Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘women’s health’

One of the things that frustrates me most in life is when I know what’s wrong, but don’t know what to do about it.  There is no instruction manual, there’s no hint, you can’t flip to the last page for the answers.  Some people like it call it common sense, but common sense is only previously acquired knowledge that is applied to situations which are similar to what you’ve already learned.  If you have never previously been taught how to deal with similar issues, then there is no such thing as applying ‘common sense’ to these things.

When our entire lives have been dominated by what the masculine image of feminine is, there is no basis for applying common sense to much of how to deal with these issues.  You can recognize them, you can understand the damaging effects, but you can still be just as lost as to how to *do* something about it.

Part of that is recognizing that our society is very damaged, but that we have other examples, other societies we can look to for guidance.  These other societies don’t even have to be perfect, they just have to do one thing – just one thing – that demonstrates a better way.  They don’t have to necessarily be countries, either.  They can be sub-cultures, organizations, they can be ancient societies that no longer exist, but if we have some record of them, some understanding, then we can start to build a fuller picture of what is possible.

I remember years and years ago hearing about a certain American Indian culture – I sadly have forgotten which nation it was – and the way they recognize a girl’s first menstruation.

The women would gather together and make things.  Just, whatever needed to be made.  Think of it like a quilting circle or something, it was a social thing they did together.  The young girls would be at this circle, and listen to the women talking to one another.  They were, from an early age, surrounded by the stories and points of view of their elder women.  The girls would learn to make the things the women made.  By the time she reached puberty, the girl would have made many things.

When she had her first menstruation, she would be taken into a tent with other women who would pass on more adult knowledge to her than she would have received with the other girls.  They would help prepare her for the changes she would experience, and the changes to come.  They would teach her things at this time that she would not have learned before.

At the end of this, she would leave the tent, and take the many things she had made – whether it was a doll or a pouch or a beaded band – and each item she would give to an elder woman, and she would tell that woman what trait or character she hoped to learn from her.

This is a very sketchy retelling of what I heard, but the gist of it is this: women mentored younger girls and women.  Women told their stories to younger girls and women.  Women embraced one another’s femininity.

Rather than associating menstruation with PMS, bitchiness, and queasiness over menstrual blood, or worse, associating any negative emotion by a woman with the assumption she must be menstruating, this natural female cycle was celebrated and given a beautiful ritual status.

We have been taught to demonize something that lies at the very heart of our femininity, to be shamed by it and afraid of it, to be silent about it.  Imagine the empowerment of our girls if we embraced and celebrated this cycle!  If we stopped shaming the very thing that we have that men don’t!

When we stop being ashamed of it ourselves, men will not be able to shame us with it, either.

Embracing this fundamental natural fact of the feminine can be a catalyst that guides us towards embracing every other natural aspect of ourselves, from our body hair to our diversity in body shapes, sizes and colors.  From our natural complexion to our beautiful wrinkles, to our hair without straighteners or dying out our marvelous gray.

Age used to mean wisdom and respect.  Now it’s something to be feared, fought, denied, and resisted at all costs.  Why?  Because the 18-34 yr old male demographic that is the golden audience for almost every kind of media produced.

How do we achieve this monumental task of reordering our perceptions about our own bodies?  Turn off the TV, put down the magazine, the insidious truth of advertising is that it only works if it can convince you that what you are isn’t good enough.  Otherwise, why would anyone buy a product to make themselves different?  If you were beautiful, you wouldn’t need their makeup and hair products and nail polish and diet pills and clothes and shoes and botox and teeth whitening strips and three-step skin conditioner and tanning salon.

So the last thing these companies want you to believe about yourself is that you’re beautiful!  That you’re okay the way you are.  Your disharmony with yourself is the foundation to their sales!

There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup.  There is something wrong with feeling that you have to wear makeup.  The weight loss industry in the US is a multi-billion dollar a year wake-up call that their fix isn’t working, it’s just keeping us unhappy, unhealthy, and most importantly, it keeps us pouring our dollars into their businesses.

What if we taught our girls that their self-worth wasn’t proportional to the numbers on the scale?  The kicker is, you don’t teach this in a lesson plan with pencils and text books and give a test at the end.  This is taught by modeling the behavior that your weight isn’t your measure of self-worth, by restricting the media’s access to your house which displays one vary narrow and often not even a real image of a woman’s body, by giving them the tools to understand their bodies, and the tools to stand up to those who try to define them by their bodies.

It can be scary to be the one who doesn’t follow the social flow of what is expected of us.  But what is expected of us is to conform to a male ideal of what female should be.  I put it to you: who made men the expert on what it is to be feminine!?  Men have been “telling” us for decades that they don’t understand women, so why do we let them dictate how we understand ourselves!?

We need to create a culture in which women teach women what it means to be a woman.  Where feminine is defined by females.  Where our bodies don’t need to be stretched and cropped, lightened and Photoshopped to be considered beautiful.

Imagine if we found just one thing about our femininity that we could embrace and pursue with all our hearts, the kind of revolution we could create for ourselves.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »