Essay: Normalizing Mother Nature – women and girls shouldn’t live in shame about their bodies

Photograph by Samantha Sophia

By Destinee Lang

I was 10 and my favorite show was Hannah Montana. I loved Bratz dolls and getting up on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons.

However, one Saturday morning for me was different. My stomach ached, but it wasn’t a normal ache that I have felt before. It groaned in agony. “Was it something that I ate? The milk must be bad,” I thought to myself.

I decided to go to the bathroom. Upon pulling down my pants I witnessed something frightening. Dark thick goo. But what is it? I was far too old to have had an accident, I thought. I inspected the mystery of the underpants further. The dark thick goo was actually red. Blood. There’s blood in my underwear. Shock ran through my tiny adolescent body. “It’s happening!”

I reflected on “the talk” I had with my mom and I knew what this meant— I was becoming a woman. Or my body was – at the age of 10.  “But it can’t be,” I said to myself while still on the toilet. “I can’t be yet! I need to finish my cartoons.”

The embarrassment I felt to tell anyone was too grave. How do I tell someone I have dark thick goo in my underwear at 10-years-old? So, I stuffed my pants with toilet paper, pulled them up and proceeded to go enjoy my Saturday morning cartoons with an aching stomach and an untreated situation.

But why was I embarrassed? Isn’t this a normal thing that every young girl must go through eventually?

In an article written by The New York Post, 58% of women said they have felt a sense of embarrassment simply because they were on their period. Menstruation is a natural and essential part of a woman’s life. It marks a beautiful new journey of femininity and fertility. Unfortunately, on this journey women must also deal with ridicule and shame simply because they bleed.

Lately, I’ve been interning at Pink Lemonade, a company that believes that a happy vagina is a happy you. Its team works hard to provide products, education and an inclusive space for all who experience menstruation. Founders Gabby Chavez and Lily Khorsand are both women of color who have their own stories with periods – and believe we need to normalize the once-a-month bleed.

 “I was probably one of the last of my friends who got her period,” Chavez recalled. “So, I was desperate to get my period because I wanted to know what it was. I somehow felt that I was more of a woman after I got my period. I don’t understand why I gave so much value to that. If I knew the pain, I would go back to my little me and tell her how lucky she is to be a late bloomer.”

Women are not embarrassed by their period. We are embarrassed of the way people make us feel about our periods. The shame, the disgust, the questions. We can’t embrace mother nature because we are too busy pleasing those around us.

“It took me so long to not feel embarrassed when purchasing period products at the store,” Chavez reflected. “I remember, in Mexico, at the grocery store, the attendant would wrap my period products in old newspapers and then in a bag. As if I was carrying pornography or some shameful sin. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I decided to not take a bag at the store for simply picking up period products.”

According to the New York Post, 73% of women have hid a pad or tampon from view on their way to the bathroom out of embarrassment. And 87% of women refer to their period as “time of the month” in hopes of making it sound more pleasant to those around them.

Women should feel empowered and comfortable with their bodies as they are. Periods should not be associated with shame and secrecy.

“Destruyendo la patriarchia un dia a la vez,” said Chavez. This translates to destroying the patriarchy one day at a time. Women all across the world experience the same pain and same journey. It’s time to make them feel comfortable.

“Menstruation is a crucial part of a female body functioning properly,” noted Lily, Pink Lemonade’s other founder. “Without it our bodies would be out of balance and sometimes even ill. Female bodies have been policed, critiqued, cut and pasted, and altered constantly for the natural processes they go through. We have to learn to just accept our bodies, especially for a process that I do not have nor do I want to have control over.”

I think back to the times when I felt ashamed. It makes me realize there is a girl who feels that way right now. I wrote this to say, 10-year-old me would be proud that I’m no longer embarrassed about my period. Today, I am a fearless woman with a vagina that bleeds. I’m also glad to be working for a company that encourages our younger generations to feel the same.

Destinee Lang is a senior journalism major at Sacramento State University.

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