When Newsweek met Menstruation

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Newsweek cover, 350x450

“Every woman in the history of humanity has or had a period.” exclaims Newsweek in this week’s cover story; “When girls first start their periods, they embark on a decades-long journey of silence and dread.” So far, so true. “Periods hurt. They cause backaches and cramps, not to mention a cloud of emotional ickiness” An inevitable truth or a social construct? It’s worth examining this truism when, for the first time in history, menstruation is displayed on Newsweek’s front cover.

Nature didn’t design women to suffer monthly. When it comes to perpetuating the species, nature made sure pleasure was involved.

Both sex and menstruation are part of nature’s plan,
and none were created painful or “icky” by design.

Contemporary cultures stopped looking at the whole cycle in favor of focusing on sex. Solely.

This single mindedness led to flourishing sex industries, while menstruation was demonized and sentenced to a lifelong shaming and taboo.

Newsweek acknowledges: “Menstruation wasn’t always so taboo. In ancient and matrilineal cultures, it was a mark of honor and power, a sacred time for women to rest and revive their bodies.” Indeed! So why not address women’s continued need to “revive their bodies”? Why keep the taboo unquestioned, and focus on tampon tax as the main issue?

The story is much bigger than Newsweek is willing to cover: Indigenous cultures around the world viewed menstruation as a powerful event that heightens women’s intuition monthly. Women were encouraged to rest, renew, and bring oracular messages to their people when they menstruated.

Far from being unfit for office because of “raging hormones”, women’s office included menstruation.

Women’s heightened consciousness and ability to bring direction to their peoples during menstruation were encouraged. Cultures provided dedicated quiet places where women would go during menstruation, and freed them from daily chores in order to rest monthly.

Hormones started raging only when these times and spaces were taken away…

In a courageous attempt to chart the problem, Newsweek does venture into scarier quarters: “Tampons may contain ‘residue from chemical herbicides’… in today’s world, if there’s nobody dying it’s not on anyone’s agenda.” Unfortunately, women are still dying. A heartbreaking example is Amy Elifritz, who died of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) in 2010, at age 21. Her tragic story not only needs to be told in conjunction with the risks of tampons use, but sustainable alternatives (such as the cup, sea sponges, and cloths pads) need to be extensively covered.

The environmental aspect can’t be glossed over either, when evidence to the feminine hygiene industry’s impact on it is so available. “In the United States alone, an estimated 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of annually.” The average American woman is “expected to produce a grand total of 62,415 pounds of garbage And we still talk about tampon taxes as the main issue?

Is Newsweek avoiding rocking this boat: “U.S. consumers spent $3.1 billion on tampons, pads and sanitary panty liners last year.” Might the environmental impact and TSS threat raise too many waves for the industry? The campaign to cancel tampon tax seems like a safer bet. Especially when the president of the United States sees merit in it!

“In January, President Barack Obama may have become the first president to discuss menstruation continues Newsweek,Ingrid Nilsen asked him why tampons and pads are taxed as luxury items in 40 states. Obama was stunned. “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items… I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” Right on, President Obama! Your answer is honest, yet the picture presented to you was narrow in scope. It hasn’t even begun to address menstruation as the essential human matter that it is.

When Newsweek met Menstruation
it kept meandering in the suburbia
instead of marching Downtown menstrual issues!

Downtown Menstruation has many more treasures to offer, carefully overlooked by Newsweek: contemporary scientists discovered that menstrual blood is the richest source of Stem Cells, a fact seldom reported outside of scientific journals, though its implications for healing are enormous: “Compared with the stem cells from other sources, such as bone marrow and cord blood, [menstrual stem cells] are easier to collect, do not cause any harm or pain to the donor and can be collected for more than 35 years, from 12 years old to 47… menstrual stem cells could turn into different tissue types – including bone, blood vessel, fat, brain, lung, liver, pancreas and heart” And we are still focused on tampon taxes?!?

Far from cutting to the chase of menstrual matters, Newsweek loops around the elephants in the living room in order to keep the status quo. Alas, the elephants are many: From shaming women for having periods, to the risk of dying of TSS when using tampons; From overlooking the disastrous environmental impact of menstrual “hygiene” products, to ignoring the golden medicinal potential in using stem cells from menstrual blood; From denying women acceptable rest during a time designed by nature for renewal, to medicating them for the PMS symptoms caused by such denial.

How did a natural gift become “raging hormones?” Here we come full circle: contemporary cultures dropped the concept of a cycle in favor of highlighting sex. Women’s hormones started raging in physical protest against being denied time to regenerate.

