective peril.

The menstrual cycle needs healing and for that to happen she needs to be acknowledged, honoured and lived by, not drugged away or ignored.

The results of the research of the Waratah Project soon to be released later this year, are proof of how sick the menstrual cycle is.

“The Waratah Project looks at the ways we collectively think about menstruation and menopause, and works to influence society towards more positive ways of understanding these universal aspects of female experience.

We challenge beliefs, attitudes and practices that are detrimental to the wellbeing of women and girls. Right now we are in the final stages of in depth research with women and girls, which will underpin our contemporary reframing of menstruation and menopause”

One big message is that women of all ages, feel unsupported in their body’s natural process and feel they have to lie about their experience of their menstrual cycle in order to care for themselves as required, whether at school, at work or in the home.

 

In recent media coverage about the Victorian Women’s Trust (VWT) new Menstrual Policy  responses, or should I say, reactions, have been culturally predictable and delivered in damning ways with very sad comments,

Eg:

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/katrina-stokes-women-advocating-for-paid-menstrual-leave-need-to-harden-up-if-only-for-the-sake-of-equality/news-story/a77ea986b377a78555d000c73e3cfbec

“….like the women before us, we need to harden up. If anything, for the sake of equality.

Groups like the Victorian Women’s Trust should better spend their time advocating for women’s rights to push real change that will actually make a difference….”

‘Suck it up’ – doesn’t actually work as we see from the results of Waratah Project research (coming soon!), women’s lived experiences and what women like me, who hold workshops on the ‘frontline’ and hear women’s stories, know.

And the menstrual cycle, by the way, is a portal to re-connection with the ‘gaia-sphere’, or the interconnectedness of everything.

And re-connection to the ‘gaia-sphere’ is the pathway for global healing, and it can be accessed through the menstrual cycle, by everyone, through honouring and dare I say celebrating it.

 

Picture by Ellie Thompson

By ignoring the menstrual cycle, her call for attention just gets louder and we miss the opportunity to plug into the interconnectedness of everything and truly live as a fully operational human female on earth.

 

I recently held a circle with a group of men and teenage boys in New Zealand, where I taught them the wisdom of the cycles and about the rhythm of the menstrual cycle. The overwhelming response was gratitude for having been able to learn this information, which would now enable a more holistic understanding of the process and therefore an appreciation and respect for what the women in their lives were experiencing and how they could support and flow with that – for all their sakes.

As I said at the start of the circle:

For the sake of equality, we have been pretending we are the same, women and men, but we’re not. We are very different.

Women’s lives are dominated by their menstrual cycle, their experiences of birthing and mothering, and when its time, their experience of menopause, and men don’t have anything like that in their lives.

And that’s just the way it is.

It doesn’t make anyone less than or better than.

So, what to do?

Educate yourself about the wisdom of the cycles, educate yourself about your life cycles, your menstrual cycle, your rites of passage and the impact they’ve had on you, the earth seasons, the lunar phases, basically plug back in – Earthling 101.

There are many places to find this information – women’s mystery schools.

And, it is accessible to everyone at all times, it’s happening right in front of your eyes. The Earth, Nature, Mother Earth, Mother nature is showing us this wisdom every moment, She is our greatest teacher.

Reconnect with our bodies, reconnect with the Earth.

Ask at every choice point, how can I chose what’s right for my body and the Earth here?

Re-awaken the divine feminine and the divine masculine together, through the moment by moment practice of mutual respect, and to know our equality through mutual respect of our differences. And of course to ‘do’ that one needs to do their own inner work and heal the ‘Patriarchy’ within.

Thank you to Myriam Negre for her photo, check out her film called the Red Path.

Resources:

MENSTRUAL POLICY TEMPLATE from VWT:

https://www.vwt.org.au/menstrual-policy/

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *