WWS - How to talk about... well... everything female...
I think you would agree, most women who sign up for conferences and summits that are primarily about women, or are part of Facebook communities such as the ones Stasha and Katie have fostered, are generally, a lot more in touch with themselves, or at least striving to be... They know (or are yearning to know) more about themselves, their bodies, their cycles, their health, than most other women.
I am going try and give you some advice about speaking to the younger generation. I am no expert, but having spent over a decade developing products that help women maintain a healthy, environmentally friendly menstrual cycle, I have had almost every "period" conversation there is to have.
So here I am, harnessing as much wisdom as I can muster so that you guys can talk with clarity about women, and hopefully raise a generation of young people who do not feel a taboo around women's health, menstruation, #ecocycles, and sexual health!
But we still feel a horrible sense of "eek"- ness when we think about the idea of talking about our bodies with our children. No matter how learned you are in speaking about periods, hormones, and growing up, there's still something inside that makes you feel a little awkward.
You might be über excited because you have the chance to speak with a young girl about her period, and you consequently come off looking like a period fan-girl, dressed in your uterus costume walking out of your very first menstrual-con. You might be trying to pull off the cool aunt thing, of using the right words and talking about it as if it no big deal, all while reading the latest copy of Cosmo (while inside your heart is racing and you're praying that your "niece" won't notice the beads of sweat that are dripping down your forehead). You might be so calm and collected that you don't realise the poor girl you are talking to is fighting generations of taboos to even talk about this stuff with you, and unknowingly, you've made her feel ashamed for even asking.
Dude! It is a thing! This embarrassment... whether it be us as grown women, or them as young women... the taboo-ness of menstrual cycles is here! But we today we are going squash it! We are going to develop a plan on how to talk to the young women (and men) in our lives about bodies, menstrual cycles, growing up - AND the environment... Because we, YOU and ME(!!!), all are going to save the world ONE PERIOD AT A TIME!
So, how are we going to do that? I am going to give you ten steps of things you can think about before, during and after a talk about all the taboo topics!
1. KNOW THIS!
Every gender and sexuality needs to know about menstrual cycles. Every boy has a mother, grandmother, aunty, sister, cousin. Many will have girlfriends, wives and daughters. You may feel like because you only have sons you have skipped at least one awkward conversation - Sorry! That is not the case... Be available to talk to anyone who needs to hear the menstrual message... which is everyone you are responsible for turning into functioning members of society.
2. Be Prepared
There's certain things you need to know when having a talk about menstruation. The most obvious is the proper names for body parts. It is far to easy to refer to everything down there as "vagina" - I do it, you do it, most do it. Vagina, Vagina, Vagina. But honestly, apart from it just not being correct, it makes it so much easier to explain everything if you refer to everything properly. Then there is less of "the bit of the vagina that..." and more "it's called the..." - Everyone becomes more exact about what happens where.
Also, know the hows and whys of periods. How it happens, why it happens, when it happens... You might presume you know why something happens, but double check your facts just to make sure. Why do you cramp? What makes it worse? What makes it better? What is Ovulation? Know it all, in your own language, in your own words. Be factual.
These kind of talks can lead to lots of different places; School, friends, pimples, body shape, stresses, mental health, Netflix (don't laugh! It happens!)... You'll be surprised where a talk about cycles can end up, but only if you allow room to listen. Use the 80/20 rule if you need to. 80% listening, 20% talking. That way you will be allowing space not only for questions, but for the person you are talking to, to embrace the safe space you are creating to open up about ANYTHING else that might be on their mind.
4. What is happening to me?
Look, there's every chance that there is going to be a bit a freak out... "What is happening to me?", "I don't understand why I'm like this!", "I can't stop crying!". These are all statements I have heard come from my daughter's mouth, in all her pre-teen angst, in the middle of our conversations. She does it because she knows she's safe, that there is NOTHING she can tell me that I won't support her through. She freaks out to me because she knows that our house, and I, am a safe space for her.
The key here is don't freak out back! Support, support, support! Remember the emotions and feelings and confusion you had as a pre-teen, and be the support you (wish you) had!
