Dear Astrid, one of your topics is womanhood. A beautiful word. Tell me what it means to you.
Literally translated it means womanhood. But for me there's so much more to the word. For example, the idea of feeling at home as a woman. To feel comfortable. Not to be ashamed of your sex. To free yourself from role models and clichés. And that somehow fits the word itself. "Be a woman. Be your hood."
Thinking further ahead, this attitude is not bound to femininity, being a woman or gender. But since I as a woman have an access to it per se and the topic concerns me directly, I wanted to deal with it. According to the motto: Write what you know something about, write about your experiences. But who knows, maybe I will change the keyword to "Humanhood" soon. Wouldn't be such a bad idea after all, would it?
Somehow not everyone thinks that way. Was there a special moment in your life when you thought "This is such an important subject and I have to say something about it"?
My mother said to me early on: Astrid, you are an idealist. At that time I looked at her with astonishment, because up to that point I had never seen myself like that. Today I can say: Yes, she is right. I have a strong feeling for what is just and what is unfair. Always under the premise of charity and openness to the differences of others.
All the topics that resonate with the word "womanhood" for me like: Femininity and sexism, femininity and shame, categorising women in role clichés, self-love and acceptance, understanding and accepting being a woman and one's own body, and many more - have become more and more important for me little by little. And at some point, I took the courage to share my thoughts on these topics with others. Not in a continuous loop and sound, but every now and then in 'intensive doses'. And always from my point of view and from the idea of giving something of 'my womanhood' a prize here and there.
From your interest the idea for your engagement for TAKE ACTION Uganda and the Sanitary Pad Project was born. Here, trainees sew washable pads in their vocational school in Uganda. What makes the project so special for you?
What can't make it special for me? It aims at period education (a topic that in my opinion has been treated far too stepmotherly in the last years), it shows the inequality due to period and access to hygiene products in our society, it exposes old stigmas and roles of women (e.g. women are dirty and unclean during their period). And perhaps most importantly, in my opinion, the project wants to connote period with a feeling of self-confidence! I think this is great and absolutely necessary.
Even in countries where there are sufficient hygienic products and good sanitary facilities, the subject of the period is still shamefaced. Can you explain why this is so? After all, it's 2020 and for a huge proportion of people, menstruation is something quite common.
The unequal couple "period and shame" are historically deeply rooted in each other. I think the predominance of the patriarchal character, the resulting role of women, and sexism play a very important role here. A sense of shame manifested over centuries does not come overnight in a society. It does not matter how commonplace the menstrual period is. It takes time, good will, discourse and enlightenment to gain insight and understanding.
What can we all do in everyday life to counter this stigma?
Talk more about it. Learn more about it. No matter what gender you are. Understand where the stigma comes from. Understand what triggers it in everyday life.
For menstruating people, my advice is to listen to yourself. Do you feel period shame? Do you feel that you have to justify your periods and their accompanying symptoms? Let go of these feelings and replace them with period self-consciousness.
What is your message to very young women and girls getting their period for the first time?
Funny, I once wrote an article about that for The Female Company. (https://www.thefemalecompany.com/magazin/deinevaginasiehtrot-erste-periode/ ) Back then I was asked how I would prepare my future daughter for her period. "Will I celebrate my daughter's first period with her? (Red Velvet Cheesecake comes to mind.) Probably not. Rather I will teach her to listen to her body even more during this special time. Mindfulness and enlightenment instead of cluelessness and apathy! A motto that we should all - no matter what age - take to heart!"
So, what would I say to young women and girls getting their period for the first time? Be attentive, listen inside yourself and inform yourself. Not only about what is going on in your body, but also about the period stigmas in our society. Stigmas and prejudices that were formed a long time ago out of fear and the feeling of being harassed and threatened by some others, and which have been constantly developing. If you recognize this, it will be easier for you to expose them as such and help to defuse them.