Category Archives: menstruation

chapter 7 – meeting kiran gandhi, and copious toast with diandra from untabooed

20160512_225148

Upon arriving at Diandra’s place in NYC I knew I was going to feel very at home. This woman appreciates toast in all it’s forms and especially lathered with chunks of avocado. Toast in the morning, toast before bed, and fine fine bread. I was in heaven there, in her NYC pad for a while!

Would you believe it I have just stopped writing this article to actually put on some toast! (Yes you probably would believe it actually!) The very memory of spending time with lovely Diandra; quick witted, informative, to the point, super-efficient and very sweet helpful New Yorker has made me peckish and I have one piece left. I’m toasting you as I type, Diandra, quite literally (FYI with olive oil and balsamic vinegar)!!

Diandra came into my sphere and became a part of my Tour thanks (once more) to connections from Kathy and Jessamijn from EcoFemme – Oooh BUY AND USE CLOTH PADS everyone! Remember – no toxic chemicals, better for the environment, no odours, easy to fold up and carry, cheaper over the long term. I know we have to wash them, but that should be a joyful process now you know how amazing they are!!

OK, so back to the story of NYC… Apart from lots of catching up on blogging, tour-organising, and basically sleeping at Diandra’s place(!) she also took me to this cool event:

d00.CSI-Future-is-Female

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is a Lawyer and is interested in policy, because ultimately big policy changes end up affecting the most people’s lives. She shared that 14 US states have now introduced tampon tax legislation to eliminate people having to pay tax when purchasing menstrual hygiene products. She was still adamant that this could be improved and is also campaigning for legislation to support women with no income (there are still no free products available for women at homeless shelters).

Thanks to organisations like Diandra’s project UnTabooed which is centred around awareness, education and distributing free eco-friendly reusable products like cloth pads and menstrual cups to economically disadvantaged and homeless girls and women, there is a lot of valuable and amazing work being done already. But Jennifer argues that more would happen if law dictated that these people be taken care of better. She is also an advocate of free menstrual products being available in public areas to reduce the stigma around menstruation.

Oooh it was turning into an inspiring evening…

IMG_2156

And then Kiran Gandhi spoke! Feminist and musician (drummer for MIA) who free bled during the london marathon! I had posted all about her marathon on FaceBook last year and yet had NO idea I would be meeting her!!

K Gandhi

She told her marathon story; that she had an idea menstruation would be coming during the race and there was no way she was going to miss something she had worked so hard to train for; pads would not be an option because of chafing, tampons would not be an option because there was no privacy to change them en-route (competitive runners even pee themselves on the racecourse to not lose their position!) So Kiran chose to free bleed while running in the comfortable clothes she had worked so hard in to train for the race (what’s the difference between that and peeing on the move!!).

I LOVE her reaction to some of the (unfortunately negative) press she got at the end of the race. Her attitude? Its about what you do yourself to make the change. A defiant and definite “talk to me about it after you have run 26 miles” attitude. Go sister.

So what, in Kiran’s eyes can we do to make change? 4 things.

Radical activism: Shocking acts/making statements, like the marathon.
Use Media: This makes the topic relevant and accessible to many more people.
Policy and legislation: Campaign for tampon tax etc
Innovations: Ask people “what is your experience so I can help you?” Making new products / developing social enterprises, like pepole making their own cloth pads for example, or sustainably providing education.

And what, in the panel’s eyes can the average woman do about social justice change?

Prioritize our own comfort and advocate for the same comfort for everyone. Be brave enough to talk about menstruation with each other, for example continuing to talk about menstruation related topics even if a male colleague comes up to you. Being truthful. Instead of saying we have a ‘bad stomach’ explain that we have ‘severe menstrual cramps which are making me uncomfortable and I need an hour off work to feel better’ Honouring that and ourselves enough to do that.
Learning to to believe in the power of your own voice – creating a dialogue. Being brave. We are privileged to have a voice so let’s use it.

YESSSSSSSS!

IMG_2159 (1)

Women in the audience ranged from menstrual activists and business women alike; Vera Papisova wellness editor of Team Vogue, Jill Miller head of the NYC chapter of Days for Girls, and a woman representing Maxim organic disposable pads, plus Diandra and me!

