Okay, so the headline says it all.
There's been a movement building steam over the last ten years or so, that actively promotes the idea that women don't have to have periods, that they are unnecessary, burdensome – and if you're not going to have a baby, why not just "turn off your period?"
Well, for one, it's called "menopause," and two, Mother Nature built it into the magnificence of women's bodies. And thirdly, they do stop, naturally, when the time is right.
Are you kidding me? If you could see me, you'd see that I look like one of Daenerys Targaryen's "children." This topic enrages me, and I hope by the end of this article, you'll be angry, too. We need to use our anger as a force for change around women's reproductive rights.
Let's tackle this idea from the standpoint of women's reproductive health and our right to live in a world that actually makes space for, and honors, our biology and the rights inherent in being women.
With all due respect to those who espouse this concept, I strongly disagree with the idea. Medical science (and primarily the pharmaceutical industry) makes women's bodies an experimental playground for new drugs, and it's always around our hormones, which are a rich and complex landscape within our bodies. I also want to clarify that when I say medical science, I am not maligning doctors in particular. They are part of a system of miseducation that is at the root of why women's reproductive health is at risk. But there are many western doctors turning to integrative medicine and working to help women heal from this system.
From the time we are young girls, before our first period, we are taught to fear it, to be ashamed of our blood, and to see it as a nuisance. When we are lead down that path, it becomes what we accept as truth. We are not taught another perspective, one which teaches young women that our menstrual cycle is connected to our psyches and that it's one of the best tools for self-understanding and awareness we will ever know. This is one aspect of my own teachings that I am very passionate about, and those teachings have changed many women's lives in my 20 years of doing this important work.
Instead, we are taught to bond over the pain, the discomfort, the mess, the moodiness.
But what if we had been taught to see our periods as a monthly opportunity to commune with ourselves and to turn within, to see it as a monthly opportunity to evaluate our lives and to clean up the messes that aren't aligned with who we are, and who we want to be?
Many, many years ago I read a book called, "The Woman in the Body," which was eye-opening about how our society and its systems have built into its structures, via language and industry, the exclusion of women's biological processes as a positive attribute in our lives. We go to extreme lengths to uphold Patriarchal ideas that don't make room for women's biological processes, instead of creating a new system that is inclusive of our biology. It's only been fairly recent that women are being accommodated to breastfeed at work.
I believe that we need to make similar accommodations for women's needs during our menstrual cycles, and it's not from a place of being handicapped because of our biology. It's our right. What's been done to women to make us feel bad about our natural processes is as institutionalized as racism, and because of that, we cannot see it, but it affects our lives daily.
Turning off your period is a dangerous idea. When the medical community tells women it's safe to do so; I urge you not to listen. It's designed to sell pharmaceuticals and make money. Women's bodies are the cash cows of that industry. I implore you to dig deep and do your own research. Question everything you hear.
Let's talk a little bit about why it's dangerous. Using hormonal birth control (BC) in one form or another is the medium for stopping your period. These hormones have been labeled safe, but use your judgment if you've been on BC or know women who have had massive issues while taking it. Have you ever read the package insert literature about all of the potential side effects? If you haven't, you should educate yourself by doing so. This is one of my foundational tenets, that information is power, and most women are not educated enough about their bodies – so we turn that power over to "experts."
In my overall life, health and sexuality coaching with women, I've worked with many over the years who have been on various kinds of BC; patches, DepoProvera (one of the worst), IUDs with additional hormones, and across the board have heard all of them say how badly they feel using these methods. Once they have transitioned off of them, they have said how much better they've felt.
Menstrual cycles are a 100% natural part of our reproductive biology. And instead of endorsing an idea that we should stop our periods, we should focus instead on changing society's treatment of women and fostering acceptance of our cycles. Our cycles and our psyches are interconnected. We should be taught to respect this part of our lives as women and how to use it as a life-enhancing tool.
Women have periods for a reason. Via societal messages and the medical community's promotion of our periods as a problem, we make the period the villain instead of the systems built around women that make our lives stressful, which has an impact on how we experience our periods and whether they are painful or empowering.
What do you think would happen if the pharmaceutical industry came out with a new medication that stopped men from making sperm? That would end unwanted pregnancies and the abortion controversy in large part. How well do you think that would go over?
So why is it okay to mess with women's biology and our hormone balance?
After a year or more of using hormonal BC consistently, here's what stopping your period amounts to: chemically induced menopause. Menopause is a year without periods because ovulation stops. Suppressing ovulation is the mechanism behind stopping pregnancy but also your period. No ovulation, no period. Unless you have other medical conditions, this is generally a true statement. When a woman goes through menopause, it's a natural condition. The body goes through a process that is as natural as your period is. But when you use BC to suppress ovulation and to suppress your period, you are doing something else that is not healthy for your body. You are suppressing your body's natural production of progesterone, which is made primarily in ovulation. A small amount is made by the adrenal glands, but the largest production is via ovulation. When you suppress ovulation, you create health risks by suppressing progesterone production. Progesterone is known to be beneficial for breast health, cardiovascular health, nervous system health, brain function, mood, and many other things.
Do not confuse progestins, which are synthetic and not molecularly identical, with natural progesterone. Many women I've worked with will say, "But my BC has progesterone in it," and I have to explain that they are not the same, nor do they affect the body the same. Whereas progesterone is beneficial, progestins are not. They were created by the pharmaceutical industry to mimic progesterone, but they do not react in the body the same way.
Instead of wishing your period away, I suggest you step into another world, one where your cycle is a source of female power and wisdom, and where your premenstrual phase is not mainstream PMS, but what I call Powerful Monthly Sight. It's a window into what's not serving you in your life, and when you take the time to slow down, turn inward, and connect with you, that inner wisdom offers you life solutions. When you align with your cycle this way, it becomes a source of power.
I'm a self-taught passionate advocate for women's health, reproductive rights, and sexuality. I see our menstrual cycle as something to celebrate, rather than do away with. What I would love to do is to go into every business that would invite me in to evaluate and offer suggestions on how to change the work climate to accommodate the needs of women in ways that honor our biology.
I hope this article made you angry enough to dig deeper. Please educate yourself and listen to your own inner wisdom, which includes your body wisdom. It's time for women to rise up and say enough already and to reclaim the beauty, wisdom, and power that is built into our biology.
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During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.