For the past 100 years (and more), menstruation was clouded with shame and secrecy. For anyone who wasn’t a cis woman, that shame and secrecy was likely magnified, with no acknowledgment in the mainstream of menstruation being experienced by anyone other than those born female. White cis women were the face of period product advertising, bellies were always thin and bloat-free, and we were sold the image of menstruators being clean, fresh, pure and feminine.
But not anymore.
It’s time for us to flip the switch on menstruation messages. AWWA believes that we need to push back against the shame, secrecy and exclusion of the past 100 years by reconnecting with our cycles and defining menstruation for ourselves.
One way we can do this is by re-learning the rituals and beliefs that our ancestors and tūpuna held when it came to menstruating. By decolonising our periods and exploring the values and beliefs that menstruators once held, we can work to erase the effects of a legacy of menstrual shame that has been passed down to us.
Choosing how we manage our own periods is a big part of that. From choosing our preferred period products to choosing what to do with our period blood, many of us already have more control over our relationship with our periods than people did in the not-so-distant past.
Connecting with our cycles is another big part of pushing back against 100 years of negative messaging. This might look different for everyone, but some ways were can develop our relationship with our cycles are:
- Taking time off during the first few days of our periods. This allows us to reset and reflect – and whilst taking time off from our jobs once a month is probably not possible for many of us with the way our work lives are currently arranged, taking time off from household chores and other commitments can give us the time we need to rest.
- Finding self-care practices that work for us, from meditating to hot baths to long walks in nature, and giving ourselves time to incorporate these practices into our lives. This can help us to switch the belief of periods as something shameful to periods as something special.
- Using a journal or app to log our cycles. By noticing the dips and highs in our energy levels and creativity, we’re allowing ourselves to map out our schedules in a way that works best for us.
Of course, we can always go further. So what might decolonising our periods look like? And, for those of us whose descendants are amongst the colonising classes, what can we learn from our ancestors who pushed back against patriarchal shame and practised their own menstruation rituals?
Follow us in the coming months as we learn more about what decolonising our periods could look like – and let us know the ways that you are pushing back against the negative period messaging of the past.