Huge cities like NYC have Menstrual Activist evenings almost every night of the week, but for me it was a refreshing blast of no-nonsense common sense debate. I enjoyed every second.

I mustn’t go without showing you a pair of sustainable cycles socks on a real life sustainable cycler’s feet – Ruby’s! She modelled this pair of the funky ankle variety and then kindly gifted me a pair to take home. What a privilege!

20160512_174943

Next I meander into Wild West Country to Colorado where things hot up and I attempt 3 workshops in 3 days…!

Advertisements

chapter 4 – a morning at harvard with chris bobel and ecofemme’s ilana at brandeis university

IMG_1181

My meeting with Chris auspiciously aligned with the publishing of a very special edition of Newsweek. The April 29th edition with a red cover and a tampon on it; a joyous moment of celebration for menstrual activists around the globe! At last Periods had hit the big media! The Newsweek issue, called ‘There Will Be Blood’ reported in a very excellent article that in no uncertain terms….. ‘the crimson tide is turning.’!! Yessss!!

Having taken the train to Harvard (on the very aptly named ‘Red Line’ hahaha!) surrounded by hundreds of exceptionally brainy students, and forced to listen in to technical conversations about web-building, engineering and other such baffling-ness, Kyle and I made our way to meet Chris who had kindly made us time out of her massively busy schedule around graduation. Graduation sends everyone within the vicinity of a University into a frenzy of busy-ness and I remember it well. So a HUUUUGE thank you, Chris – I had a blast meeting you!!

We found her upstairs in an extremely crowded but very gorgeous coffee shop and we both had the pleasure of a wonderfully warm and rapturous hug-welcome from this fantastically bubbly and bright energetic woman. Chris is a VIP in the Menstrual activist world; president for the Society of Menstrual Cycle Research and a professor at the University of Massachusetts, author of incredible books such as New Blood – Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, and as if that weren’t enough, a mother…! How do you fit it all in, Chris?

We chatted a little about our work (Kyle with her Thesis on EcoFemme’s study about Menstrual Hygiene knowledge behaviour and practices among school girls in rural Tamil Nadu, India and me about my Happy Tour bumbling around this huge country with a back pack) and it was not too long before Chris pulled out a copy of the famous Newsweek and flicked excitedly through it’s pages. It felt VERY EXCITING to see a woman who has done so much as a menstrual activist waving around a copy of Newsweek in which she had been interviewed and which she ended up gifting me – utter glee! A breakthrough of sorts! Periods hit the headlines!

So happy to see her smile – this is what it looked like from the other side of the table!

IMG_1178

Kyle and Chris, both extremely knowledgeable and academic got into some deep discussions about issues around menstruation, eco-products, solving problems, breaking the taboo, politics, organizations like EcoFemme out there doing their bit for the environment, and sustainability around menstruation. I loved listening in, learning about the different articles they discussed, different points of view, and the different work they had both done. Kyle had read Chris’ book (link above) and a very interesting conversation soon sprang up around feminism, gender and the queering of menstruation. Since my session in Bluestockings Bookstore in NYC when we were invited to introduce ourselves as a name then personal pronoun (for example “I’m Jane and I identify with she/her”), my learning curve about using words like ‘menstruators’ rather than ‘women’ and not assuming that everyone coming to my events is female has been steep rewarding and interesting.

P1000779

Thanks to the Bluestockings event and some excellent conversations with Sarah and Ruby (Sustainable Cycles) Diandra (UnTabooed) and Rox (embodyperiod) I have started to use non-gender specific wording in my workshop literature, as I believe it is most important not to exclude anyone who menstruates. I want to be inclusive and try to deepen my understanding of people and how they relate to the menstrual cycle from many different personal circumstances backgrounds and societal conditioning. Like in every circumstance in life – to try to be open to listening – and not assuming that people’s backgrounds or the way the experience the world is in any way similar to my own! I have made a bit of a pact with myself to try to do this by using better language in my workshops but not to beat myself up about it if I get something wrong! Language is wonderful and needed for us to communicate anything and labels are needed to describe ourselves and how we see the world, but language is not infallible and can easily be misinterpreted.