The most debilitating menstrual symptoms subside and disappear when women begin to live in harmony with their cycle, stop loathing their menstrual blood, stop clogging themselves with tampons that often irritate their vagina, and take time to rest and renew monthly.

How would the world be different when half of its population returns to balance? When women stop suffering from PMS, when girls are educated about being born Cyclical, when women reclaim the gift of intuition granted by menstruation, and when cultures listen and benefit from such intuitive guidance…?
Surely, the impact of removing tampon tax will pale in comparison…


© DeAnna L’am ~ All Rights Reserved

40 Responses

  1. First time a national public forum has been broached on the subject. They can’t be blamed if they didn’t jump into the blood pool with both feet and splash around. It is a great starting place though.

  2. Thank you DeAnna. This article is full of gems to explore. I have learned from you to take extra time to pause, rest, and reflect during my period or as soon as I can afterwards if it doesn’t happen while I’m bleeding. I now look forward to taking care of myself in this way instead of experiencing my cycle as a nuisance. From this article specifically, the info on stem cells is fascinating. Your description of our society’s focus on sex while ignoring menstruation resonates with me. i also have a small critique and that relates to what you said about other cultures. I think some older cultures also had negative views on menstruation and I think that’s important to acknowledge as well. Thank you again. I expect to read this again. There is a lot to look at.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jen!
      In regards to negative views of menstruation in older cultures:
      according to my research — these have been developing with transitions to patriarchal societies.
      It is my understanding that initially there was full embrace of the entire cycle of life, which obviously includes menstruation, in all indigenous cultures.

  3. I agree Deanna. Historically and still today, matrifocal societies share two strong characteristics: veneration and stewardship of the earth and her creatures, and a positive frame for menstruation. Ecological awareness and menstrual awareness go hand in hand, which is why menstrual activism is a key element of environmentalism (and vice versa). I take the Newsweek article as a major step in the right direction — after all, it’s only very recently that the major media would even discuss menstruation. The Guardian has been doing a better job over the past two years, with articles on endometriosis, working life, tax, and cups featuring regularly. But it’s not enough, as you say, and we must continue the work of emphasising the cultural construction of menstrual experience and where and how this harms women (and society as a whole). Eventually this message will get through. We’re getting there! Many thanks for writing this.

  4. Although it is a landmark attempt at bringing awareness into mainstream, the author clearly doesn’t have a real understanding of the sacred essence, purpose or gift of the moontime. Instead it discusses the mundane, the physical, needed too, but minimizes the Sacred the source of Divine Feminine empowerment.

  5. One step at a time… the more women from different cultures recognize these deeper issues and find ways to bring them to the table, the more change we will see, from the inside out…

  6. Right on, DeAnna! Great post! I would like to encourage you to submit writings like this to major publications. The world needs to hear what you have to say! You hit every nail on the head.

  7. This is all so true.
    Only one thing I would like to add. As menstruation is so closely linked with our experiences and identities as women, it’s easy to overlook those women who don’t menstruate. It might be a medical condition, physical injury, or because a woman is transgender. We need to be sure to reassure them and support them; they are still part of the community of women even if they don’t bleed.

  8. From this flowing of blood life emerges. Repressing to talk about menstruation is avoiding to talk about life.
    Thank you, DeAnna, for your article!

  9. For the record Diva cup beats the hell out of tampons IMHO. I have always reacted badly to tampons so never really got into useing them. Finding about Diva cup has been a life saver and cut down on my pad usage. evetually I am going to switch to cloth ones its just a mater of dollars as I do not feel confident in sewing my own.

  10. Silence and dread? Although we don’t celebrate it, hated it maybe, but silence….not in my neck of the woods. We freely talk about it everywhere and with our spouses. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get what the big deal is…it is what it is, like all animals we have a cycle, big whoop.

  11. I have read reference to indigenous cultures using menstrual blood to ‘water’ the garden. Some believe the absence of this practice is what had caused the Earth to be in its current unhealthy state.

    1. Yes, most indigenous cultures did!
      Women are reclaiming this practice for more than 2 decades now, all over the world –
      using menstrual cloth pads, soaking them in water, and feeding the Earth with this nutrient rich water.
      The idea idea that the lack of this practice for many generations contributed to the Earth’s unhealthy state resonates with me… Thanks for sharing it.

