Many of us recognize that advertisements for menstrual products are not at all realistic. They show women in white prancing through fields of wildflowers and butterflies. The more direct ads show a pair of hands pouring blue liquid from a beaker onto a sanitary napkin but never a tampon.
I don’t know about you but I bleed red blood from ::gasp:: my vagina, not blue liquid from a beaker. It’s also uncommon for me to wear white anything, ever, on my bottom half, much less when I’m menstruating. Maybe I’m my own demographic…but I doubt it.
Wearing white slacks, jeans, or skirts generally means I’m dressed up and going out. Daily life wearing of white on the bottom generally involves sitting in something that isn’t white and while it’s not necessarily blood that I end up sitting in, adding potential leakage to the mix isn’t the greatest idea. So.
It seems that the theory that these ads treat menstruation so indirectly is because we are uncomfortable addressing it directly. What would happen to the world if they poured RED liquid out of that beaker? Would gravity give up? Doubtful.
All of this indirectness is also indicative of shame. Don’t let anyone know you’re bleeding. Don’t let anyone know that you bleed from Down There. Hide it. Keep it quiet. Don’t rest. Keep going. Take a pill. Suck it up. And, now I’m getting to the point finally, HIDE THOSE DISPOSABLE PRODUCTS SO THAT AN FBI AGENT WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO FIND THEM IN THE TRASH.
Here’s my question: is this about hygiene or shame?
I’m fairly certain that blood isn’t something we are supposed to touch when it comes from another person’s body. It can carry diseases like HIV, Hepatitis, and the Bubonic Plague. Probably best if we aren’t groping around and grabbing someone else’s used tampon, right? So yeah, best to wrap up those tampons (don’t flush them, they clog the pipes no matter what the stupid box tells you) and pads.
It’s perfectly acceptable to touch our own blood. We are filled with it. If we are women and aren’t pregnant, chances are pretty good that we’re going to flow. So why are so many women completely skeeved out by the thought of using a moon cup or cloth pads? Why isn’t it okay for us to save our blood and pour it onto our houseplants so that they can take that life-giving energy into themselves and thrive?
I think my sisters are right when they say it’s shame. We are taught that our vulvas and vaginas are dirty. We are taught not to touch, not to look, not to feel around down there. That’s nasty and shameful and only dirty, bad girls touch and look and learn their own bodies. Right? WRONG. Smart girls, strong girls, women who know that our female organs are another part of our bodies like our teeth and our bellies and our hands that we should know and understand look and touch and feel. (These girls and women probably also know that certain things feel good, too, and that healthy women enjoy that part of touching and feeling as well! Masturbation for the Masses I say!)
It’s time to lay this shame aside and to look at our bodies and our cycles with respect. It’s time to honor ourselves and our cyclical natures. It’s also time to accept that your menstrual blood isn’t gross. Touching it won’t kill you. For real.
What do you think? Do you feel like you should hide your blood or your bleeding cycle? Are you grossed out by the thought of using a moon cup and actually touching your monthly flow or do you use a moon bowl and collect it and use it somehow? What are your thoughts on hygiene?
In our 4th Pink Tent circle we worked on the letter ‘S’ from our G.I.R.L.S. layout. ‘S’ stands for Stuff according to the list but in my mind, S has always been for Sex, because we really need to talk about that topic with the girls.
We used handouts that I received via a wonderful workshop I’ve been participating in with Katharine Kruger from Journey of Young Women. You can find more information about her Mentoring Training by clicking here.
Our story for the month was one about the moon from Circle Round, by Starhawk. Patricia made up a game with notecards and little slips of paper with slang terms for body parts on them. Everyone got 5 slips of paper and we each had to guess if the terms applied to toes or heads or testicles, etc. The girls learned about and then labeled the internal and external parts of both male and female reproductive anatomy. This was not an in-depth learning of the functions, only a located it, name it and label it type experience. During their time alone they crafted models of a reproductive system of their choice.
