Leslie Carol Botha: Until we can have open dialogue about menstruation – we will always be victims of our own bodies. We speak about reproductive health – but we never discuss menstrual health – and in doing so we perpetrate the shame dialogue.
Moving Toward An Inclusive Menstruation Dialogue
THIS AIN’T LIVIN
6 July, 2012 – 10:42 am
By s.e. smith
Historically, menstruation has been a deeply inappropriate topic except in closed circles. It’s dirty and gross. It’s frightening. Some people bleed for several days every 28 days or so and it inspires vicious and nasty emotions that are often culturally reinforced; people who are menstruating should be isolated so they don’t contaminate the spaces they’re in, menstruation is a deeply secret mystery that shouldn’t be discussed, menstruation supplies should be made cute and hidden so they don’t embarrass people who don’t want to be confronted by the fact that some people bleed from their uteri now and then, in part of a complex hormonal cycle that will likely last from puberty to menopause, perhaps with pauses for pregnancies.
In reaction, many people, particularly women, have attempted to bring menstruation into the light, to stop making it a forbidden topic. To admit that, yes, people menstruate. It’s been a big part of feminist movements in particular, where people are encouraged to embrace menstruation, to be honest about it, to talk about what it means for them, to provide advice for people who have just started or are experiencing health problems related to menstruation. This exchange of information and ideas can be incredibly empowering for some participants, because it busts apart the culture of shame surrounding menstruation.
At the same time, though, it can also be alienating, which raises some complex issues about the nature of theory and praxis in feminist spaces. There needs to be a way to demystify and destigmatise menstruation without making people feel excluded and frustrated with their attempts at talking about that exclusion; to explore the subject while thinking about the broad spectrum of experiences within menstruating people. As well as those who do not menstruate and may have complex feelings about it.