    2. Its a practice here in the UK

      My dad was thrilled to have a household of women to put our menstrual blood on the veg patch.
      Also if a woman did not eat her placenta after giving birth, that too.would be buried in the herb patch returning a blessing to our Earth.

      I was taught that as our cycling comes to the end to place our blood upon the Earth as blessing to help with the transition.

      Thanks so much Deanna for the article. So beautiful that the gift of menstruation is being reclaimed.

  12. Oh thank you! I’m putting the finishing touches to my book about agriculture and how women’s right to farm the soil has been hijacked by food corporations and masculinised systems of agriculture. Your article has given me courage – I’d just inserted a passage of The Red Tent, the novel, about women’s blood being offered to the garden into my book, and how I celebrated my daughter’s own first period with her and I was wondering where others stood on the matter. Your article gives me clarity and courage to speak up in my Australian culture. Thank you DeAnna. Rachael

  13. I think it is irresponsible to suggest that cultures celebrated women during menstruation by “giving them places to rest.” While this is true in some cultures, other cultures view menstruation as a means to ostracize and prevent women from being active in their communities. In many cases, girls aren’t even allowed to go to school. The forced shame that women and girls experience because of male dominance is a serious global issue that needs to be addressed. While I appreciate the sentiment behind your post that women should embrace the renewing, natural cycle of our bodies, I think you and Newsweek and many others have missed a real opportunity to educate others in the abuses of the global rights of women. In all reality, physicians, such as yourself, should really be focusing on the continued efforts of women’s groups to fully fund women’s healthcare, and continue pressuring cultures to allow women to bleed without stigma, which in all fairness, your post does try to address.

    1. Thank you for bringing up the plight of girls in many countries who are denied access to menstrual supplies, and to education while they bleed.
      According to my research and understanding – All indigenous cultures went through a pre-patriarchal phase first, in which they all honored women, menstruation, and the cycle of life.
      The practices you describe developed as patriarchy did, in it’s shade and with its endorsement. All such cultures have ancient history that is woman-honoring, and it is important that we remember this.
      I am not a physician but an educator, and as such – I bring awareness as much as I can.

  14. Right on! I fell into the menstruation loathing mindset when I was a teenager but I quickly decided to change my view and have for decades been the only one of practically any female I know who embraces my period! In fact I talk so much about how as women we should embrace it that my husband is like “yeah I know I know it’s a beautiful thing!” lol Thank you for the great article!

  15. Very interesting article DeAnna, as always I have to say, you hit the nail on the head!
    I agree with you that there are many more nails to be hit on their head though, so true!

    It is a start though; only all women together can change these bias, repression, stigma and hate against a natural process that keeps life going on on the Planet …
    It is a question of education and awareness more than anything else, those can change the status quo.

    I would like to raise this question though for men and women: whatever the past might have been on this Planet, either that matriarchy or patriarchy might have been ruling for few or several thousands of years, isn’t it time to simply start anew and embrace Life and Nature fully?
    As menstruation is part of it, welcome Menstruation for men and women alike!!!
    To discuss what the past was doesn’t really change much in the present, the past is past!
    But we can change the future with the awareness of the Present!!
    Love to all of you!

    1. Thanks Gabriella,
      for your support and for your own work in the world!
      In response to the point you brought up:
      I bring up the past as inspiration, and as a reminder that we are not re-inventing the wheel; that this ancient wisdom was indeed the way humanity saw itself. In this light we are re-membering and evolving our own knowledge in our own present times.

  16. Oh wow ! Just thinking about menstrual blood as fertilizer – and there is your post ! My further thought had been that “males couldn’t bleed so they turned to animal sacrifice”… and there was the practice of human sacrifice in the laying of foundations… substitute after ostracizing women on their moon = women in their wisdom and spirit-time?
    … and “penis-envy” maybe the finger pointing, while the 3 fingers pointing back are “menstrual-envy”…
    Fun perspective thoughts anyway… :)

  17. Thanks DeAnna for voicing your thoughts and perspective as it is a voice that need to be heard globally for all women, men, and the earth as a whole.

    Maybe you should get an interview with News Week to continue this conversation!

    I am sharing on all my social media.

    May I share on my blog?

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Paula, and for spreading the word!
      Yes, you are welcome to share this on your blog with link to my site :-) I’ll send you my bio as well to post with it. Many blessings!

  18. I bow to you, Deanna, in Namaste….you speak for my heart and mind…and for all of us…..thank you…and so well crafted….I hope this was indeed a letter to the editor of Newsweek…..

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