We decided to save the flooding for after the alone time so that the girls could focus on this and come up with things to say to one another. Sometimes this activity takes them by surprise and they have a hard time with it. I believe that we must persist, however, so that they really learn to see the wonder in one another. This month I had each young lady pull a card from a tarot deck and told them about it’s meaning.
We had a brief closing chat and everyone gathered up their things and left.
This was a session where I, as a mentor, ventured into unknown territory and found it quite friendly. The girls, while giggly and a bit uncomfortable, were attentive and open to what we were doing. They all took their charts home and I hope they will be able to name all of the male and female reproductive parts with some ease. We will build on this next month when we discuss menstruation.
This was our first Pink Tent after a long summer off. My family and I did a lot of traveling and Patricia has a new baby who was born in late July. The girls were all much changed too.
Coming into the Temple as the group was getting settled there was a lot of sarcasm and many snarky comments were directed at one or two of the girls. It was difficult to hear and I immediately asked them to please quiet down and addressed the way we agreed to support and love and ‘thrill for’ one another and to not be mean or sarcastic or to say potentially hurtful things in circle. Logically it seemed like the girls ‘got it’, but I also felt a lot of resistance to the idea that it’s wrong to treat their friends that way. It was a weird beginning to a weird circle.
I didn’t tell a story like I normally do and we launched right into the meat of the evening: Crushes. Patricia had a list of questions for the girls, as did I. Hers were hands-on, write down the answers and (girls choice) we read them together, anonymously. Mine were more about focusing their thoughts. Then we had a few questions that the girls themselves had penned for us, the mentors. There was a lot of giggling.
After this, Patricia and I excused ourselves and the girls had their alone time to chat and giggle and snack. As the moms arrived, we mentors stayed inside and let the girls enjoy their time together until the girls came into the house of their own accord. Meeting ended.
We made a bunch of mistakes by leaving off big chunks of our circle routine, we later realized.
-We did not do the flooding before we left them for alone time. Flooding is when we take turns focusing on one member of our circle and each of us says something nice about her. We go around the whole circle each time so that each girl has been flooded with love from her circle sisters.
-We did not tell a story. Even though it’s doubtful that the girls understand the metaphors in the stories as they pertain to the evening’s topic, the stories really ground and center the group. They seem to get the young ladies into the magical, creative, open part of their brains.
-We did not come back out and do a closing meditation or yoga sequence to ground and center them before closing.
-We left the girls on their own for far too long and they came up with some crazy ideas about crushes and how to handle them. Fortunately, we all see one another outside of circle and so I had the opportunity to sit down with them and chat about their thoughts and ideas and do a little feeling work with them.
We are having our next meeting soon and we mentors are definitely back on track so far as how we must orchestrate these meetings in order for the girls to benefit meaningfully from them.
*We actually held this Pink Tent in early October due to illness.
In back of our house is a shed that looks like a cottage. It is small, 10×14 or so and painted pumpkin orange inside. Eventually it is supposed to become my Reiki studio and herbal apothecary space but for now the door is a little leaky and so it is used primarily for our monthly Red Tent temple and the occasional meditation when it’s not too cold. Now it is also used for our Pink Tents temples for the young women.
For our first meeting the layout was like this:
We all gathered and the girls seemed slightly uncomfortable and a little nervous. They all know the two of us adult leaders and have mostly been in classes we have taught or other groups we have led, so they were comfortable with us and yet still nervous about what we were doing. So I played some music and we danced and by we, I mean the two adults danced and the girls sort of stood there and maybe wiggled a little bit. They seemed very shy about this body movement thing but there was a lot of giggling. The dancing, such as it was, seemed to release a lot of the tension.
Then we all found a comfy spot, some on the couch, some on cushions on the floor, and I read them the story of Gawain and the Loathly Lady. This is a story of sovereignty, a tale in which the woman is whole unto herself and while there can be complaints made about how she achieves this sovereignty, still she does achieve it and that is the important thing. I spoke a little about how I hope that each of them will be whole within herself and not feel the need to have someone else in order to feel complete.
