Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Take that, Mother Nature!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about menstruation and its bad reputation. Personally it has taken me many years to be at peace with this biological phenomenon that so many people regard as a nuisance and a hindrance to enjoying life fully. It bothers me that women are expected to, “suck it up” and continue with their busy routines even if they experience extreme physical discomfort and emotional stress during any time of their cycle. Essentially, we are expected to function like gender-identified men who do not experience (to the same extremes) the monthly hormonal ebbs and flows of this cycle.
Language and attitudes surrounding menstruation act to perpetuate the current male dominated gender hierarchy because it labels parts of our cycle as gross, unspeakable or just down-right wrong. For example: the fact that PMS stands for Pre-menstrual Syndrome is disturbing.  I looked up some definitions for syndrome and here is what I found: A group of symptoms or signs that are characteristic of a disease or a group of symptoms and signs of disordered function related to one another by means of some anatomical, physiological or biochemical peculiarity.
I’ve been scratching around in my head trying to find a word to replace “syndrome” that doesn’t make it seem so abnormal. Any suggestions? 

And then there’s the media acting to strongly re-enforce negative attitudes towards menstruation. 
Here is one example:

From Tampax:
Take that, Mother Nature!

Serena Williams vs. Mother Nature 

P.S. Don't forget to look at the comments under the video...they're golden...

Becky Rae


  1. Becky, I'm so glad you posted this. I think about this seriously all the time. It's really interesting how female bodies are expected to conform to this male standard of functionality, and when they don't, it's perceived as a physical weakness. It's also interesting to me that this negative framing of 'something gross to get rid of' begets an enormous profit ... i.e. scented tampons (as opposed to home-made pads), midol (as opposed to using natural herbal & dietary remedies), special pills/medications that lighten/altogether eliminate bloodflow (as opposed to, um, not doing that), etc.
    I was a little suspicious about menstruation's dubious reputation also, and I've found through some research that, like many women-related things that have been distorted into something undesirable (i.e. emotional sensitivity), it has historically been a source of power for women.
    In goddess-worshipping pagan cultures, bleeding was seen as an asset -- a time to connect to emotional wisdom and intuition, a connection to the rhythms of transformation in nature (the changing seasons, the growth and decay cycle of all living things, and of course the moon's magical waxing and waning). Also women gathered together in menstrual huts to support one another and celebrate their bodies. How cool is that. I read somewhere that now, our menstrual huts are constructed inside ourselves, and instead of pride and gratitude for "mother nature's gift" it's a place of shame and suffering in silence. I think it's really powerful to reclaim moon time as a gift (but a great one, not an annoying one like in that commercial), a time for reflection and self-care.

    Thanks for addressing this, super interesting :)


  2. yes!!! Thank you Kelsey AND Becky.
    What Kelsey has just posted is almost a carbon-copy of everything I had intended to address in this comment..
    To me, it's so imperative to make that very powerful and informed distinction between menstruating being a burden vs. being a blessing.
    I think about this all the time as well....and have had countless conversations with others about how it is that we got to a place where this is devalued? One reason may be, simply, that we're out of touch with tradition and the desire to preserve and perpetuate certain aspects of our culture. Not a great excuse in my opinion, but hey..time moves on wether we ask it to or not, and with that, comes inevitable shift.
    It's still unfortunate..
    When plants face danger or unusual "stresses", the species does necessarily just die off, as one might assume. It diversifies. It's a classic and organic "survival" mechanism. Maybe the "non-sensical" behaviors that have taken us further from the root of how things used to be, over time, is just another manifestation of this idea. Who knows?

    In response to Becky's post, I too have tried to come up with a word other than SYNDROME, and I think that honestly, cycle really does menstruation justice. Some already use the term... In my opinion, it clearly defines what occurs, without much chance of eluding to menstruation as any kind of disorder. I think the word very well describes the perpetuation and natural flow (ha) of the body's rhythm.


  3. Thank you both so much for your comments! You captured (very eloquently, I might add)everything that I've been thinking about this topic!
    Sheesh, you both rock!!

    Becky Rae