Sometimes, it’s hard work being a woman. Sometimes it’s also really messy.
When I was growing up, I was mortified about the fact that I had periods; I did my absolute best to hide my bleeding from my family and friends. I somehow was raised to feel shame that my body was working perfectly.
Isn’t that a funny thought? That one could feel shame about a body performing exactly as it was designed to? Can you imagine feeling embarrassed that you have five fingers? Walking around with mittens on so no one would notice or be offended by your incredibly well designed hands with opposable thumbs?
I like to think of myself as a smart person, but somehow I never realized the absurdity of my feelings. After all, the world around me agreed that menstrual blood was “gross” and an inappropriate topic of conversation even amongst adult women. Everyone I knew maintained radio silence on the topic of periods, except to occasionally bemoan their pain, discomfort or grumpiness during “that time of the month”. If one had to change a tampon or pad, they snuck the product into the bathroom furtively, like they were doing something wrong. When our flow surprised us and became visible through our clothing, we ran away to hide and cry because we felt as humiliated as if we had childishly peed in our pants. Periods were definitely, “the curse”.
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In the decades since then, I’m glad to see that our culture is more open to the facts of menstruation, product ads are mainstream, and conversations about it are no longer completely taboo, even if they are still somewhat limited and stilted. But, if I had it my way? We would actually celebrate a woman’s cycle and learn to embrace the highs and lows and blood that accompany the incredible design of women.
Because, let’s face it, feminine menstrual blood is what nurtures and protects life. Without it, a uterus would be incapable of supporting a pregnancy. Shouldn’t that fact alone make it worthy of respect?
But wait, there’s more! (I’m already planning my menstruation infomercial, LOL.) Did you know that period blood is actually so specially designed for our feminine body parts that it doesn’t coagulate (clump together and scab) like the blood that runs through the rest of our body? Isn’t it remarkable that we have “specialty feminine blood”? We should be so proud of this natural miracle of our design.
And, yet…while youngsters will hear stories in school about the significance of blood throughout history, none of it will be related to the most divine bleeding. Instead, they’ll learn how ancient warriors would protect themselves during battle by anointing their foreheads with blood from animal sacrifices or slain enemies; they’ll read about mystical potions that were thought to cure diseases or ward off evil which required blood gathered from any number of violent methods. Teachers will have no problem sharing stories that involve sworn oaths sealed by blood, and even in our most mainstream sacred places of worship still today many people joyfully celebrate the protective powers of blood in religious contexts. The “blood of Jesus” has significant meaning to many Christians, while the Passover story relates how the Jewish people put blood on their houses to protect their first born.
What won’t be shared are the many ways that menstrual blood was routinely honored by ancient cultures. Many of us will never experience a fertility festival like some cultures throw yearly. We won’t hear about Mama Killa, the goddess of the moon, the menstrual cycle, and a protector of women, or menstruating Goddess Kamakhya Devi; we will never be a part of a group of women who celebrate their monthly blood with joyful rituals and spiritual passion like the women in Yurok.
Isn’t it crazy that we are exposed to bloodshed from violence on a daily, if not hourly, basis, yet we are shielded from learning about the incredibly joyful celebrations of fertility, womanhood, sensuality, power and mysticism that surrounded menstrual blood for thousands of years? Do we really want to live in a world that recognizes and reveres the destructive rather than the glorious?
Here’s a radical idea…What if we stopped discriminating against types of blood? Wouldn’t it be cool if people were as concerned for a person’s well being whether she was bleeding from a cut on her arm or from her uterus? Wouldn’t it be a relief if a blood stain on one’s pants was treated with the same casual response regardless of where it was located? “Oh, I scratched a mosquito bite/started my period and didn’t realize I was bleeding for a few minutes so I guess I should change my clothes when I get home. But let’s enjoy our walk first.”
I propose that we honor life by celebrating the Power of the Period. Let’s give voice, support and encouragement to the brilliant design of a woman that provides a uniquely vibrant fluid to create a self-cleaning, life-sustaining, naturally renewable cycle that is undeniably miraculous. Being brilliantly formed and working as designed should never again be something to be ashamed of or whispered about. Let’s raise our glasses with glee and laugh loudly at the good, the bad, and the messy that encompasses womanhood.
Cheers to the Power of the Period.