Patricia then took over and explained the G.I.R.L.S. list and the ideas for topics that we might cover in our gatherings. G=growing, changing bodies; I=image, self-image; R=relationships, (friends, parents, siblings, boys); L=love/hate, emotions; S=stuff, which includes a lot of things likesovereignty, sex (someday!) and other stuff. We invited the girls to add topics of their own under the headings and to erase those they didn’t think were important or didn’t want to discuss.
We had some dialogue when the girls asked questions, which is something that will always remain private* and then the adults left the girls to talk among themselves for about 50 minutes.
When we went back out to close, the girls had added to things to the list: crushes and modesty! Patricia then led us in an Earth Salutation to ground and the girls gathered their belongings and left. They all seemed happy and comfortable and agreed that it wasn’t as weird as they thought it might be.
I feel like our first Pink Tent was a success and that the girls all want to come back and spend this time with us and one another.
*Note: We told the girls that while the Pink Tent is like Vegas, What Happens Here Stays Here and that they should not discuss their friend’s personal revelations outside of the group, they are also to feel free to share our discussions with their parents.
This blog is here to share information about several things:
Herbal healing with infusions, decoctions, tinctures, oils, salves and honeys. These recipes will go into the pages section rather than onto the blog proper.
Four Oaks Healing, my home-based healing business. I do cranio-sacral, Reiki, flower essence testing, herbal consultations, circles for girls and women and, coming in May 2014, a Shamanic Priestess Process circle!
The occasional feminist rant.
Please join in with comments. I also welcome guest bloggers. Please let me know if you have something you would like to say or share.
For our 3rd meeting, we focused on Sizes and Moods, two things the girls have expressed a great deal of interest in. In honor of one of our attendees and my Shamanic Priestess friend, we did not do full body dancing. Instead, we played a song and did ‘Thumb Dancing, with Slight Upper Body Movement.’ It was hilarious and fun and everyone participated which isn’t always the case with full body dancing! By the end our thumbs were exhausted and we were all giggling like crazy people.
Our story for the week was The Descent of Inanna. I used Starhawk’s version from Circle Round. It was perfect–long enough, written in a way that was easy to read and understand. I explained to the girls that being women means we all make this descent into the underworld and that it is well and good for us to do so, that having moods, even dark moods, is to be honored and expected and that these moods are nothing to be ashamed of. I read a couple of excerpts from Circle of Stones that ask “How would things be different…” if we had a woman who would sit with us when we were sad or angry or depressed, if we had someone, a woman, who would sit with us and just honor our mood and our feelings?
We took a few minutes during which the girls could ask questions or to allow them to process before moving on to…
Sizes! This was much more fun. Each girl in turn described what she had learned about the sizes and shapes of her grandparents and what her parents sizes and shapes were. She then told us what she expected her own size to be when she is completely finished growing. Patricia, my co-leader even brought a scrapbook for her daughter with photographs of both sides of her daughter’s family (Mom’s and Dad’s). It was very cool and interesting and I think it really helped the girls understand why some of them are Pixie-like and others more Amazonian.
We adults tried really hard to get out of there at the end of the first hour so that the girls would have plenty of time to talk among themselves, which they never do! The girls had their time for chatting and snacking while we leaders chatted in another room. The girls really enjoy their time with each other and want more of this space to simply be with one another to talk and giggle without any classes or sports or other agenda.
To end we did a grounding meditation. We have been doing yoga but because our space is so small, there really is not room for it. The meditation did seem to ground the girls and we ended on a sweet, peaceful note.
I’m not sure how the Pink Tent mamas feel about the girls staying for longer…or how we leaders feel about it, either. It’s a good sign, I think, that they are enjoying one another so much and are building a trusting community of friends.
At some point there must be a more creative way to discern between the Pink Tent posts! This will be short, like our meeting.
It was a dark and rainy night. There were late cookie deliveries and two frenetic, stressed out leaders and there were 6 girls waiting…
This time the girls were a bit less trepidacious than at our first meeting but there was still a bit of tension. We opened with music by Mumford and Sons, danced a little, and sat down for the story of La Mariposa, from Clarissa Pinkola Estes book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. It was a long read given that I began with some of the body image stuff from the beginning of the chapter before moving into the actual story. The girls managed to mostly stay with me, though.
