This may be a contentious statement but the fact is that as women we are biologically, psychologically and spiritually different to men. I will say that again just to be clear, women are biologically, psychologically and spiritually different to men.
Our differences by no means diminish our intelligence or our capability to achieve great things within business, politics or whatever career we may choose. But I don’t believe ‘equality’ is achieved by women trying to be more ‘male’. In fact, I see this notion as being more ‘sexist’, than understanding and embracing our differences as women and the uniqueness these differences we have to offer.
In a misguided notion of ‘equality’ our differences have been forgotten or intentionally suppressed in attempts to make us ‘equal’.
As women, we should be taught to embrace our womanhood, be in tune with our bodies and what it is capable of. Instead, our attempts at equality diminish the very ‘womanhood’ we are supposedly fighting for.
Our womanhood and our miraculous ability to produce new life is seen as a nuisance and something to be ashamed and annoyed by. A reason why we may be potentially ‘unreliable’ in the workforce.
It is true that during the bleeding phase of the menstrual cycle there is a natural decrease in our external senses of sight, smell, hearing. This is of course not to say that we can’t see, smell or hear during this period, it is simply to say that the internal senses are heightened in preference to these external senses. We are prone to more introspection, more thinking and feeling and a desire to rest and withdraw.
Unfortunately, this is seen as a weakness. Western society tells us that women should be able to do anything they choose during their period. Whilst I fully believe in and applaud the choices and opportunities we have available to us now, I feel these can be better embraced by having an understanding of our natural menstrual cycle. I believe understanding and embracing these natural changes makes us stronger, not weaker.
There can be many advantages to the increase in introspection and feelings experienced during the period. Having a true understanding of your cycles enables you to work with your hormones and have these changes work for you, not against you.
However, these days, not only do we not understand our menstrual cycles, we get rid of them!
From a young age, The Pill is frequently used to artificially take control of natural hormonal function. It is regularly prescribed for anything from skin complaints and acne to heavy or painful periods, irregular cycles or hormonal imbalance and of course contraception.
However, The Pill doesn’t actually fix any of these issues or the underlying hormonal imbalance, it simply takes over.
The Pill is very convenient. It allows women to be sexually active at will with little concern of unwanted pregnancy. It controls the cycle to such a degree that many women regularly ‘skip’ the monthly bleed because it interferes with their daily lives. The Pill enables us to conveniently shut down and tune out to our natural reproductive functions because our femininity is seen as an inconvenience and a weakness.
I have seen women who have taken The Pill for twenty plus years. These women frequently have very little understanding of their natural cycle. Of course, now there are also options of vaginal rings and skin implants which completely stop any bleeding and any real awareness of our natural reproductive cycle. Any real awareness of our own womanhood.
So, when it comes time that they want to start a family, it is surprising that difficulties are experienced?
I speak with many women who have been trying for years to conceive both naturally and through IVF. Yet when I pose simple questions about their cycle and their timing of ovulation, most are unaware even if they are ovulating, let alone when. Most have little understanding of the fertile window, how long it is, when it is, with many women believing that it is possible to fall pregnant at any time within the cycle.
This belief is perpetuated by the fact that medical contraceptive methods are used continuously, throughout the cycle with women firmly advised that is they miss even one dose they could fall pregnant. Whilst this is true, it does give rise to an understanding than pregnancy can be achieved at any stage of the cycle. When in reality there is only a 24-hour window, post ovulation as the egg travels down the fallopian tube to the womb each month, when conception can be achieved.
We are taught a great deal in school about sexual health and contraception, an important and valid message and one which has allowed us more freedoms and a sense of equality in sexual expression. Yet on the flip side, we receive little education about our fertility health. This gives rise to a belief (which I held before trying to conceive), that pregnancy is easily achieved. In fact, so easily that extreme precautions must be taken to ensure it doesn’t accidentally occur. Again, a valid message, however, not countering this message with education about natural fertility is taking away women’s options and freedoms, not enhancing them.
I believe women should be taught from the time they start menstruating, about their natural reproductive cycle. They should be taught how to tune in to their body’s natural rhythms, gain an understanding of ovulation and the fertile window and be able to make informed decisions about their contraception options and the potential longer-term implications these options may have on their fertility.
Young women should be taught to have a healthier mindset when it comes to menstruation and the miraculous biological functions occurring within the body, which make it capable of giving rise to new life.
Today, I am fascinated by this process. By our body’s ability to take two separate entities and combine them to start a new heart beating and new life living. Yet, back in my teenage years, school yard talk centred around the inconvenience of it all. Anything that could take control of or get rid of this monthly bleeding was embraced.
However, instead of relinquishing control and shutting down our body’s natural reproductive cycle we should be taking control. Instead of supressing our unique differences as women, we should be embracing them.
I believe as women we are capable of achieving almost anything we set our mind to. However, I don’t believe this is achieved by suppressing the very womanhood which we are supposedly fighting for. The unfortunate side effect is, that when we do decide we want our womanhood back. When we decide that we want to embrace our natural fertility, fall pregnant and become Mothers, it may be too late.