6 Things Women Should Be Openly Discussing — Womanhood Unwrapped
I remember when I first started my period. I was thirteen, and even though my parents were open about many topics and talked with my sisters and me openly, I had no idea what was going on. I thought something was wrong with me the first time I saw a stain on my underwear. I didn’t tell my mom for almost a week, using toilet paper, and hiding my stained clothes, because while we had talked about “becoming a woman,” we had never discussed the logistics, and therefore I didn’t know how to react or what to do.
Because we’re not talking about our menstrual cycles, pregnancy, past experiences with trauma, and all the parts of our womanhood that make up the patchwork quilt of who we are, the individuals who do speak up or speak out seem out of place. Yes, maybe they get a lot of pats on the back or attention from their disclosures or outspoken behavior. Still, the concentration is almost always focused on these women as commodities instead of acknowledging that they are normal humans.
As women and men supporting women, we need to normalize the everyday discussions about all aspects of womanhood. As a middle-aged woman, a mother, a business owner, and a wife, I am yearning to foster open communication with my children, friends, and family about women’s existence.
When I was talking with my daughter, who is nine, about getting her period, I realized that I was far more uncomfortable in the conversation than I had expected. I pride myself on believing I’m an open-minded and progressive parent, yet I was scared she would talk to friends at school or the discussion about sex would follow. As much as I could imagine those outcomes being positive, the reality is that it often opens the door to deeper issues in our society. This discomfort made me realize that if women were talking openly about their menstrual cycles the same way we talk about other day-to-day topics, my daughter would have already been aware of and learning about menstrual cycles. So why aren’t we talking openly?
As a child of the nineties, I came of age during a time when accepting someone’s sexual orientation was just starting to be widely acknowledged and discussed. Still, in my small town, it was as if what was happening in the ‘real world’ wasn’t playing out on the local level in my small town. There was an unspoken rule that you either act like a heterosexual or suffer the consequences. It’s not the same for our children (at least not everywhere), and openness about sexual preference and orientation is accepted by many, as long as it’s not openly discussed with our kids and as long as it only happens outside the small town circle. Those of you who know, know what I mean.
We’ve come a long way and yet have made no progress at all in many ways. And I witness this everywhere — with the family member choosing to say they are ‘gender-fluid’ but still married to the opposite sex. The family hides their child’s sexuality behind the “they’re just confused” explanation. I am not saying children should decide their sexual orientation before they are ready, but when they speak up and choose, we need to support them and share about them with pride, not embarrassment.
PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH
I’m going to be honest here (weird, right 😉), I did not enjoy pregnancy. Not the beginning. Maybe a little in the middle, and definitely not the end. I’ve been pregnant multiple times. I underwent an emergency c-section with my firstborn, experienced a miscarriage at 15 weeks when I was pregnant with twins, followed by a traumatizing D&C procedure, followed by a vaginal birth, that led to severe diastasis recti (abdominal separation). My abdominal separation made me look six months pregnant and led to hernias, which led to surgery. Whew! Did you get all that?
I could write a book on the number of “out of the norm” experiences I’ve had with pregnancy, and postpartum impacts, some of which I’m still not comfortable with sharing. But I’m not sharing this with you now for any reason other than to normalize my experience. When I do share about my miscarriage, c-section, or any of the other weird and often painful phases of this time in my life, it’s received uncomfortably, or with a look of pity, as if I need sympathy. In a culture where women mostly gain positive attention for emerging from pregnancy and childbirth looking as if they had never carried a human in their body for nine months at all, it’s more urgent than ever that we share our actual experiences, natural bodies, and real feelings about pregnancy so that what is perceived to be the ‘norm’ is not in fact the minority.
Do I dare broach this topic? It’s so complex and multi-layered. There are so many opinions and judgments floating around these days about what it means to be a good parent and what decisions make you a shit parent. Funny how we’re all experts until it’s happening to us. I feel so passionately about the need for motherhood support and the immense lack that I wrote a blog on this specific topic. You can read the post on What it Actually Means to Be a Good Mom for my whole rant (I mean, valuable insights 😜).
The point is we now have access to a million different viewpoints on parenting from a million sources at any given time, the majority of which I see floating around on social media. And while often these viewpoints are inclusive and demystifying, they can also be alienating, mean, and condescending. If anything, I constantly feel like I’m watching the gap widen between women being themselves and finding real support for their choices as a mom. I think it’s time to stop this cycle, and it starts with each of us acknowledging that no one mom holds a monopoly on good parenting.
That’s not to say we don’t need to hold each other accountable. We need to hold space for this within ourselves and each other. But petty BS needs to stop.
“Don’t shoot the messenger!” she said as she delivered the news that I had been passed over for a promotion. I knew the reason, even though it would never be spoken out loud. I was too vocal, too assertive, and unwilling to tolerate the physical advances of senior managers. How often is this the story? As a professional woman in 2022, it’s that you “were harassed” and evolved into a victim, to be pitied and looked down upon for not speaking up sooner, or you’re “hard to get along with,” and “unapproachable.” Therefore no one wants to work with you. Women can’t win in professional culture unless they conform. But hey! There’s a reason to celebrate because we do have power. We can start our own businesses and change that culture. We have the ability to support and stand up for each other instead of allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another. It’s just a matter of actually using our power instead of hiding behind the tradition. Are you willing?
ABUSE & TRAUMA
Someday soon, I will crack open this issue on a deeper level because it is a deep, convoluted topic that deserves full attention. I have hesitated to write anything about abuse or trauma in my posts because I am afraid. Afraid I’ll get it wrong. Afraid of retribution. Afraid of judgment. But I’m tired. I’m tired of pretending that our world is okay as is and that the darkness lying underneath the surface that affects so many of us, a silent unspoken majority, is okay. We are not okay until we actually attack and deal with the abuse and trauma that is happening in our homes, families, and society towards women and children.
I was sexually abused as a child by an older child who was sexually abused too. I thought I was smart enough to break that cycle and protect other children from abuse, but I was not, and I am not strong or smart enough to do this alone. As women, mothers, and parents, we need to stand up and say enough! Abuse crosses all cultures all socioeconomic boundaries and permeates many families. The most heartbreaking part is the trauma that comes with it.
Each generation carries that trauma like a yolk on their shoulders that keeps getting passed down until someone is willing to break the cycle. Someone willing to be the bad guy/gal, to take the heat, and say, enough is enough.
If you were abused physically, emotionally, or sexually, you know exactly what I mean. 1 in 4 girls will suffer abuse, 1 in 20 boys will, and these statistics are inaccurate because not all abuse is reported. And why is that? Because 52% of abuse victims are targeted by someone they know well. Which means they are afraid to come forward or not believed when they do. Read more on these stats via the National Sexual Violence Resource Center .
We cannot change the past, but we can change the future for our children and their children. It’s time to stop ignoring the warning signs and start talking about abuse and the indicators of abuse openly to educate ourselves and raise healthy children who will become healthy adults and break this cycle.
Originally published at https://womanhoodunwrapped.com on February 11, 2022.