Then Patricia took over and we addressed the ‘G’: growing, changing bodies. We did some talking about topical things then moved to self-image (‘I’= image. If you read the first post, you may remember that our topics for discussion are G.I.R.L.S. G-growing,changing bodies; I-image/self image; R-relationships; L-love/hate; S-stuff!)
Once chatter died down, we moved on to Stuff, then we did the ‘flooding’ in which each girl is told one nice thing about herself by each of the other girls. This is a challenge but they love it! Rules are that it’s okay to repeat yourself or the other girls; you have to make whatever you say an honest compliment; there can be no sarcasm; there is no negative self-talk when you’re trying to think of something; take your time!; keep it real. From a personal perspective, I really see my own girl trying to live up to the kind words her peers have for her.
After this, the leaders leave the girls to snack and chat, hopefully on-topic and definitely as a group and not as little clusters or pairs. We try and give them 45-50 minutes for this but we had a slow start and thus they didn’t get enough time–and they were vocal about their need for more of that! It’s good to know that there will be a next time and that it’s okay to be a little less than perfect because we get a do-over.
Patricia led us in an earth salutation which may have helped some girls ground more than it did others. They were a giggly bunch as they headed out the front door.
A few months ago a friend told me about a dream she’d had. In her dream we were teaching a sex-ed class for the girls at our homeschool co-op. I must have blinked like a giant owl because I had been mulling and praying and thinking on this very topic for quite a while. I may have lit a candle to call in the partner I would need in this venture because I just didn’t have the bravery to try it on my own. Oddly, I also dreamed about this and know that we discussed it and made a contract about it in dream space. It was the perfect synchronicity of teaching and personality styles. We were both excited to begin.
We put a lot of thought into our plan and came up with completely different things to do. They dovetailed perfectly to achieve our vision.
Her thoughts were to take a more innocent approach and address things like self-talk and feelings and to leave s-e-x for a later date. The girls who we are working with are between the ages of 11 and 13. She came up with a plan to use the world GIRLS as an acronym for topics.
She also suggested that we have each girl bring a snack that she can eat. We have a lot of girls with food allergies, so for each of them to have something safe is a big deal. We provide drinks.
My idea was to call our girls group ‘Pink Tent,’ after the Red Tent Temple we ladies share each month. The word pink may seem cliched but I think it makes sense based on the same reasoning that leads us to use the words ‘Red Tent,’ for menstruating women. Some of our girls have their moon and others do not. Maybe this is a good way to bless our pinkness without bowing to cliches? So, we call our gathering The Pink Tent.
My contribution to the girls is to open with a story, have a little discussion about it and then to get the girls up and moving, hopefully dancing and finding joy in moving their bodies for a few minutes and later, ‘flooding’ in which we all say one nice thing about each girl, in turn. It can be difficult to hear nice things and to mute our negative self-talk and my hope is that this will bolster the girls.
Then we move to our topic for the month, which will cycle through those above which my friend came up with, a few additions from me and two that the girls added for themselves at our first Pink Tent (I will blog about that later). Patricia leads this discussion and once conversation begins, we both interact with the girls.
After we’ve been together for about an hour, the two adults leave the girls to talk among themselves for about another 50 minutes. Then we come back and do some stretching or yoga to help all of us ground after an intense two hours. We then dismiss the girls to their parents and that is all.
Our hope is provide an open-ended forum where these young women learn to support each other, in which they have access to adults who are open, accepting and non-judgmental and who will do our best to answer their questions.
Who are we? One of us is a degreed Special Ed teacher and the other has a BA in Anthropology and Creative Writing. We both teach, read and work hard to be kind, honest, thoughtful and caring. We can’t say we will leave all of our stuff at the door but our plan is to offer data and not morality and when we know our own opinions are going to come in, we agree to work on that and to talk to the girls about it.
Our goal is that every girl in this group be deeply aware of her own sovereignty and value in this world and they establish a strong support network where acceptance among young women is the norm. Here is my friend’s take on our experience.