“Getting a bit hormonal, are we?”
“What’s wrong with you? You on the rag or something?”
“It’s that time of the month, gentlemen. Pay no attention to the hysterical woman in the corner office.”
Men think it’s okay to joke about periods.
Whether it’s at home or in the office—where accusing a woman of being on her period effectively dismisses anything she has to say—men consider it perfectly acceptable to chalk up a woman’s behavior to hormones.
Given what we know of testosterone, that’s ironic.
Testosterone influences male behavior in ways that go far beyond the monthly ebb and flow of estrogen. Hormones sculpt the male brain while still in the womb. You could very well accuse a man of being “hormonal” when he acts in ways that are aggressive, territorial, or competitive.
And yet women are supposedly the hormonal ones.
No wonder we try to hide our periods. We feel ashamed. We feel as if our hormonal fluctuations make us weak.
Not only are periods unsightly—especially if you’re wearing white trousers on the wrong day—but at their worst they make us feel sluggish, crampy, distracted. It’s hard to feel attractive when your face has broken out, you’re bloated, and you just want a hot water bottle to cradle.
It would be one thing if this happened every once in a while, like a winter cold…
But it’s every single month.
Every month, you’re reminded of your feminine weakness.
Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer want to change all that.
The Wisdom of Menstruation
Alexandra and Sjanie are the founders of Red School, a movement dedicated to reclaiming the feminine wisdom of menstruation.
They envision “a world in which the menstrual cycle is respected as a woman’s spiritual practice.” 
Given how many of us see menstruation as an inconvenience, the idea of studying your menstrual cycle for insights sounds like a bit of a joke.
Why would anyone reorganize her life around her menstrual cycle—even if it did help her take advantage of stages of enhanced productivity and creativity?
We’re so used to dismissing our periods (or being mocked for having them) that it can come as a surprise to know that there are women out there who LOVE their monthly cycle.
Rest and Renew
My first “menstrual wake-up call” came when I read The Red Tent, a historical novel by Anita Diamant that focuses on the Biblical wives of Jacob.
The titular “red tent” refers to the tent women retreated to when they were menstruating. Far from feeling excluded, they loved having this time to relax, gossip, and enjoy the company of other women. It was a welcome break from serving their families.
Today, the notion that women should retire from public life just because they’re on their period sounds absurdly anti-feminist.
Yet at what cost do we soldier through, refusing to heed the biological call to slow down and take a break?
Just for an experiment, try this….
When you’re on your period, go easy on yourself.
Keep your social calendar clear. Spend more time at home. Don’t pressure yourself to take on extra work or get tasks crossed off your to-do list. Give yourself permission to lie in bed and read a book, or sit out in the sun and take in the fresh air.
Consider it a mini-vacation, once a month.
Then see how your relationship to your period changes.
Pay Attention to Your Body’s Signals
My second wake-up call came from another bestselling book, now a classic in the field of women’s health: Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christiane Northrup.
Dr. Northrup is an OB/GYN who found that her patients’ gynecological issues were often linked to what was going on in their personal lives.
For example, although we tend to assume that PMS comes with the territory, Dr. Northrup disagrees.
She found that women who struggle with PMS or painful periods often have a negative view of menstruation or a pattern of denying the dark and painful side of life. Heal the mind, and you can heal the body.
Her views on menstruation dovetail with Alexandra and Sjanie’s. She writes:
The ebb and flow of dreams, creativity and hormones associated with different parts of the cycle offer us a profound opportunity to deepen our connection with our inner knowing.” 
Your menstrual cycle can offer you insights into what you need to look at in your life, should you choose to listen.
A simple way to access your intuition when it comes to uncomfortable or unwanted menstrual symptoms is to ask yourself:
What is my body trying to tell me?”
Is it trying to tell you to slow down? To honor your femininity? To look more closely at your personal relationships? To make your home a safe haven?
Don’t be afraid to do the inner work in conjunction with seeking medical advice.
When we begin to see our menstrual cycle as a friend instead of an unwelcome monthly guest, we begin to see why men are often so uncomfortable with it.
Menstruation is evidence of a woman’s ability to create new life.
It’s an experience men will never have. It’s elemental in its power, tying women to the rhythms of life. A wound that bleeds for days would disable a man. Yet women bleed for days and not only survive but emerge more powerful than ever.
No wonder the Red School co-founders call it your “wild power.”
Others may try to shame you by implying your hormones make you incapable of making decisions or contributing constructively to a discussion, but stare them down. Wink knowingly.
Then continue speaking your truth.
 Wild Power: Discover the Magic of Your Menstrual Cycle (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2017), xxi.
 Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing (Bantam Books), 99.