September 14th, 2016
By DeAnna L’am
Guest writer for Wake Up World
“Every woman in the history of humanity has or had a period”, exclaimed Newsweek in an April cover story; “When girls first start their periods, they embark on a decades-long journey of silence and dread.”
So far, so true…
“Periods hurt. They cause backaches and cramps, not to mention a cloud of emotional ickiness…”
Is this an inevitable truth or a social construct? It’s worth examining this truism when, for the first time in history, menstruation was discussed on Newsweek’s front cover.
Nature didn’t design women to suffer monthly. Both sex and menstruation are part of nature’s plan, and none were created painful or “icky” by design. When it comes to perpetuating the species, nature made sure pleasure was involved, for both men and women. However, our single-mindedness when it comes to pleasure and sex has led to flourishing sex industries, while menstruation has become demonized and sentenced to a lifelong shaming and taboo.
Newsweek acknowledges: “Menstruation wasn’t always so taboo. In ancient and matrilineal cultures, it was a mark of honor and power, a sacred time for women to rest and revive their bodies.” Indeed! So why not address women’s continued need to “revive their bodies”? Why keep the taboo unquestioned, and focus on tampon tax as the main issue?
The story is much bigger than Newsweek is willing to cover: Indigenous cultures around the world viewed menstruation as a powerful event that heightens women’s intuition monthly. Women were encouraged to rest, renew, and bring oracular messages to their people when they menstruated.
Far from being unfit for office because of “raging hormones”, women’s office included menstruation. Women’s heightened consciousness and ability to bring direction to their peoples during menstruation were encouraged. Cultures provided dedicated quiet places where women would go during menstruation, and freed them from daily chores in order to rest monthly. Hormones started raging only when these sacred times and spaces were taken away…
In a courageous attempt to chart the problem, Newsweek did venture into scarier quarters: “Tampons may contain ‘residue from chemical herbicides’… [but] in today’s world, if there’s nobody dying it’s not on anyone’s agenda.” Unfortunately, women are still dying. A heartbreaking examples include Amy Elifritz, who died of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) in 2010, at age 21, and Natasha Scott Falber, a 14-year old girl who died of TSS after using a tampon for the very first time. These tragic stories not only need to be told in conjunction with the risks of tampons use, but sustainable alternatives (such as the cup, sea sponges, and cloths pads) need to be extensively covered.
The environmental aspect can’t be glossed over either, when evidence of the feminine hygiene industry’s ecological impact is so available. “In the United States alone, an estimated 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of annually.” Using disposable tampons and pads, the average American woman is “expected to produce a grand total of 62,415 pounds of garbage” in their lifetime. And we still talk about tampon taxes as the main issue?
Moreover, “U.S. consumers spent $3.1 billion on tampons, pads and sanitary panty liners last year.” Is Newsweek avoiding rocking this boat? Might the environmental impact and the danger of TSS raise too many waves for the industry? A campaign to cancel the tampon tax seems like a safer bet, especially when the president of the United States sees merit in it!
“In January, President Barack Obama may have become the first president to discuss menstruation”, continues Newsweek. “Ingrid Nilsen asked him why tampons and pads are taxed as luxury items in 40 states. Obama was stunned. “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items… I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” Right on, President Obama! Your answer is honest, yet the picture presented to (by) you was far too narrow in scope. It hasn’t even begun to address menstruation as the essential human matter that it is.
When Newsweek met Menstruation, it kept meandering in suburbia instead of marching through Downtown Menstrual issues!
Downtown Menstruation has many more treasures to offer, carefully overlooked by Newsweek. For example, contemporary scientists discovered that menstrual blood is the richest source of Stem Cells, a fact seldom reported outside of scientific journals, though its implications for healing are enormous:
“Compared with the stem cells from other sources, such as bone marrow and cord blood, [menstrual stem cells] are easier to collect, do not cause any harm or pain to the donor and can be collected for more than 35 years, from 12 years old to 47… menstrual stem cells could turn into different tissue types – including bone, blood vessel, fat, brain, lung, liver, pancreas and heart” And we are still focused on tampon taxes?!?
Far from cutting to the chase of menstrual matters, Newsweek looped around the elephants in the living room in order to maintain the status quo. Alas, the elephants are many: From shaming women for having periods, to the risk of dying from TSS when using tampons; From overlooking the disastrous environmental impact of menstrual “hygiene” products, to ignoring the golden medicinal potential in using stem cells from menstrual blood; From denying women acceptable rest during a time designed by nature for renewal, to medicating them for the PMS symptoms caused by such denial.
So, how did a natural gift become “raging hormones?” Here we come full circle: contemporary cultures dropped the concept of a cycle in favor of highlighting sex and sexuality. Women’s hormones started raging in physical protest against being denied time to regenerate. The fact is, the most debilitating menstrual symptoms subside and disappear when women begin to live in harmony with their cycle, stop loathing their menstrual blood, stop clogging themselves with tampons that often irritate their vagina, and take time to rest and renew each month — as nature intended.
How would the world be different when half of its population returns to balance? When women stop suffering from PMS… When girls are educated about being born with natural body cycles (including both menstruation and menopause)… When women reclaim the gift of intuition granted by menstruation… And when cultures listen and benefit from such intuitive guidance?
Surely, the impact of removing tampon tax will pale in comparison.
About the author:
Fondly known as a ‘Womb Visionary’, DeAnna L’am’s work has been transforming women’s lives around the world for over 25 years. She holds Initiation ceremonies for women and girls, reveals the spiritual forces hidden in Menstruation and Menopause, and teaches women how to hold Red Tents in their communities.
Internationally recognized as a pioneer in Menstrual Empowerment, DeAnna is author of ‘Becoming Peers – Mentoring Girls Into Womanhood’ and ‘A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period’. She is founder of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women & Girls™ and of Red Tents In Every Neighborhood – Global Movement. Visit her at: www.deannalam.com
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