So far I am happy to tell you that the response to this has been terrific! I have had feedback from people who see my facebook events and comment how glad they are written in a  gender-neutral way. In several workshops people who identify as she/her have often expressed their appreciation at my approach with gender issues. For me these are very encouraging remarks and are helping me to develop how I deliver my work in a more inclusive way.

Anyway back to Chris and the story – well, after that chat I have never left a coffee shop so enthused buzzing and excited! I immediately phoned Lee to tell him I had met Chris Bobel Supreme Menstrual Activist and that she had officially welcomed me to the “Menstruati” (a phrase coined by her’ friend and menstrual activist Chella Quint)

Oooh I must have babbled away for at least 10 minutes about it…!! Lee, (the most wonderful and supportive partner I could ever wish for in my wildest dreams) celebrated with me from Spanish shores and raised his glass from afar… Thank you Lee XXXxxxx

20160502_165724Pretty Boston blossom…

So the workshop that followed this wonderful meeting (which ended too soon, but hey Chris is a busy woman and to have met her was indeed a bucket-list honour!) was at another Boston University called Brandeis….. Brandeis HERE I COME!!!!!

Hello Ilana!!

IMG_0619

Ilana is a fellow EcoFemme ambassador!! She had a room pre-booked at the University, which upon arrival appeared a little sterile compared with the wealth of homes and apartments I had given my work in before. However quickly, and with Ilana and my skills of serious creativity (proving ourselves to be interior designers extraordinaire); we got on the case and it soon became clear that this little room was going to be a very cool place to have the workshop indeed…. The group before us had left a lot of coffee and some snacks behind which we happily munched and sipped as we set up (how could one waste a GALLON of coffee?)

My cloth circle looked beautiful on the table; and when Ilana had finished laying out her EF pad range on the window sill we had a very cool looking room ready for the women to walk into complete with tons of snacks for everyone to munch on courtesy of Ilana! Thank you millions and millions for those tasty bits and pieces, it was very thoughtful kind and perfect. All in all I felt very honoured that there was a cosy warm room for us in the University anthropology dept surrounded by Native American artifacts like a hopi bowl… it felt very special indeed! And by the way, Boston was FREEZNG! I have never been so cold after deciding (in all my wisdom) to leave my warm clothing with Ruby in NYC..!

P1000775.JPG

And what a wonderful group stepped in through the door; average ages were little older than the workshop before. I think (from memory) these women were more or less experiencing natural body cycles as a result or either leaving birth control or having not been on it in the first place.

When I asked the general question ‘which part of the cycle do you feel least at home in’ there were very decisive answers! I felt these women knew their bodies reasonably well but they were still super-open to hear what I had to share. It was an honour to meet and work with these people; a super group.

P1000782

We whipped through the cycle work once more and then we did the visualization which seemed to have a great deal of impact on the women. They were all willing to share their images; many of which were the same/similar to other members of the group! I found this psychic link extremely interesting as it had occurred at another group too, seemingly with no suggestion or prompting and with very random images that everyone saw….The power of the collective mind?!

This time the Summer / Ovulation image depicted a huge vast space with a tiny person inside; like a glass dome kind of thing; people were feeling lost in their ovulatory phases. Interesting stuff, Ovulation to me is a bit of a dark horse; a time (archetypically) to be so ‘big and out there’. But what if our personality doesn’t like being big and out there? Just realising this kind of subtle info about yourself can help navigate the stages of the menstrual cycle so much…. and this is why I do this work – it REALLY helps people!

Again, the women were happy that they had given themselves some ‘me-time’ in hearing and experiencing this work at a very busy exam time, and I felt it had really been useful especially after all the excited supportive feedback. Ilana, the ever professional EcoFemme product demonstration expert did a talk afterwards about eco-alternatives to plastic disposables and one woman (who fell in love with EF’s cloth pads as I had done when I first saw them) was heard to exclaim “I cant wait for my next period cos I get to use these lovely cloth pads”!! Just hearing this comment made me happier and more committed to telling everyone about these wonderful products than I have ever been before. And that’s saying something!!

