Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Knowledge Within

Copyright JSH 2010
 I want to share a conversation I recently had with an acquaintance and her friend. We'll call them Josie and Charlotte. Those names are pretty. This is an actual online conversation and is used with permission. I just copy and pasted and changed names. Grammatical errors are, hopefully, not mine.

Josie - Women have a hard time getting pregnant because you bleed the egg out. It's hard to catch it.
Funky - Bleed it out?
Josie - Yeah, the egg comes out when ur having ur period.
Funky - That's not how it works. You release the egg when you ovulate. That's before your period starts.
Charlotte - funky is right because ovulation tells your body it's time to start your period. the egg comes out and you get your period the next day.
Josie - Not quite. You ovulate while ur having ur period. The bleeding is what gets the egg out.
Funky - Wait. Do you guys know when you ovulate?
Josie - With ur period. And thats why they tell you u can still get pregnant even on ur period.
Funky - Umm...nooooo. You ovulate somewhere around the middle of your cycle...between periods.
Charlotte - i think i do the day b4 my period bc i get cramping on one side. not in the middle.
Josie - You don't get pregnant in between ur periods. What's the point?
Funky - This is why we have so many unplanned pregnancies. Ladies, I'm begging you to check out a few websites or read, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I'll send you links. You'll thank me.

  That's not the first time I've had conversations like that. I have found that many women do not understand their cycles at all. The menstrual cycle is a pretty big deal. In general, we bleed once a month. Our bodies are devoting time to the waxing and waning of fertility every single month. We bleed. We get discharge. We don't get discharge. Our boobs hurt. Our bellies bloat. Our heads ache. We get moody. Our skin breaks out. We get super horny. We get super not-so-horny. You would think with having such a big deal process happen in our bodies that we would be more in tune with them. I don't mean to imply that you need to be a midwife or a doctor and know every intricate detail of every hormone and when it surges and when it declines. But, many women I talk to lack a basic understand of how and when ovulation happens and what causes menstruation and how all of it relates to getting pregnant or avoiding pregnancy. I know plenty of women who don't know how long their cycles are, who don't know when their last period was or when to expect the next one. I'm not putting women down at all. I don't want you to think that I'm calling anyone stupid if she doesn't understand how her body works. That's not what I'm saying. In fact, I think women have been forced to become out of touch with their bodies. We're meant to be in touch with our bodies, but we've lost that connection over the last century.

 Think about it. In my experience talking to other women, we seem to know about the bodies of celebrities more than we know about our own. We spend more time studying whether or not Kim Kardashian or the celebrity du jour has a baby bump, fake boobs or a flabby ass than we do learning about our own bodies. Many women can adequately name what cosmetic surgery procedure each Real Housewife has had, but they cannot adequately name the parts of their own reproductive system. They can tell the difference between each Kardashian sister, but they don't know the difference between a vulva and a vagina.

  From a young age girls are taught to be ashamed of all that makes them a woman. Let's hope you don't end up flat-chested. Guys won't want you. Let's hope you don't end up with big boobs. People will think you're a slut. Tone that belly. Firm your thighs and your ass. Don't let anything jiggle. No softness to your curves allowed. Don't say the word vagina or vulva. Those are dirty words. And by the way, you've been cursed. Mother Nature hates you. God hates you. For whatever reason, the person in control of creating humans hated women sooooooooooooo much that he or she makes us bleed once a month. Oh, it's horrible. The blood. The cramps. The zits. The tears. The constant craving for chocolate-covered potato chips. Why, it's enough to drive you crazy. Oh yes, you're a crazy bitch when you have your period. You and your PMS. Now, go shove a wad of highly processed and bleached cotton up your vagina, pop a few meds and be sure to tell other women how much you hate your body during this time of the month. Spread the word. And make sure you tell men they're stupid because they don't have periods.

 Yuck. Is it any wonder? We have had millenia of negative viewpoints on our bodies and our cycles. A certain book tells us that we bleed once a month because Eve sinned. All womankind carries her curse. Our menstrual cycle and our pain in childbirth is there to remind us that it was a woman who tempted man and got our asses kicked out of paradise. That's a lot to saddle on a young girl. The same book said we were dirty when we bled so we must be separated during and purified after menstruation. Even people who touch us while we menstruate are "unclean." A woman's body was and still is something to be fear. It contains the curse of menstruation. It's curves and it's beauty are tempting and can cause others to sin. Cultures and religions where women were worshiped and their menstrual cycle was seen as a mirror to the cycle of the planet have been stomped out for thousands of years. We have spent centuries telling women to be ashamed of what is so natural in them. Yet, women in the past centuries were likely to be better connected to their cycles. They would have been more in tune with the natural flow and changes of energy during different points of that cycle. They would have known how their rhythm was tied to the Moon. Where did we go wrong?

 Despite the shaming of our bodies, women's issues were left to women. Mothers instructed daughters about their periods and fertility. Sisters shared secrets about their budding breasts and newly curved hips. Women attended women in childbirth. New mothers learned to breastfeed from her mothers, sisters and other women around them. A woman would walk into a church and see images of Jesus being suckled at His mother's breast and not blink an eye. While the function of a woman's body was the devil's work, the look was celebrated in art. That changed centuries ago. Religious reformation once again reminded us that we are dirty. Nudes in art needed to be covered up. Women's bodies needed to be ... managed. As our race made scientific advancements at a quick rate, men became more involved in the affairs of the uterus. The childbirth bed was no longer surrounded by other women. It became one more thing to be dominated by men. Women were no longer trusted to care for their own bodies. They needed science and the management of doctors. Men who knew better. We began to lose touch with ourselves.

