We are doing something wrong. We are failing to teach our girls to embrace being girls and all that it entitles. I recently watched a tampon commercial that practically shamed a teenage girl after she faked getting her period. Granted, it was pretty funny and we can all relate to it, but I wonder: Why do we, as a society, instead of celebrating the wonders of the female reproductive system, ridicule it and teach our girls to hate the monthly arrival of Aunt Flo?
When I first got my period I was secretly excited about it. My best friend had gotten her's two weeks before and I was anxious to get mine. When I got it I remember my mom being very supportive and excited. Then I figured out she had shared the news with my two older sisters and I immediately felt angry and embarrassed. Why is that? Are we genetically embedded to be ashamed of being a woman? Is it the result of women repression throughout history? I am not going to try and find the reasons, every woman may have a very different personal one. What I want to focus on is reversing this feelings and teaching the new generations to be aware and proud of being a woman.
The most important step would be to revise the sex ed we receive as young girls (and boys). I believe that we should spend a little more time helping girls understand what really takes place inside their bodies every month. We tend to explain the events (bleeding, cramps, PMS, etc.) but we fail to mention the purpose and the science behind it. When I finally understood what really took place and all the complexity behind it I was amazed, I was also 24-years-old. Before that, I didn't bother, I figured I had to put up with it all (the horrible cramps, the embarrassing episodes of moodiness, the heavy, heavy, heavy bleeding and the not so occasional spot in my pants) and in return I would someday have a chubby baby in my arms.
The problem was that none of those symptoms were "normal" and since no one bothered to explain because it's some kind of taboo, it took me a long while to realize this and a significant quantity of tears and frustration. My mom did take me to the gynecologist when I was 16 wondering if it was all normal and worrying that such heavy periods would make me anemic. The doctor just said, "Oh, she's young, it will all change when she is older."
We should help girls understand what is going on in their bodies and listen to the signs and symptoms it sends. If we teach young girls to keep track of their cycles as a matter of health (and not just as birth control or natural family planning) we could avoid unwanted pregnancies and fertility issues later in life. If I had known at a young age the things I know now, I may have realized that long cycles are a sign of Polycystic Ovaries, or that very heavy bleeding and long periods are a sign of Endometriosis earlier and fixing those issues could have been easier to fix earlier on.
No one is going to talk to young girls about it all if not us women, no girl is going to initiate a conversation about it if we keep making it awkward for them, no one is going to help them realize that what happens every month is part of the amazing ability our bodies have of creating tiny human beings and giving birth to them. We have to be open and prepared for that kind of conversation. We have to make sure that when the time comes we will give them a message of empowerment and pride of being women. We must educate ourselves first and the most valuable tool we have for that are our own bodies. We have to learn to be in sync with them, listen to the signs and understand our cycles.
After a long time dealing with fertility issues and a miscarriage, I managed to get pregnant with no assisted reproductive technologies, and understanding my cycles and my body was a big part of that achievement. While I was in labor I realized that I shouldn't have gotten mad at my mom for sharing the news with my older sisters. She was celebrating this wonderful event taking place in my body that would later bring me the joy of having a baby. And as I felt the contractions come and go, something the horrible cramps prepared me for years before, I realized that Ina May Gaskin was absolutely right. "There is no other organ quite like the uterus, if men had one, they would brag about it." So come on ladies, let's teach our daughters, nieces, granddaughters and every young girl out there the awesomeness of being woman! Let's brag about it!