P1000777

Afterwards we drove into the city and Ilana treated me to a vegan meal at The Red Lentil, Boston. We sat in the restaurant eating fresh and beautifully cooked food with a chocolate dessert to die for – oh my goodness it was GOOD. We were almost the last ones in the restaurant and didn’t want to leave. There seemed so much to find out about each other, and life on the road is often like this – a series of wishing I could have more time with each and every person!

IMG_0621

My time with Ilana was short but sweet and she kindly drove me back to Fairmount and my bed on the sofa at Kyle’s. I was sadly about to leave Boston (after a few more free meals at Tufts University and getting ill with a fluey cold…) and in truth I didn’t want to leave – it a wonderful rich and fun time with new and very cool friends.

Soon I would be in for the overnight bus ride from hell and living, for a while, in a commune in Washington DC… all in the next chapter :)!!

birth of the magical menstrual tour and the power of menstruation

P1060052

Hello lovely people!

A warm welcome to Woman’s Wheel Worldwide! Here I’m going to explain what I am hoping to do with the work I am passionate about, and how the dream of the Magical Menstrual Tour became reality…

The story…It was a particularly warm autumnal day, and I was lying in the field outside our little cottage in Wales, listening to the grass-hoppers and watching the skylarks, pondering and dreaming to myself about how I was going to spread my ‘menstrual message’ to women beyond my local red tent. As my thoughts drifted contentedly away like the little clouds above me, I started imagining (as I often do) unexplored lands far and near. Then I suddenly came up with an idea that is now completely changing the course of my life!

Here’s how it went, roughly in this order, in my head: “Ahhhhh, I loved giving that menstrual cycle workshop to the women of Red Tent Gwynedd the other day… I so love red tents and the sacred spaces that are created by women just gathering…. travelling to new places is amazing, I would really love to travel next year. What if I could deliver my workshop to more Red Tent groups? What if these groups were overseas? Oh Wow!!

Then this idea hit me and I knew in a single heart-beat that it was the right thing to do and that I was going to make it happen! This chance for me to give, to connect to expand and grow, to learn, to listen…

I sat bolt upright and grabbed my notebook, and my plan very quickly became this:

“To throw on my backpack… be like a menstrual pilgrim on the road!
Hang out with menstrual activists, wise women, ‘red tent’ groups, ‘moon mothers’, and visit their Red Tents/Groups.
Deliver my menstrual cycle awareness workshop, give my eco-activism presentation in exchange for voluntary donations (a roof over my head, a bite to eat, travel money to get me from one place to the next) so that everyone can come and listen without financial pressure.
Trust that it can work, meet happy sunny open welcoming women all over the world…. and make it a pilgrimage of sharing and giving!”

It felt GOOD.

P1240725

Since the original idea that day in September 2014 I have felt a calling to travel to the USA; the Red Tent movement is huge, and there is a community of incredible women already working to spread the positivity. I am hoping to leave the UK in April 2016 starting in America!

I also decided to do these things too: Speak about menstruation to the men in a separate workshop (partners or friends of the women’s circle), experience some of USA’s big red tent or women’s events, continue with the eco-activism work I do (raising awareness of alternatives to disposable menstrual products)…. oh and to learn how to play my little ukulele in Hawaii….!

P1230199

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to hear that I was menstruating at the time of all this joyous inspiration! It just came flooding out of me, like I had tapped into a deep well of creativity. The way I typically experience menstruation is that the beginning part is dreamy and drifty with no ability to concentrate whatsoever and very few thoughts – here it is easy to spiral into a menstrual low of dwindling energy and crabbiness. But if I rest well and I am fortunate, this thing happens (especially towards the end of my period) and it becomes a hot time for inspiration, writing, thinking and certain forms of communication. My thoughts become focused and clear, and I have new ideas, exciting day and night dreams.

Every woman is different in what she experiences during her menstrual cycle, but currently (and in indigenous past) menstruation is being seen once more as a rich and deep time for the woman to listen out for something. As babies come from the fertilization of the egg during ovulation, so can come ‘idea children’ during menstruation. Both can be life changing….!

P1060052

woman black