Saturday, March 8, 2008

Intervening With Nature and Bringing Down Women

I am a woman. Yup, female. When one is female, there are certain things that go along with the territory...cycles of hormones: menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation...

Frankly I am insulted and offended by the way our modern culture tries to squelch these natural parts of femininity.

For starters, they tell us that having a period is dirty. It should be hidden, covered with perfumes and flushed or thrown away. Furthermore, a menstruating woman should behave exactly the same on those days as she does on any other day of the month--never mind that her body is letting go of blood, iron, and energy. What?! What idiot came up with these ideas?! It was either a man or a woman who wanted to be a man. A period is a symbol of fertility, not weakness! It should be observed, not ignored. No, I don't save my menstrual blood and use it to water my houseplants (although I hear that such plants thrive). On the other hand, I don't try to pretend that it doesn't exist. On the first day of my period I take a day off--I don't worry about trying to get much done. I make a simple dinner (often one I've frozen ahead of time). I accept that my body is taking a day off. It's all part of the cycle.

We have pills and drugs to counteract PMS. PreMenstrual Syndrome is partly caused by hormones, but actually mostly because of poor nutrition and lousy self-care. Take a nap, drink more water, lay off the sugar, avoid caffeine, and consider taking a little red raspberry leaf. You will most likely find that PMS is not inevitable, but is actually like most other pains--a sign that something is wrong!

Pregnancy is part of being a woman. If you are not willing to be pregnant, do not participate in pregnancy-causing activities. I feel very strongly about that. I am generally disgusted with birth control hormones and the havoc they wreck on women's bodies. Hormones fluctuate in a delicate balance, and 'the pill' (any of them) interferes with that. Most pills advertise shorter, lighter periods (I can tell you a safer way to get that!). One pill claims to 'beat' PMS with a commercial singing "We're not gonna take it" (take what, healthy fertility?!) One pill boasts of interfering so much that a period only comes every third month. Does that scare anyone else?!

Once pregnant, many women grieve their condition. Even if they are excited about having a baby join the family, they complain about the process. I've been pregnant: I know about the morning sickness, aches, pains, and exhaustion. It's part of the package deal. They schedule inductions and plan cesarean sections for the convenience of predictability, rather than out of any medical need. Even those who wait for nature's timing for labor are likely to demand medications which will numb their bodies and interfere with the natural process (and likely lead to other interventions). Giving birth is a rite of passage! I don't enjoy pain, and I'm certainly no martyr. I did not choose unmedicated birth out of machismo or a desire to boast to my children about how hard I worked to get them here. I chose it because it is how birth is meant to be. It is how our bodies are meant to work. It is what our Creator intended. And yes it is HARD work, but it is not bad. Sure, sometimes something goes amiss, and in those cases inductions, epidurals, and cesareans can work wonders...but they should not be routine. Intervening with nature should never be routine.

And when we do give birth to that tiny, helpless, baby, our amazing bodies know just what to do: they make nourishment for it. First colostrum, then milk. Milk which changes as the baby ages. Milk which has a high fat content and helps to mylenize the baby's rapidly developing brain cells. Milk which contains stem cells. How amazing and perfect is this?! And yet many women choose to take drugs to dry up their supply, or else wean the child long before he is ready. Instead they offer the child milk from another mammal--one whose genetic makeup (and milk) is very dissimilar to our own. Are we mad?! Where is the logic in this?

Why do women think they should be men? No periods. No hormones. No pregnancies. No labor. No baby at the breast... Is androgeny really so desirable? Throughout history men have always found a particular body shape more attractive than any other: a sort of an hourglass shape...a shape which indicates fertility. In other words, the most attractive woman is one who is not afraid of her body and what it can do.
Stand up! Don't be ashamed of your body and its processes. Be aware, and be proud! You are a Phenomenal Woman!


katef - said...

oh I love this post!!!
I was just lamenting to my poor DH the other day about a woman who had a baby and planned to go back to work when the baby was 3 months old, putting the baby in centre based care. Not because they had to for financial reasons, or even emotional reasons (needing respite etc) but because she likes her job. Gah!

She likes her job? what more than her baby? What is the point of doing this amazing thing growing and giving birth, if you don't actually want to be with your child? If she can't give up a few years of her 'career' to be there for her child then she shouldn't have had one! Harsh I know.. but man it irks me!
Ok rant over.. especially since I am preaching to the converted! LOL

Aurora said...

Beautifully said. I LOVE being a woman! :)

Becky said...

I loved this post - thank you! :)

I get really tired of hearing about all the things going wrong with women's bodies. I would love to hear more people celebrate all the wonderful things we have been designed to do so well! I think it's such a miracle, and it can make you feel so powerful!

Anonymous said...

Go Woemn!!

PapaCoyote said...

I look forward to your writings based upon your research on cultural attitudes toward menstruation. I read everything I can find, and afford to buy, about American Indians. I don't recall ever seeing a book about Indian woman and menstruation cycles, but I have found a few paragraphs here and there about the subject.

It seems as though this subject is treated as one not for public consumption, so little has been written about the subject. Is this because women are intimidated by men (who have traditionally controlled the gateway to publication) or because women are just intimidated by men (historically), or because women don't think it is a subject "nice" people should discuss (Victorian attitude)? If this is indeed a Victorian attitude, then was the subject openly discussed prior to Queen Victoria's reign? I think not. I sense that there is a ton of cultural taboos here.

Susan Vreeland has written a fictionalized account of a real woman of the late 19th Century that contains a few pages about the menstrual hut of a tribe of First Nation people. Her account seems to be reasonable according to historical mentions I have encountered. From what little I know of you, I think you would enjoy the entire book. The book is entitled Forest Lover. A woman artist and teacher in Weiser recommended the book to me based upon my interest in Indian People. The heroine of the book is an very brave woman artist who spent a life time bucking the male dominated society of British Columbia. You can check out reviews on Amazon.oom.

Caitlin said...

Great post, Jenni!!!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this post!!! I am WOMEN hear me ROAR!!! =)

Crunchy Domestic Goddess said...

wonderful post! thank you for sharing the link with me. we should celebrate being women, not squelch it.

Crystal said...

I love this post. Just have to tell you. I got so frustrated with bc and have come to better understand and love my body! Thanks for your insights!

Mallory said...

Once again, I agree with what you have to say. I just wish more people would understand this!

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