#44: I'm bleeding
Plus, alonement, situationships, and more...
Hi, I’m Alya Mooro and you’re reading The Greater Conversation, a weekly newsletter honestly addressing all aspects of life through the eyes of a Middle Eastern / third-culture / woman / human. Alternately, there’ll be some thoughts from me, or a guest piece, along with recommendations of articles, books*, podcasts and etc worth consuming. If you’ve just subscribed, welcome! If this issue was forwarded to you, add your email to join the list.
I can't remember how old I was when I first got my period. Only that it was summer in Egypt and my mum wasn't there and I had to ask my dad to get me pads. I would flush them all down the toilet after, often clogging it, preferring to do that than disposing of my blood in the bin, in case anyone would clock.
Shame around my period has trailed me ever since. So much so that, despite the fact that I wrote about pretty much everything that has impacted me in my life thus far in The Greater Freedom, I didn’t write about my period.
I didn’t write about how I was warned against using tampons in fear they would ‘take my virginity’; how I would faint in pain; how I took the pill and it messed with my hormones; how I was pushed into the water once when riding a pedal-boat and spent the whole ride back convinced I was sitting in a pool of blood (impossible, I’ve since learnt); how it impacts my moods and my feelings about myself and the world around me on a circular and repetitive basis.
I’m on my period right now and I can barely be bothered to put these words together. All week I’ve barely been bothered to get out of bed. Not just on the days where I was keeled over in pain but on the days before and after that, too. It’s worse in lockdown, everyone is saying.
And yet despite the impact it has on all of our lives, despite the fact that without periods actually none of us would even be here, it’s only recently I’ve been able to talk about it, that I’ve felt comfortable saying it with my chest, instead of using a euphemism. Period. Bleeding. Blood. It’s a miracle really, and yet the misinformation and the shame and the misogyny around it is still so bloody rife.
But this is changing. As an article on ‘menstrual liberation’ reads, “Despite being part of the lives of half the global population, there has been little innovation or big thinking around periods in 80 years – since the tampon was invented. Recently, however, there has been a flurry of activity, from campaigns to petitions, product launches to new advertising imagery.”
It’s about time. Because the shame around periods results in in all sorts of inequalities. In some parts of India, for example, women are banished to huts for the duration of their menses. Meanwhile, across the world, period poverty is a very real thing. In the UK alone, 49% of girls have missed a day of school due to periods and one in 10 women aged 14 to 21 are not able to afford period products. A number of charities like Free Periods and Bloody Good Period are aiming to help combat this.
The impacts stem further, too, including a lack of research around periods which means that there’s little understanding on the way our cycles impact us mentally, or physically. Despite recent evidence that period cramps can literally be as bad as a heart-attack, our patriarchal world doesn’t really care and doesn’t really put any effort into providing relief.
And so I’ve taken to educating myself. I’ve been doing a lot of reading up around my cycle, tracking it using the Clue app and increasingly trying to build my days and weeks around it, as menstrual coach Claire Baker encourages. It’s been a fascinating and empowering journey.
There is so much to be done but I’m personally starting by honouring my body during my monthly bleed, even and especially when it’s telling me to stay under my covers and cancel all my plans, for that’s when I’m in the ‘winter’ stage of my cycle, and my body wants to hibernate. When spring and summer comes, I will feel different, and so I will be different. In a way, it’s like a superpower. I have seasons within me; I contain, as they say, multitudes.
Also, I will no longer ever hide a tampon up my sleeve.
What is your relationship with your period like? Do you remember the first time you got your period? Do you have any stories that particularly stand out? Anything you’ve learnt that’s helped you? Share your experience in the comments x
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As of this week, TGC will alternate weekly between a guest piece and my own shares. If you identify as a Middle Eastern woman and would like to contribute a guest piece, please email me. You can share anonymously too if you prefer.
This newsletter is sponsored by The Doe, a digital publication which shares unfiltered, anonymous stories in an effort to encourage conversation and engagement with new ideas. This month’s theme is Athletics and the narrative I want to share today is: The Lessons I Learned From Sports May Have Saved My Life.
It’s an inspiring read by a young woman who shares how, while she was never particularly interested in sports, after becoming bedridden due to illness, watching gymnastics motivated and encouraged her back onto her legs. “At a time when even getting out of bed seemed impossible,” she writes, “it amazed me that this gymnast had trained herself to do something that also seemed impossible.”
Book: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. It’s a beautifully written story about a young girl who lives with her Conservative aunt in a small town in the US, and struggles to reconcile her sexuality and being her true self in the face of it all. There’s a movie starring Chloe Grace Moretz too, although I haven’t seen it.
Newsletter: Nicole Zhu on why it's more important that the story feel organic to its creator, than try to be everything to everybody and carry the burden of representing the impossible all.
Podcast: I’m a huge fan of Alain de Botton’s books (Essays In Love is a particular favourite) and I very much enjoyed listening to him chat with journalist and author Francesca Specter for her Alonement podcast. They spoke developing greater self-knowledge, the importance of making alone time glamorous, how to find the right romantic partner and more.
Watch: By the creators of Black Mirror, Soulmates is a new-ish series on Amazon Prime with a very cool premise that imagines what would happen if computers could identify the ideal romantic partner. Each episode takes a different approach.
The Netflix binge model has killed off the long-lasting TV crush.
Conversations around female sexuality and sexual health have long been taboo in Arab culture. Unshrouding these discussions from the blanket of shame that they’re so often accompanied with is the groundbreaking vision behind new platform Mauj. Related, support artist Rotana’s crowfunder to bring sex ed to our community.
Is TikToking your breakup a bad idea?
Instagram's photo dump trend proves "there are plenty of beautiful moments if you look close enough."
"We as a society need to do better, not just for the select few girls who are given the mixed blessing and curse of pop-culture notoriety, but for all the girls who happen to be watching," writes Emma Specter.
“We want intimacy, connection, sex and love, without sacrificing our hard-won freedoms, independence and happiness in the ways we’ve traditionally needed to,” I write, in my latest column for Restless Network. While dating is looong, a situationship, for many, ticks all the boxes. No wonder, then, that they appear to be on the rise.
A quote from a book you should read:
“Few can accept the burden of their own victory: most give up their dreams when they see that they can be realized. They refuse to fight the good fight because they do not know what to do with their own happiness; they are imprisoned by the things of the world. Just as I have been, who wanted to find my sword without knowing what to do with it.”
- Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage
Thanks for subscribing! I'm Alya, the person behind this newsletter. I am a freelance journalist and the bestselling author of The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes. You can follow me on Instagram here, and Twitter here.
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