  Fast forward to the last 100 years. Conquering our femininity, rather than embracing it, has been the gold standard. It's best to be disconnected from your body. Your period? Don't talk about it, unless it's to tell other women it's disgusting and torturous. Pregnant? Better hope you don't get too fat, too stretch-marked and you better lose that baby weight ASAP. Giving birth? You won't be able to do it. It's too painful and you are too weak. You don't know anything about your own body, so let a doctor tell you what to do. I had a horrible birth so you will, too. Breastfeeding? Well, you will most likely fail. Who wants to have a kid stuck to their tit all day anyway? Well, if you're going to do it make sure you cover up and sit in a bathroom or something because no one wants to see that It's in the media. I cannot tell you how much I HATE the tampon commercials that depict Mother Nature as some bitch who is out to get you and ruin your day with your period. Everything around us tells us to be ashamed and annoyed with our bodies. Oh, it's no longer because we're being oppressed by the man. No, now it's done in the name of being a feminist. Conquer all that makes you a woman. Hate it. Despise it. You'll be better off for it. It's not the men holding us down anymore. It was centuries ago, but now women are doing a disservice to other women. We are judging one another. We are tearing each other down rather than empowering one another. We are hating ourselves. No wonder we are so lost in our own bodies.

 How many books are out there devoted solely to helping women achieve orgasm? A LOT. Do we ever stop and think that it's a bit messed up? That's a very primal and basic function, but we've been taught to be so ashamed of ourselves that we don't even remember how to make ourselves feel good.

  Knowing your cycle and knowing your body isn't gross. It isn't vain or sinful to look at yourself naked and smile at your curves or lack of curves. There is nothing wrong with knowing what your body feels like. Your period isn't gross. Trust me, I get that it comes at inconvenient times and that cramps suck. I'm not denying that. I don't throw a period party every time it shows up, but I don't hate it, either. However, I can't stand it when people learn that I use a menstrual cup instead of the standard pads they recoil in horror as if I told them I just ate a sandwich made of dead puppy and kitten testicles. It's not just dealing with blood that grosses them out, it's having to touch yourself. A menstrual cup means you are likely going to have to make contact with both your vulva and your vagina - more so than if you were using a tampon with an applicator. I've listened to many women who are repulsed by the idea of having to actually touch their "down there bits" (remember, the parts are so shameful that we can't even name them properly). To me, letting companies make products that are chock full of bleach, dioxin, plastic, petroleum and that unknown blue gel to keep so close or inside our bodies is what's disgusting. Having more than 1 billion feminine hygiene products end up in landfills each year is what's truly gross. Spending a few seconds inserting a menstrual cup into my vagina is preferable to the bodily and environmental damage caused  by "mainstream" menstrual products.

 We are doing a serviced to our girls by giving them a sterilized and watered-down version of the cycles of their bodies. It's perfectly acceptable and common to just throw and pamphlet or two at them along with a copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and hope that they don't actually come to you with questions and want to start a dialog about their bodily functions. We're living in a country, a world, where it's deemed unacceptable to teach young women about fertility awareness. I'm sorry if I offend some, but I think it's bullshit that there is a lot of legislation proposed that would ban teaching anything but abstinence in schools. There are people out there who don't want young women to learn anything about fertility awareness because they think it's going to turn them into slutty devil-worshiping heathens. I'm sorry, but that is pure bullshit. We owe it to our girls to empower them with knowledge and respect for their bodies. Keeping them in the dark about their natural cycles will not stop them from having sex and getting pregnant. In fact, they may be more likely to have sex and end up with an unintended pregnancy because they are lacking knowledge. Without that empowerment, it will be much easier for others to take advantage of them. If they don't have a strong knowledge base about their own bodies it will be much easier for them to fall for the lies of others. We are harming our daughters and our sons more by withholding this information.

 You don't need to finish reading this blog and immediately run to the bathroom to poke and prod yourself and have a self-love orgy. I won't blame you if you do - I have that effect on people. However, I strongly encourage you to learn about your body. Get to know what makes it work. Give it a little nudge. It's not dirty and it's not shameful. You are the result of millions of years of evolution that precisely picked out which part goes where and how it works in conjunction with other parts, if you believe in that. Or, you are the result of a Divine hand that worked to create the perfection that is you. Any way you slice it, whatever you believe, it's all completely beautiful and sacred. Do your daughters and your sons a favor and teach them how their bodies work. Teach them how the bodies of the opposite sex work. This knowledge will only empower them and make them better able to advocate for themselves. Give them the gift of respect for their bodies. Give yourself that gift, too.


Kelli said...

I just had my first baby and she's a beautiful girl....I am with you and her on this...I hope others will agree!

Funky Little Earthchild said...

Thank you, Kelli! Congrats on your sweet baby girl. :-)

Mrs. Riccobono (a.k.a. "Mrs. Rick") said...

Please dear God above up - tell me you made this shit up. Really? You bleed out an egg and that makes you ovulate. Look, I got the basics from my grandmom at around 10ish. The more detailed stuff I got from health class in high school and biology. And people wonder the schools in the USA are failing, those dolts obviously didn't pay attention in class.

Funky Little Earthchild said...

I'm sorry, Mrs. Rick. This was an actual conversation between people I know and myself. And they are my age. We were lucky with our health and biology classes, weren't we? I think they were pretty honest for a Catholic school. That being said, I already had that ground covered. Our house was stacked with my parent's medical textbooks that I started reading before Kindergarten. lol

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