5. Be Vulnerable
Okay, if you have ever been pregnant, you know all the horror stories you get told. You know the stories. "I had a 72 hour labour" and "Morning sickness? When I was pregnant I was vomiting for 9 months straight!" or "I was worried about being constipated after birth, so I ate so much dried fruit during labour that I ended up poo-ing when I was delivering the baby!"
While there is a level of overshare which I am sure we have all experienced from someone in our lives, there is also a level of being vulnerable.
I have never shied away from telling the "I could never get the pad in the right place so I was always bleeding on my school chair" story, but I have ALWAYS been at pains to say "you know what, we are going to do everything we can to avoid that situation, but if it does, it's okay. Here's what to do".
And while you are at it, teach our boys (and girls) to not make fun of others when something like this happens them. Teach compassion, and graciousness, and a spirit of helping those who are embarrassed, or afraid.
6. Be Relevant
Now, I'm not saying that you need to be down with all the modern lingo, or be hip with the cool kids... because that sounds about as cool as your Aunt Myrtle talking about her favourite tuna casserole recipe. But there is an element of being aware of all the influences that are on the teenage life, from social media, to advertising, to tv shows and movies, to technology. Good and bad, they all have an opportunity to help us shape a conversation in the best possible way.
Tampon adverts for YEARS have shown women suffering with their period and then in the next show magically dressed in a skimpy white bikini frolicking in the surf. We (being the smart, free, and learned women that we are) know that neither of these images are, or need to be, factual.
Shape the conversation. Stay relevant.
7. Be There
This goes without saying - because it should be the social norm regardless of the conversation - but when you are in the midst of the conversation, be in the conversation. Don't scroll Facebook (unless it's to message Julilah to ask us a question). Don't Instagram the coffee you're drinking and hash tag it #havingTHETALKwithmydaughter #GoodCoffee. Don't answer the phone, read a magazine, write a blog... None of these things will allow you to be truly THERE! When you are THERE for someone, BE THERE!
And this goes for every single day. Make sure they know that you are always going to be there for whatever they are going through, because those teenage years can be cray-cray, and if they know someone has their back, that can make ALL the difference.
8. Be Real - Be Casual
My husband was delivered the birds and the bees talk while doing the dishes with his Father. While it was still awkward, it was comfortable, normal. The bigger deal you make over it, the more you will get the "OMG! STOP TALKING!" reaction. Keep it calm, keep it cool, keep it real!
We are trying to grow a generation of women (and men) who are not ashamed of normal bodily functions - and menstruation is DEFINITELY normal! If you are standing next to the sanitary products in the store, and you're asked if they are good, don't shy away, don't be embarrassed. Just say it! All adults know about periods, there is NOTHING to be embarrassed by... and use it as a great time to bring up ecocycles!
Because you know that needs to be talked about more! Speak louder and let the woman picking out her latest tampax know there is another option...
Here we go! This is my jam! This is where my wheel house is!
ALWAYS share about EcoCycles! They are so important for SO many reasons!
Using cloth and reusable products are SOOOOO much healthier for you. Almost everyone I have ever sold a pad to has told me that their period has gotten lighter, or less painful, or their cycle more regular, OR ALL THREE!! Imagine that! I said in my summit interview that someone needs to commission a study into WHY these things happen! All I can say is, bring it on! I went from a 5 week cycle with a gushy, painful period to a on the dot 28 day cycle and a 5 day bleed, with much less pain. If i have any cramping now it is for about half a day on day 1 or 2. Amazeballs!
Using cloth or resuable products is WAY better for the environment. If you want to know more you need to head to this article. There is absolutely, conclusive proof that sanitary products and disposable items are destroying the environment.
Make sure that our daughters have all the information about the environment to know that there are eco options out there. Make sure our sons know that there are ways they can support their partners!
Well thanks for joining us at the Womb Wellness Summit. I hope that I have been of some help to you. If you want to ask any further questions or give any feedback please feel free to contact me, or ask me any questions on any of Stasha's pages on Facebook.