Sweden’s Year of Menstruation – Is it the Menstrual Decade? Maybe the Menstrual Millennium?

Activism, Language, Media, Menstruation

Guest Post by Josefin Persdotter, Gothenburg University

As I write this, it is only hours until the acclaimed Swedish television program Kobra airs an episode about menstruation in art, and as a growing social movement in Sweden. They’ve interviewed none other than menstrual art and activism pioneer Judy Chicago. In the trailer she jokingly exclaims: “Oh, so Scandinavia’s discovered that women menstruate!” And it seems we have. Or at least Swedes seem to have. Sweden’s currently enjoying a kind of menstrual boom. Maybe one could even call it a menstrual revolution. From my (albeit very menstrually focused) horizon I see menstruation everywhere. During the last year it’s gone from (almost) total menstrual silence to it being in national newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and naturally, all over social media.

I guess one could say it began last summer.  Feminist cartoonist and writer Liv Strömquist (bravely!) did a two-hour radio show about menstruation, depicting menstrual taboos in history, arguing that it ought to be a much larger part of culture. The show aired on prime-time when “everyone” was listening. Being a menstrual activist for many years, I listened with a pounding heart wondering how Sweden would react. Though I’m sure she got some internet hate and many negative comments, the reception from those who liked it seems to have been quite overwhelming for Strömquist, and quite palpable to everyone else.

Instantly, something changed. Just as I had experienced when I met people through my own activism, but this time on a national scale. People began to open up; they shared their own menstrual stories openly on various social media platforms. And they haven’t stopped.

To only name a few of the many amazing things that have happened since then: several menstrual art projects have enjoyed unprecedented attention in the media, menstruation-related diseases make the headlines in the tabloids, several other radio-shows have had menstrually-themed episodes, a menstrual documentary has been made and another one is in post-production, new books about menstruation have been launched and sold out in weeks (!), and on top of that two national organizations for menstruation and PMS respectively have been founded. Menstruation’s become something that’s publicly handled as a truly relevant and important issue.

I may exaggerate a little, but I don’t want to downplay it either,  as I really do think that something rather spectacular has happened. First I called it a menstrual spring, then it became a menstrual year, and now it’s going on year two. Could one dare to hope for a menstrual paradigm shift? Or might the public lose interest? I see no signs of menstrual fatigue, but quite the opposite. More and more people and institutions engage in menstrual issues publicly. The need to talk periods seem to be stronger than ever.

Sweden’s got a small population of about 9 million, speaking an equally small language. This has been a pain in the neck in my menstrual activism, until it wasn’t. I was quite jealous of menstrual activists friends who got to do their work in English or Spanish, having so many millions more that could like, comment, and retweet on social media. But now I’ve begun to think the small size might be a huge advantage. I think we have the size to thank for some of what’s happened. It might be easier to reach everyone, to become in some way part of the media mainstream and have a national impact in a small country like this. Sweden has only a couple of national newspapers, fewer television news shows, etc., compared to larger nations.

I post this to the international menstrual community wondering if I am witnessing something unique, or something universal? Are there currently similar menstrual surges elsewhere as well? And naturally: what’s it been like historically? What can we learn from eachother? What should we think about to make these changes last and become real shifts in the menstruculture?

Selling Sickness: A Call to Action

Activism

As our regular readers now know, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research held its 20th biennial meeting last week in New York. Over the next few weeks, you can expect to see several posts about new research and other exciting events of that conference (yes, the Red Moon Howl was filmed!). I’m going to launch that parade of awesome with the organization’s unanimous decision to endorse the Call to Action developed at the February, 2013, Selling Sickness conference held in Washington, D.C.

The Selling Sickness conference was designed to be part of a global progressive and activist health movement, supported by many allied organizations, including Consumer Union, Association for Women in Psychology, New View Campaign, PLOS, Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, and many others. The conference theme was “People Before Profits”, with topics ranging from to disease-mongering, misleading marketing, ethics in professional education, journalistic standards, over-treatment, new models for drug development and testing, whistleblowers, and how all of these issues affect public health and pocketbook. SMCR was represented by a panel of researchers who presented a symposium titled, “The Medicalization of the Menstrual Cycle”. Presenters Peggy Stubbs, Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, Joan Chrisler, Paula Derry, Holly Grigg-Spall, Elizabeth Kissling, and Chris Bobel discussed how the menstrual cycle is medicalized throughout the life-cycle, and some activist responses.

Many conference contributors met during and after the conference to shape the following Call to Action, and at our organization meeting on Friday, June 7, SMCR membership voted to endorse it as an organization.

Happiness Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Advertising, Disposable menstrual products, Internet

Guest Post by Chella Quint, Adventures in Menstruating

When periods hit the news, and they do every now and again (no, not once a month – that’d actually be nice, and proof that it was a normal, neutral topic of conversation), my friends have me on speed dial. I’ve been hanging with my Off the Shelf Festival pals this week, though, and was apparently experiencing some kind of menses media blackout, because I was none the wiser about the latest Bodyform brouhaha until I got a Facebook message from my friend Bill that said ‘Quite remarkable’ with a link to a New Statesman article entitled Fighting Snark With Snark: Bodyform viral video destroys commenter.

