Having my period is a feminine experience.
I don’t think of menstruation as a punishment, a sentence, a burden or something I want to be rid of. It is the natural flow of female hormones. Those hormones protect my bones, my heart, my sex drive, my skin and more.
And I know that menstruation is often a barometer of a woman’s reproductive health, showing that her body is running smoothly. Menstruating can sometimes be uncomfortable and a bit of a hassle but I can live with both for the benefits those hormones provide.
Culture vs. Change
Patriarchal views have been subjugating women for centuries. D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930), British author of Give Her a Pattern wrote, “When a woman is thoroughly herself, she is being what her type of man wants her to be. When a woman is hysterical it’s because she doesn’t quite know what to be, which pattern to follow, which man’s picture of a woman to live up to.”
One can only surmise Mr. Lawrence believed women of his day to be both unable to make a choice without the direction of their men and unable to control their emotional behaviors.
The belief that women are somehow “less than” men or are responsible for being some pre-cast version of what male society desires of them, and unable to decide for themselves, still prevails today.
The culture of thinking of menstruation as unhygienic, shameful and unhealthful is rivaled in its ignorance only by the unenlightened view that menstruating women are emotionally friable, incapacitated, incompetent and needful of male direction or patience.
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In Gloria Steinem’s delightfully funny essay If Men Could Menstruate (Oct.1978, Ms. Magazine) she wrote: (If men menstruated instead of women)…“The answer is clear – menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much.”
It is unwise of women to continue to perpetuate the negative stereotypes and cultural inaccuracies about menstruation that survive today. By doing so we lead the way to further derogatory, feminine bashing comments and beliefs.
In Our Own Words
The curse, on the rag, being indisposed, riding the string, the crimson tide, a visit from Aunt Flow, monthly courses, a girl thing: The words women choose to describe their menses are an accurate portrayal of our modern, negative feelings toward menstruation.
If women don’t change the negative connotations and shed the outlandish folklorist beliefs, then the shaming rhetoric will perpetuate as an unwelcome gift left to our daughters and granddaughters.
Taking Back Our Self Respect
Unfortunately, there are both men and women who believe that menstruation is an unnecessary and unhealthy process that can lead to countless physical and emotional problems.
In their book, Is Menstruation Obsolete? (Oxford University Press, 1999) authors Elsimar M. Coutinho, M.D., Ph.D., and Sheldon J. Segal, Ph.D., M.D go so far as to suggest that the most medically advanced treatment for menstruation would be its total cessation in all women of reproductive age.
These views and products like Seasonale, a medication that reduces a woman’s menstruation to only four times a year, set a dangerous precedent toward thinking the nature of a woman’s body is somehow flawed for its normal hormonal cycle.
I do agree that there are some women who find medically necessary relief in the use of such medications. Painful menstruation, prevention of prolonged bleeding or as a form of birth control these medications have true benefit.
But I take exception to patriarchal comments that dictate the need to give medical “treatment” to prevent natural, uncomplicated menstruation.
Simon de Beauvoir in the Second Sex wrote, “Menstrual blood represents the essence of femininity.” Only women can fully understand the complexities and deeply personal experiences of menstruation. And only women can pioneer the cultural and societal changes toward the understanding that menstruation is healthy, natural and normal for women in their reproductive years.
Women aren’t simply castrated men. Our bodies are unique and menstruating is a natural, not a mystical, event. Women’s bodies don’t need “treatment” for menstruation. Societal views need to be brought to a true reflection of today’s landscape and it is women who must lead the way.
We, women, need to take back our self-respect and empower each other. Menstruation is an ultimately feminine experience and a celebration of womanhood.
All women need to stand up and make that known by not offering to excuse their behaviors as hormonally motivated, by not seeking “treatment” to rid themselves of the normal, natural physical cycle that menstruation is and by using the best possible language to describe its process. Only then will menstruation lose its power to be a tool to further degrade our sex.
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10 Natural Ways to combat PMS
1. Keep Track:
Writing a symptoms diary can help. Recognize what’s going on throughout the month by noting how you feel from day to day. You can then schedule things to coincide with specific times. For example, if you tend to feel great for a few days during your cycle, that’s the time to take your driving test or go to a job interview etc.
2. Tackle the symptoms:
Many PMS symptoms can be easily controlled using natural remedies. For acne try taking a 15mg zinc tablet each day. Feverfew is great to treat migraines. Women suffering from bloating can benefit from burdock root capsules.
3. Take vitamins and minerals:
Studies show that a lack of various nutrients can increase PMS symptoms. These include magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. In one study, it was revealed that 50-80% of women with PMS were deficient in magnesium.
4. Lose excess weight:
Several scientists have discovered that the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to suffer from PMS.
5. Chill out:
Stress is also implicated in PMS. You are more likely to have worse PMS when you are stressed than when you are relaxed. Practice ways of relaxing.
6. Get Moving:
Exercise can lift your mood as it helps to boost the feel-good chemicals in the brain known as Endorphins. Low levels of endorphins have also been implicated in PMS.
7. Snack Away:
According to researchers, your body needs 500 extra calories a day in the run-up to your period as that is when your iron levels are at their lowest. On those days, have a healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.
8. Take essential oils:
Some studies suggest that gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) helps to reduce PMS symptoms such as irritability, stomach cramps, and breast pain. You can find it in evening primrose oil, starflower oil, and black currant oil.
9. Take herbs:
A plant called Agnus cactus is popular in the treatment of PMS. Research suggests it can improve symptoms by more than 50 percent. St John’s Wort can also help, but it can reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill.
10. Cut them out:
Salt, sugar, coffee, and alcohol have all been linked to PMS symptoms. Salt causes bloating, alcohol can worsen your mood, caffeine can increase breast tenderness and sugar exacerbates food cravings.