One of the things I notice in Red Tent work is how little information women had about their own fertility cycles as girls and young women. I feel like my own mother was more attentive than many in preparing me for my body’s changes with puberty, but I only really learned about my own fertility (vs. just periods and how to cope with them) after having my first baby. I am convinced that how girls learn to relate to their bodies during menstruation has a big impact on how they relate to their bodies during birth and breastfeeding. I don’t find it coincidental that our culture expresses an overall avoidance of menstruation and fertility (other than “don’t get pregnant” and “here’s all the ways to pretend that you’re not a cyclical being, but instead are always the same and no one should ever know that you’re menstruating”) AND also medicates women during childbirth and considers breastfeeding a “private matter” and “personal choice.” These events, the reproductive transitions of the female body, are largely supposed to remain culturally invisible.
Here is an interesting article about what we need to teach young women about their bodies:
At the clinic I rarely met women, young or old, who understand their fertility and what happens during the menstrual cycle. They all know about the blood, although not always why they bleed. But few know anything about what happens between periods. No one has told them. Why have we kept this information from young women? Why do we tell them they can get pregnant any time of the month? If it’s to encourage young people to use protection when they have sex, it doesn’t seem to work.
It also turns out that the age of first menstruation can have a lifelong impact on many areas of a woman’s life:
From academic success to cancer risk, research increasingly shows that the age at which a girl gets her period—called “menarche”—can have a significant impact on her life. These findings are especially notable given that, around the world, the average age of menarche has dropped steadily since the 1950s. With new studies coming out regularly about girls going through puberty earlier, we were curious: What’s causing this global decline—and what are the potential long-term consequences?
In my own local Red Tent Circle, we’ve been talking about having a “Pink Tent” event for girls this fall or early next year. My little girl desperately wants to go to a red tent with me! She asks every month if she can come with me. So, I’m hoping to plan and priestess a mother-daughter based event soon in addition to my women-only events. I enjoyed this article recently about planning a mother-daughter body-gratitude ritual:
Break the generational cycle of body shame and body dissatisfaction, and enjoy special intimate time with your daughter. This is a beautiful way to start the day or to seed your dreams before bed. Ideally, meet in the same spot at about the same time each day…
Speaking of Women’s Circle work, here is a good resource on The Twelve Tenets of Circle Work.
And, speaking of circles + teenage girls + women’s friendships, here is an article on The Art of Loving and Losing Female Friends.
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