“What’s your problem? You on the rag?”
I was in seventh grade the first time a boy dismissed reality by saying that I was having a fit of hormone-driven hysteria. He was teasing a classmate and being hateful to everyone who crossed his path, and when I stood up to him, he tried to shame me into backing down.
Clearly, he didn’t yet understand how hormones work. Nor did he know about my near obsession with getting The Last Word, or my astrological advantage (Taurus), or that I was in the early stages of my training as a verbal assault weapon. He was ill-prepared and I came undone. It’s mostly a blur now but I can still remember yelling at him, in front of many of our peers, “I might be on the rag but when that ends, you’ll still be a jerk!”
For the record, I was not actually bleeding at the time. I have no idea why, long before I could actually call myself a feminist, I felt the need to defend my menstruating self, but I did. I had a strong need. At the time, I knew almost nothing about myself, about what it means to be a woman and still, the idea that his cruelty could be washed away in a river of my blood infuriated me. It was a profound betrayal of truth and fairness, and I wasn’t, as they say, going to take it anymore.
Recently, a woman I’m connected with on Facebook posted something very thoughtful and respectful about a political trend she finds disturbing. The conversation quickly spiraled into an exchange between her and a man who was, in my opinion, being disrespectful. She stayed engaged, again very respectfully, and stood her ground. As I watched it unfold, I felt impressed by her ability to be so firm and clear but still keep it clean, especially when he was not.
Finally, he offered a long-winded conclusion, hurling himself onto the metaphorical sword, and left the conversation. The conversation continued in his absence and as everybody started to calm back down, I was mortified to watch it take a very old, painfully predictable turn. A full 25 years after that first school yard experience, I watched as that important and empowered dialogue/debate got chalked up to the woman’s raging hormones.
So, I’ve had enough time to grow up; educate myself; discover my life purpose; make, grow, birth, and mother children into their teens; figure out my sexual-orientation and learn to live in alignment with my integrity around it; start a business helping other women do the same; and still we continue to dismiss women who are standing strong in their personal power as being too hormonal to be taken seriously. That made me feel sort of crazy inside.
When I protested–yes, more articulately than I did all those years ago–the woman explained, “I don’t like that either, because I believe that hormones fluctuating just give women a keener sense of what is in alignment and what is not – it gives us less toleration for what is not. However, if you’ve been through fertility treatment, you know that the extra hormones do make you WAY less tolerant of BS and whatnot.” I clarified that being “way less tolerant of BS” does not cultivate it. This woman and her intensity, her unwillingness to tolerate BS, did not make that man behave badly. He behaved badly and she didn’t let it go.
There is a world of difference between me not putting up with your pushy antics and me causing you to act that way. And there is a great deal of violence against women that occurs in the gap between the two. I’ve seen this with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and the metaphorical she did not actually have it coming after all. To blame the monthly shedding of the lining of a woman’s womb for the violence, aggression, or simple ignorance that she encountered during those couple of days (or any other time that you need someone to blame) is a BS move if there ever was one.
So yes, around the same time every month, my tears are more accessible, as is my anger, but I don’t believe that means I am suddenly wildly out of control. Quite the opposite, in fact, those are the times when I am at my best. I see more clearly, feel more powerfully, and more easily take action from a place of integrity. The intensity makes me more real–not mean or harsh or impatient–just real.
I believe in my heart that that is the best of me. And over the years, I’ve noticed that the more I honor myself during that tender and powerful time, the more access I have to those parts of myself when I’m not bleeding. I want access to my feminine power on all of the days, not just four or five days out of each month. I’ve found that menstruation is a very grounding time for me, and I strive to be that aware and that connected to my body all the time. I want to feel as deeply and listen as carefully as I do when my hormones surge like that. I want to have the strength to be true to myself every single day.
Plain and simple, that intensity that we experience just before and during menstruation is power. It’s not our only source of power but for many women, it is a sacred time during each month that our power rises up to meet us.
But if we want to feel empowered, we have to stop dismissing ourselves as raging lunatics when we bleed. We are all working so hard to cultivate equality and yet, we continue to perpetuate the myth that we can’t be trusted to be reasonable for a few days at a time, twelve or so times each year. And while it’s always good to bust this myth to the non-menstruating population, to cultivate the change we desire, we have to shift the way we perceive ourselves.
There are a great many resources available to help us explore this topic (more to come) but for now, I just want to invite you to pause and notice the relationship you have with this tender time of the month. Now that you’ve read this, pause to take it in. Perhaps you can email it to yourself and read it again when you feel the intensity building. Just notice how you’re showing up in the world.
Maybe you can share it, invite the women in your world to talk about how they feel about this part of being a woman. If you have children, think about how what you’ve taught them. Do they know that bleeding isn’t a curse and that the emotional intensity is sacred? Pause to consider whether you’re stepping into your power or shying away from it, and if you’re pulling back, dig deeper into that impulse. The need for feminine energy is strong in all corners of the world. Now is the time to heal, to reconnect with our true strength. Once we access it, the shadow cannot outrun our healing, loving, creative light.