We have an epidemic in Australia... We tell our friends to keep their voices down if they dare speak about it in public.
Many questions have come up recently about why my focus is on Australia, when there are so many places that appear “worse off” than we are that I could be focussing my attention on. You may have seen the recent media coverage (Huffpost, Upworthy and the likes) about the great stuff happening with menstrual cups in Africa. These posts get so much attention not only because they are in popular media, but because they give the reader that “feel good” sensation that there are people doing worse than them, and that someone is out there helping them. However, I feel that here in Australia, in the area of menstruation and women’s knowledge of our own bodies, we are actually doing pretty abysmally.
Most women I speak to (who haven’t used a cup) don’t even know what their cervix is, let alone how to find it. Many Australian women don’t know that if they tense their body in fear or lie very still, it makes cramping worse. Women haven’t been told that opening up the pelvis by squatting, and moving around while breathing deeply and slowly is a really good way to release period pain. Until I started using and researching menstrual cups, I didn’t realise myself just how amazing periods can be, and how important it is to understand how our bodies work. One of the biggest barriers I have come across with women using menstrual cups, is their fears of what can happen. “What if it gets lost?” This is impossible. The vagina has an end. And it has muscles that we can push things out with. It’s also directly connected to our brains by a special bunch of synapses. This is why women can’t orgasm if they aren't mentally turned on and relaxed.
We have an epidemic in Australia. It is the fear of our body and its inner workings. Particularly, fear of the uterus and the vagina. We treat it with The Pill. We treat it with Nurofen, Paracetamol, and Codeine. We treat it with Implanon, white bleached tampons and pads, and most of all – we treat it with silence. We leave the room, or tell our friends to keep their voices down if they dare speak about it in public. We shield our children from the topic, and we make up names to cover up the shame of speaking about something that without it, none of us would be here. Australia, the rest of the world is waking up. Europe is years ahead with “period positive” talk and action, so is Canada, America is catching up, and even in parts of Africa the women know more about their bodies than we do.
This is my mission with Sustainable Menstruation Australia. To open the conversation about menstruation. To share knowledge, and learn from our friends, colleagues, families and lovers. To move from a culture of fear, shame and taboo, to one of celebration for the beautiful and powerful ability we have as human beings who menstruate. Menstruation is not just about reproduction. When we get in touch with our cycles, it becomes a powerful tool to use in our lives every day. We know when we are likely to be feeling certain ways due to the cocktail of hormones (or lack thereof) coursing through our veins. We can learn that certain times of our cycle are going to be really awesome for networking, making connections and growing projects and plans. Other times are going to be great for self-reflection, reassessing our lives and taking good care of ourselves. Our cycles give us a brilliant road map to help our lives. And when we release the fears and tensions associated with menstruation, the pain starts to ease. We can participate in swimming, sports, work and other areas of our lives that felt impossible. Pain, fear, shame, and the copious amounts of waste through disposable products and menstruation are not Sustainable. Not for ourselves, our communities or our planet. We need to have a serious think about where we want to go as Australians. Do we want the next generation to fear their own bodies even more than we do? Or do we want to change this?
There is light at the end of the tunnel. That light is in the form laughter, liberation and learning. Our bodies can be celebrated, not feared. We can use products that don’t pollute our planet or make a large dent in our budget. We can love our bodies, relax into them and honour our cycles. We can use this knowledge to become more powerful and in control of our lives. There is a revolution afoot, and Australia is getting on board. It’s learning to love our bodies again. Our cycles. Our selves. Our children. Our planet. Let’s celebrate.