Friday, March 17, 2006

The Menstrual Paradigm

Here's a question. If for a day or two out of every month the majority of men between the ages of 10-50 could expect to experience appendicitis-like symptoms, would this be a subject of conversation or would it be an embarrassing and somewhat shameful topic "politely" ignored?

I am menstruating today. Though it is 2006, this is considered a forward and confronting conversational opening. For over 30 years, except for the nine months when I was pregnant, I have had debilitating menstrual cramps, PMS and related fatigue for at least one to a few days every month. There are many women in my position but because menstruation is still considered an impolite subject, I wouldn't know it by way of my daily interactions. We do talk about menstruation, of course, but not much.

I'm not setting this up as an oh-those-crappy-men versus us-poor-women conversation. I point out what I consider to be the tip of the iceberg in what I call the menstrual paradigm, which serves as an excellent example of what it actually means to live in a masculine energy system. Fish swim in water, we swim in a worldwide culture that is based on masculine principles. It's very difficult to step out of the environment in which we are completely accustomed to living and examine it. But let's use the menstrual paradigm to give it a try.

Here's another question. What if menstruation was honored rather than ignored? I used the appendicitis analogy because for many women, menstruation is a curse. It is painful; it is messy; even for those women whose menstrual cycles are mild, it is inconvenient. Why should this be so?

Because we live in a 9-to-5, 5+-days-a-week, deadline-oriented, get things done, win win win, monetary bottom-line, never-stop-and-be-still world. So because the world is structured the way it is, a completely natural female bodily event that happens every month and signifies a woman's ability to create life is considered taboo (or, at least, below the level of polite conversation), cursed, painful, messy and inconvenient.

As a woman who has experienced the miracle of creating life in my body and now as a mother of another beautiful female who will also one day be able to create life, I deplore, I abhor, I scream in my heart at the sheer gross ignorance of our culture and its attitude to feminine power and energy. I can't even begin to tell you what a world based on a greater balance of feminine and masculine energy would look like because I live in what has been millennia of masculine-based systems.

I'm just guessing though that if we lived in a world where the bodily systems of the life-givers on the planet were honored; if menstruation, for instance, was a time of nurturing rather than shame, the world would be a more peaceful place. Just a wild guess.


  1. I feel it most appropriate to begin my comment by briefly reviewing (for my benefit more than anyone else) my menstrual history. I have experienced agonizing cramps since I was 12 years old. Bleeding copiously is a very scarry thing for a preteen to experience. (especially alone as no one in my home talked about "that")I have experienced brief respites from this process. (my first pregnancy and my current one)After 9 years of haemmorhaging (which is what most North American women experience and give it the false name of menstration) I began to question the whole "curse of womanhood". In my journey to discover what the nature of being human is (to me) I began to realize that no natural process, physical or otherwise, should cause pain or suffering. I will have to breifly explain that I do not believe in "sin", "guilt" or devine punishment. So the concept of the curse of womanhood just doesn't hold any validity in my mind frame. So Why then do we bleed, experience debilitating cramps and extreme mood swings? And for that matter why do we experience pain during childbirth? Which is also a natural process that our bodies are meant to carry out. In my search to understand this better I have realized two things.
    That women in many other cultures do not experience haemmorahging the was "modern" women do. In fact in some cultures dont bleed at all while still experiencing fertility.
    That our beliefs shape our experience.

    I believe that these two things are directly related. In many cultures women have various factors that "modern" women do not. For example, In many cultures menstration is celebrated and when a girl first begins her cycles she is given special honour for her fertility. Also as a side note your life style can also play a role in how you experience menstration. And agian many other cultures do not injest the number of chemicals that industrialized cultures do which effects your body's functioning.

    I encourage everyone to investigate in their own lives why it is that they experience menstration in whatever way that they do.

    I strongly believe that when women bring their beleifs about their bodies more in harmony with their bodies and it's natural functioning that we will not only experience menstration differently (perhaps even reverntly) but that birth will change (for more info on painfree childbirth read Laurie morgan's book "The power of pleasureable childbirth")but that the way that we treat eachother and relate to each other will also change for the better.

  2. Being the most ignorant person on the planet, i should like to ask; During menstruation, is a woman more/less likely to be fertile?
    I do know of one friend who, during her period,
    more often than not, was more sexually charged.
    is this, as i suspect, far more common than one might think? If this is true, then does the cultural ("Male-eviolence") bias that we ALL reinforce daily need to be changed... Im not saying we need to advertise the facts, only that some of us should not be going around with illusions based on too little information. As one who's sense of sexuality includes/involves the notion that conception may occur,
    i must say that all the flash and dazzle surrounding the basic facts is ridiculous and frustrating...women have ideas about what the
    man is attracted to and if it isnt clean it must be sleazy/dirty/negative etc. Also how is it the woman conceives? I mean conception is not done by any one person; it takes place in utero...but it is a participation in, it seems to me, rather than a doing of, like a chore? Where is the joy of it all? or is this antiquated?Get rid of the toxic (aluminium deriv.) antiperspirants,read the label!
    who said our smell is so awful.Who said that masculine and feminine are mutually exclusive and therefore inimical?
    Thanx, well, then be better!

  3. Some women are happy to be more sexually active around menstruation time because they know they are unlikely to get pregnant. Many are more sexually inclined (a different notion, mediated by many things) in the middle of the cycle partly because of hormonal influence.

    That women grow breasts, menstruate, become pregnant, give birth, breastfeed, go through menopause, etc. seems to be one of the western world's most suppressed areas of discussion. Not only should menstruation be not ignored and yes honoured, but women's whole sexuality needs to be so honoured.

    In a related matter, I would recommend a book I published late in 2006 by Frank Cordelle called Bodies and Souls: The Century Project. Women, thousands of them, all over North America, are finding this book honours women like no other, by giving them the space to use their voices, both literal and figurative, to speak deeply about their bodies and embodied experiences.

    This is not an ad. I write this because I believe strongly in what Frank did and what the Human Body Project does. They are so closely related!

    You will find information about Frank Cordelle and his project fairly easily.