The menstrual cycle comes hand-in-hand with an array of stigma. The ideological framework directly affects the experience of about half of the world’s menstruating population and is felt by all gender identities in one way or another.
Period stigma most commonly screams sentiments of disgust, embarrassment and thus something to be kept private. Many feminists are determined to empower the menstrual cycle through destigmatisation and promoting benefits beyond fertility.
But, isn’t the menstrual cycle’s sole purpose that of fertility?
Research finds increasing findings in the resourceful properties of menstrual blood. As periods are gaining political stigma in the feminist whelm, trends are being exercised and seen on influential social media sites as well as within public dialogue.
The use of period blood as a facemask, red paint, nail polish, and plant fertiliser are some recent bloomers.
And of course, period art and photography.
Do these images disturb you? Do you understand why?
Scientifically speaking, the lining of the uterus, and thus menstrual blood, is rich in stem cells that proliferate faster than those found in umbilical cords. Equally, nutritional properties found in menstrual blood - namely nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – are vital to both human and plant metabolism. Regenerative stem cells, rich minerals and nutrients are properties that headline in in-store facemasks and plant fertilizers.
Culturally and ideologically speaking, it remains a discomforting thought to many. Blood is not appealing to everyone, regardless of its source. One may question the importance of all of this for people who do not get periods, or those that do but don’t want to showcase it.
“Ignoring or despising menstruation is one of the ways that misogyny manifests itself”
– Lara Owen, Her Blood is Gold
Feminists and experts in the field, such as Lara Owen, would counter-claim that mindset by highlighting the importance of reshaping the overall attitude. It is not that everyone must use menstrual blood to paint their nails, but that judgment should not be in the picture.
Period trends may sound fun and games, but let us dive into the larger importance of empowering the menstrual cycle. Its long-lasting suppression in the public domain has resulted in a lack of research and awareness of such a biologically complex function.
Did you know that period pains are not entirely normal?
They may often result from a medical condition called endometriosis for which there is available treatment.
Did you know that people with a menstrual cycle have a second biological body clock?
Menstrual cramps and hormonal imbalances may equally result from an imbalance of the female infradian rhythm.
"The infradian rhythm creates a 25% change in women's brain chemistry over the course of the month"
- Alisa Vitti, founder of modern hormone health care company FLO Living.
As well as following the circadian rhythm – the 24-hour clock that physical, mental and behavioural changes follow – the female body also follows the monthly infradian rhythm. This is a second biological clock that the brain, immune system, metabolism, microbiome, stress response and reproduction follows. The infradian rhythm entails different periods of the month where different diets, productivity and exercise are recommended.
However, society runs by the rhythm and expectations of the 24-hour day – the circadian rhythm - which is solely built around the design of male hormonal levels. This is partly what feminists refer to when voicing that we live in a society adhering to the patriarchy. People with periods often experience feelings of frustration when tired or unproductive for periods of up to a week whilst trying to achieve the expectations of the 24-hour day.
There is no denying that the menstrual cycle can be painful and uncomfortable, however, it can also have the opposite effects. Open discussions invite a better experience. Awareness invites a healthier lifestyle.
“Periods play a huge role in creating a sense of women’s solidarity all over the world- It’s a shared experience that can’t be compared.”
- Jameliah-Katherine Adekunle, independent artist specialising in black feminism.
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