The history of menstruation
Periods, menses, moons, ragnagnas… what are they?
Menstruation is the discharge of a biological fluid composed mainly of blood, vaginal secretions and endometrial cells. Women experience this phenomenon from puberty onwards (age of 1st period between 9 and 14 on average).
It’s a natural phenomenon, linked to the fall in progesterone levels during the cycle, which leads to the detachment of the uterine lining, which is evacuated through the vagina, resulting in the bleeding characteristic of menstruation. Yet this natural phenomenon, which affects all women, has only recently been accurately and scientifically dissected (remember that it was not until recently that a clitoris was represented in biology textbooks). And if women’s relationship with menstruation varies and has varied with the times and the different parts of the world, it is often the cultural representation of menstruation that has been called into question.
Menstruation through the ages
As far back as antiquity, women were overflowing with creativity and ingenuity. They used sea sponges, strips of papyrus or cotton or linen cloth wrapped around wooden sticks: they single-handedly designed what we would today call a tampon! All kinds of legends and myths were built up around this vaginal discharge, but it appeared to be a natural and normal phenomenon.
However, in the Middle Ages, the emergence of monotheistic religions turned these legends and myths into taboos. Women were considered impure during their periods, and the use of any object that could be inserted into the vagina was outlawed: no longer allowed to use tampons, women were forced to let the blood flow out, or to use petticoats to absorb it. They were advised to wash their private parts with herbs to purify themselves and get rid of their pain…
We are now in the 20th century, the “century of hygienism”, pioneered by Louis Pasteur. The rise of cleanliness implied that menstruation was a “dirty” phenomenon, and women were still singled out for blame, having to make their own sanitary protection, for example, by collecting absorbent fabrics from children’s diapers and attaching them to their underwear.
The real turning point came in 1920, when the first models of disposable sanitary pads were developed by the Kotex company, using post-war stocks of cotton cellulose. This was followed by the invention of the disposable tampon by Kimberly-Clark. Women were gradually freed from their position as “unhealthy, dirty creatures”. Other writings from various periods also seem to indicate that a number of women practiced instinctive flow, i.e. instinctively managing their periods (having their period while going to the bathroom).
Discover HERE our live chat on instinctive flow with Mélissa Carlier
Society’s view of menstruation: a slow evolution
Since the introduction of sanitary protection, television commercials have begun to feature menstruation. However, the beginnings are timid: blood is represented by blue or transparent liquid, and the message is often embellished: “Great! Mother Nature’s coming, but I can still play tennis or run a marathon with my tampon.” On the other hand, we don’t talk much about the discomforts, the famous premenstrual syndrome, the headaches, the stomachaches, the tense breasts, the mood swings, the little pimples that pop up, the cravings to gobble up tons of chips and chocolate… and yet, the body sends us interesting messages about our condition through this medium!
And the good news is that since 75% of our hormonal balance depends on our lifestyle, we can act on it naturally.
We’re fortunate to live in a time when, little by little, the word is getting out, women are getting involved, and we have eco-responsible and healthy alternatives, such as menstrual cups and panties. Diseases such as endometriosis, long downplayed by the medical profession, are now recognized, freeing thousands of women from their suffering thanks to appropriate treatments. The pain associated with menstrual cycles is increasingly recognized, to the point where some companies have introduced menstrual leave.
And that’s what MiYé is all about: lifting the veil on these feminine taboos, talking openly about our problems of intimate dryness, chronic discomfort, pain or mood swings. We shouldn’t have to put up with our ailments in silence just because they’re linked to our cycles. We shouldn’t have to be ashamed of buying sanitary protection, we shouldn’t have to whisper “you know, I’ve got my ‘lady stuff'”, or “my ragnagnas”. We shouldn’t silently weep in pain, or curl up into ourselves as discreetly as possible…
At MiYé, we say NO to the double whammy of puberty, post partum and perimenopause, and we try to inform women as best we can through healthy eating, practical advice, programs and trusted partners to support them through these hormonal storms.
In The Flo
The menopause factory
Menopausal and free