Writing by Stacey Teague // Photograph by Sarah Bernhard
Bleeding is a loss, but a cleansing one. So that is what people tell me. It is a healthy process and something the body needs to do, but it can feel like a cruel and unusual punishment. A female-only affliction. As much as I dread it every month, I can at least feel comforted by the autonomy of my body. The rhythms. When it comes down to it, you have to let the blood flow out.
I like talking about menstruation; there is a safeness to be felt amongst other women, how we all bleed in the same way. The same things in our body betray us, try to make us weaker, but we only get stronger. It’s the blood that moves, is always moving.
The way that men cringe when we talk about it is just another way we are made to feel ashamed. It creates a stigma around being female. We grow up and we learn better, we learn not to hide ourselves. Now we can linger in the feminine hygiene section, and proudly display our tampons in the self-checkout line.
As young girls, we are made to believe that periods are dirty, that we ourselves are unsanitary. So when I read that what is released from our body during this time is pure and clean, it came as a revelation. What happens in our bodies when we menstruate is important, it should make us feel powerful, like our own super power. You feel every part of yourself in the best and worst way.
– the blood soaked through your underwear and pajamas in the night
– scrubbing in the laundry sink and the red water
– the jeans worn on the plane were blood-stained and dried that way
– the expensive sheets were bloody and he was angry, and you laughed
– the high school chair had a pool of it
These things are what make us; define the female experience. The humiliation and pain, but ultimately the acceptance, and the connection to each other that we feel through these things.
It’s also a time when you can give attention to yourself, be attuned to your body, instead of how we’ve been made to feel distant from it, alien. It’s a ritual we perform every month. I’m not saying a period is spiritual, but it doesn’t hurt to think of yourself as sacred.[share]