New periods

Spoiler: this will be a very women-centered post!

This Friday and Saturday was the launch party for the Red Tent Movie. Though I have only heard about the red tent recently, I was very curious. A place for women to come together and… well, and what? I didn’t have a clue. The red tent, even though the colour resonates with the monthly menstruation, is not a place for bleeding women only, such as it might have been in earlier times. Or at least in Jean Auels ‘Earthchildren’ series that I love. A place of seclusion, because the men were either disgusted by the monthly blood or the women were revered as it demonstrated their power to give life. I like the second better, obviously, and have never felt dirty, but I realize that for some women this might be different. My mother made clear that it was just part of becoming a women, natural as can be, but I know others who have had quite some trouble when they reached menarche. 

Yet, as I learned in the video, the red tent is not only for women who are currently bleeding. It does not descriminate based on age, either, so maiden, mother and crone are together in a tent (or some other space). That makes it the best place ever to share stories about what makes us all women. A place to educate the younger ones, a place to hear the stories about the Goddess, a place to laugh together, a place to cry and be comforted, a place to meditate, a place to be creative. The red tent seems to make room for all of this. 

Luckily, the Red Tent movement has spread to the Netherlands as well. I am trying to find a red tent near me, so I can experience this wonderful sense of sisterhood that I got a taste of while watching the movie. There are so many things I would like to talk about with other women, but that are simply not accepted topics of conversation in most settings. But I really need to share with others, both for my own development, but also to be able to educate my future children. My experiences are just my own, and I feel like I need the context of others to put it all in perspective. 

Apart from hopefully finding a red tent somewhere close to me, I also want to read the book that inspired all these people to start red tents: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. A novel based loosely on the biblical story of Dinah, apparently (I do not know this story). I’m very curious. I’ve also started to take a closer look at how I handle my period. I’ve always used tampons and pads, but I recently ordered a menstrual cup that I am now trying for the very first time. Yes, it’s very awkward, but hey, so was the first time using tampons! Probably my periods and the way I perceive them will change even more, but only in a positive way 🙂

Ideals of womanhood

Some of us do not feel happy in their body. We’re too fat, too thin, too big or too small, we have some or other body part that we don’t like… the list is endless. These ideas that we deviate from some ‘beauty standard’ is something that has been going on for a very long time. All cultures have some ideal of a woman, both in the shape of her body and in the qualities she should possess. And while that is perfectly alright (we all have a certain idea in our head when someone says ‘horse’ as well, so why not when someone says ‘woman’), it is also perfectly alright to deviate from this ideal. Everybody is different, and exactly that is what makes women (and men, for that matter) beautiful in their own way. We don’t have to live up to these ideals, that are most often unattainable. We just have to accept who we are as personalities and accept the way our body looks. Nobody can prescribe how we should look or act, we are the ones to decide that for ourselves.

Okay, my rant is over 😉 I actually wanted to write about how these ideals of a female body have changed over the course of time, but then something else flew out of my hands.

Venus_von_Willendorf_01You all know the prehistoric female figurines that have been found all over Europe. They seem to focus on the breasts and the belly, with a faceless head and barely any legs or arms. Female body parts, enlarged to make the distinction between men and women. To me, this is still the embodiment of womanhood: the ability to bear children (ie give life) and to nurture them. It’s also one of the ways I see the Goddess, and from what I have seen online, I’m not the only one. Whether these images were made by men, as ideal women, or, as I read in this amazing article, by women looking down on their own body, that doesn’t matter. It most likely depicts the prehistoric ‘norm’ for the female body.

That has changed, however. If you look at paintings from the Renaissance, women have much more Birth of Venusshape. Artists still focused on the breasts and somewhat on the belly, but the broad hips and in general curved figure of women became more apparent. This was what men searched for in a woman. And this figure has also prevailed. If you think about drawing a woman (and I’m not that good of an artist), you draw the curvature of the breasts on the chest and broaden the hips, creating this timeglass figure. It is a way to show off the real, anatomical differences between men and woman, similar to the prehistoric figures, but somewhat more nuanced.

And then we come more to the present day. Clothes models with beautiful, curved bodies distracted the audience from the clothes, so tall, skinny girls were sought out to present the clothes. And this has turned into the norm for female beauty. Only look at Barbie and you know how rediculous this is (though she is an extreme example), as Nickolay Lamm has shown. Some women have a slender body, yes, but others do not and it makes no sense whatsoever to try and look different. It’s just the build we have.

Ideals of womanhood have changed very much over the centuries, but I hope we’re at a breakthrough now: all female bodies are perfect. And all female bodies are in essence beautiful, so long as you display you are happy with yourself. Because real beauty comes from within and has nothing to do with the way you look. Even though you might have your own idea about what a women is or perhaps should be (we all do), don’t worry about appearances. They are just that and can hide people who are gorgeous inside!