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How You May Be Unconsciously Self-shaming

How You May Be Unconsciously Self-shaming - The Sabi

By Nikka Melchor

Take a moment to think about your period. 

Abdominal pain. Discomfort during daily tasks. Moodiness. For many women, the thought of the monthly cycle is full of dread. Several studies show that relating around PMS pain, emotions and discomfort are a common (and negative) way many women communicate amongst each other about their menstrual cycles - and to an extent - about themselves.

All this negative talk about menstruation has a term, it's aptly called “Menstrual Moaning." It may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. While many of us implement rituals and routines of self-love and self-care through skin care, diets, and exercise, we often overlook the positive aspects of being hormonal and the importance and benefits of our cycle and menstruating.

What exactly is menstrual moaning rooted in? Here, we explore how it does more harm than good, and how we, as women, have the power to change the narrative around an integral, natural monthly process.  


Phase 1: it starts with period shame

Girls are taught to be secretive…and silent about menstruation because it is a taboo.

The concept was introduced by Maureen McHugh — professor, researcher, and writer of feminist psychology and related topics — in one of her writings in the area of menstruation studies where she associated menstrual moaning to the stigmas tied to menstruation, especially menstrual shame.

McHugh suggests that from a young age, girls are taught to be secretive and at times, silent about menstruation because it is, indeed, a taboo. In fact, 58% of women and more than half of teenage girls experience period shame or embarrassment. It may range from receiving a comment from your partner about your mood, being called hysterical or hormonal in a negative way, to being told by a co-worker that talking about periods in the workplace is inappropriate, period shame comes in different forms and is pervasive in our culture. 

THINX funded research— a brand committed to sustainable solutions to menstruation — found that almost half (42%) of the female population around the world are victims of period shaming, resulting in the concealing of everything period-related.

McHugh asserts, if we do decide to say something about menstruation, the tone is often in the form of a complaint about the pain and the symptoms, which may be more culturally acceptable. She adds that being ashamed is “so deeply rooted” that most women cannot even think of one positive attribute for such a natural, cyclical and  important process.

Phase 2: negativity taking over

The more negative the language we use,
the more we enable others to do the same.

Maybe associating your period to embarrassment, disgust, and inconvenience in conversation is normal because it’s true. Almost all women have experienced at least one bad period from adolescence to adulthood, right? However, McHugh powerfully argues that the activity of regularly engaging in menstrual moaning is what is unhealthy as, in reality, it's a form of self-shaming.

The more negative the language we use, the more we enable others to do the same. For example if you call your period problematic, then it furthers the idea that women should be avoided when they’re PMS-ing. Or if you use the word “sticky” to describe the feeling, it gives others a reason to call women “dirty” whilst menstruating. It is through shared experiences that women create connections with other women; we are wired towards more socially-oriented, collective bonding. Menstrual moaning becomes the conduit for that bonding. 

In a time when body empowerment is becoming more of a thing amongst women, the concept of empowerment through a positive relationship with our period sometimes gets disregarded. It may be because not all women see periods as an integral process and thus rename our periods to terms like Auntie Flo, the crimson wave, or being on the rag. Renaming periods is common and according to the  THINX study, 47% of women do it to make it acceptable for others. Many of us don’t see periods as an opportunity to connect with our bodies, but merely as a series of symptoms and something to get through or get over.


Phase 3: a positive shift 

Talking about periods out loud with acceptance and without shame will help shift the narrative around menstruation.

As women, talking more positively about our periods and hormones is a first step in shifting the dialogue.  It may seem impossible when the thought of positive aspects of the menstrual cycle is difficult to conceptualise for many young women when culture views it otherwise. So how do we change this narrative and start embracing our monthly cycle for the blessing it is?

It starts with you. Take some time to discover more about your cycle and start practising cyclical living, which means getting attuned with your body and honoring your hormones, rather than turning against them. Through tracking your cycle and recognising patterns in your body, you can plan your life better around your strengths and weaknesses according to your cycle and also find tools to help prevent your specific symptoms once you know what they are and when they crop up. This is made easy, thanks to downloadable apps such as Flo Living and FitrWomen. Explore these excellent books on cyclical living for more period positivity, such as Maisie Hill’s ‘Period Power’ to help you work towards cycle harmony and educate yourself with everything else you need to know about your period, including how to optimize your fertility from Alissa Vitti in ‘Woman Code.’ Include your partner in the conversation by communicating your symptoms, expected period arrival, and even your fertility timeline. Teaching it to others is also a powerful move in changing the narrative for yourself, especially if it wasn’t necessarily taught to you.

If you’re a mom, sister, or in a position to influence and educate young girls, educate them before their first period as their understanding of menstruation as a normal biological process is not yet clear. This will build their confidence and lessen the shame. Relaying this to young boys is equally important. Sharing these approaches will organically transform the process of menstrual moaning to period positivity and normalising periods globally.

Loving your period is not a requirement nor is it something to force… Yet the act of talking about periods out loud with acceptance and without shame, being open to using the terms “blood” and “menstruation”, and acknowledging the beauty it brings to your womanhood – especially around other women – will force change the narrative around menstruation. It’s an essential step that will begin to break this unconscious self-shaming.

Let’s break the cycle of contagious menstrual moaning and start talking about our periods, hormones, and cycle with positivity and daresay, appreciation – transforming dread into celebration and shame into pride.

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HORMONAL & PROUD

Created as a brand to help women navigate the toughest moments in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum — and practically every stage of life, the SABI aims to change the narrative around our hormones from one of taboo, embarrassment and loneliness, to awareness and even pride. Much more than a wellness brand, SABI offers a carefully crafted line of products to carry you through your hormonal journey; a set of rituals, supportive tools, and ancient herbal remedies that have been tested time and again by women and now, backed by medicine. SABI is a blend of science and nature conceived by women who have experienced the joys and deep implications of bringing a child into the world or the pains of a heavy and difficult period, miscarriage and difficulty conceiving. 

Here is an invitation to get to know your body and its cycles better and to really understand what is going on inside. Learn to use your hormonal cycle to your advantage no matter your stage of life, and know that you can always support and balance your hormone levels. Look for the right sources of information, know that there is help, and know that you’re supported.

ABOUT NIKKA

Nikka is a copywriter and Associate Creative Director by day and singer-songwriter by night, based in Manila, Philippines. From creating commercials under an agency, she transitioned to independently collaborating with different people within the music community, as well as organisations in the area of social development, and now entering the beauty and wellness space with the SABI. Walking her dog + food trips + film photography are her favourite pastimes.


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SOURCES

  1. Grampa, C. (2020). What is Cyclical Living and Why You Should Track Your Menstrual Cycle. https://citygirlnetwork.com/magazine/cyclical-living 
  2. McHugh, M. (2020). Menstrual Shame: Exploring the Role of ‘Menstrual Moaning’. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565666/
  3. Siebert, V. (2018). Nearly half of women have experienced ‘period shaming’.  https://nypost.com/2018/01/03/nearly-half-of-women-have-experienced-period-shaming/
  4. Nearly half of US women have experienced ‘period shaming’. https://menstrualhygieneday.org/nearly-half-us-women-experienced-period-shaming/
  5. Unicef. (2018). Fast Facts: Nine things you didn’t know about menstruation. https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/fast-facts-nine-things-you-didnt-know-about-menstruation
  6. Quint, C. (2021). Be Period Positive: Reframe your thinking and reshape the future of menstruation. DK Publishing. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Ek4vEAAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

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