So I clicked the link.

Nutshell: a guy recycled an old joke about femcare ads being unrealistic (This was at the expense of his girlfriend, whose period apparently resembles scenes from the Exorcist. Nice work. You’re a real charmer.) to made a tongue-in-cheek jab at the company, posted it on their facebook page, a zillion people ‘liked’ it (although there is this ‘fake likes’ issue so I do wonder a little – genuinely – not a lot, but a little), and the brand replied with a viral video, which only took a week to turn around.

Check it out:

Analysis: First thoughts? I did say I like a two-way conversation, but damn. There’s nothing more two-way than a brand adbusting an adbuster. He’s hardly destroyed though. He’s made rather a lot of, addressed repeatedly by name, and given an awful lot of attention. They put the response together in a week, which is only a few days longer than I’ve taken with some of my ad parodies, and they made a whole film with acceptable production values and neat touches. (Right at the end, the mobile phone rings with the classic Bodyform ad as a ringtone, and then the correct part of the song picks up to carry on as non-diagetic sound for the outro. Classy.) The guy in question was an easy target, though, and commented in a way that amusingly got under the skin of a femcare company with the following message: periods are horrible, women on their period are out of control, and Bodyform were terrible for pretending it was all sunshine and flowers. So in the clever-clever video, Bodyform duly apologise for pretending periods were about unrelated lovely fun things, etc., but – here’s the kicker – then agreed that periods are totally horrible – so horrible that nothing to do with them can be shown on screen, and the truth makes grown men cry.

By the time I’d watched it, though, my pal Seonaid over on the west coast of the US had caught up and sent me a link from an ad website, with simply ‘Awesome’ written above it. Huh. Seonaid is a hip cool lady and knows her stuff. She thought it was awesome, thought of me, and sent it straight over. So I watched it again. The (FAKE! TOTALLY FAKE! A DUDE OWNS THAT!) CEO pouring out some blue liquid from a pitcher into a glass and then the recall of her drinking it at the end, that was pretty funny – really sound visual comedy, and the fart was a great afterthought (Teasing a guy for thinking women are classical and not grotesque? That’s a good gag. Oh yeah – playing by the rules of signers in femcare ads, though, she totally drank from a big old pitcher of blood. But I digress.) The original post is a riff on an old joke that people throw around all the time about unrealistic femcare ads of the ’80s, but this time someone actually told the joke to the brand itself using social media, which many people found refreshing.

It was a tweet from my Sheffield buddy Saul that I’d most like to respond to:

Saul Cozens ‏@saulcozens: @chellaquint is this a step in the right direction http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Bpy75q2DDow … it still feels a bit too coy but it isn’t trying to hide anything

Good shout, Saul. I wasn’t sure either. Incidentally – I met Saul after he saw my TEDx Sheffield talk, which is a potted history of femcare advert messages. So if you add my femcare research background, my fanzine shenanigans, my natural skepticism, and my initial reactions to the Bodyform video, when I read this tweet I went back and watched the video again, not with the surprise and glee expressed by most of the people who’ve analysied this story for articles that are now cropping up in feminist blogs, ad industry press and in the mainstream media, but with a need to work out why everybody seemed to love it, and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.

I hate to be a killjoy. I love joy. I’d be joy’s EMT, do joy CPR…heck – I’d even take a bullet for joy. But this facebook commenter’s post and the response, while funny on the surface, and clearly a lesson for all the advertisers and quite a few filmmakers, isn’t all it seems.

As we saw earlier in the summer, Facebook posts on femcare pages do garner attention, and Bodyform were right to respond (although if Femfresh had responded saying anything other than ‘You’re right, our stuff is pointless, possibly harmful, and we are slowly learning how to say the words vulva and vagina in pubic. PUBLIC. We mean public. Dammit.’ their product would have tanked immediately, which would have made lots of extra space on the shelf for reusable femcare products like menstrual cups, but been rather bad for their business). Femfresh should have responded this way, but either didn’t have the brand knowhow, or knew they had something to hide, and sarcasm couldn’t make it better. I made a spoof ad in response to that Femfresh campaign, you know. Not to go into a sulk or anything, but I’m a little disappointed they didn’t make me my own movie. I’m not in it for the attention – I do this because I want people to engage with their media environment – but at least after that case and this one we know for sure that femcare companies are hanging on our every word. It’s too bad that so far they only respond when there’s an easy target who’s comment plays right into theirh hands. Because this guy’s post and the ‘you asked for it, buddy’ reply both play up the same stereotypes of ‘all periods suck’, ‘all women are hormonal and out of control’ and ‘all men have to either deal with it or be shielded from this horror’ which is not very period positive, and throws in some mental health and physical disability stuff right in there with the sexism. I think the way to explain period positive to people is: the woman is not the butt of the joke.

Here’s his comment (sic):

Hi , as a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years . As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things ,I felt a little jealous. I mean bike riding , rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn’t I get to enjoy this time of joy and ‘blue water’ and wings !! Dam my penis!! Then I got a girlfriend, was so happy and couldn’t wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month to happen …..you lied !! There was no joy , no extreme sports , no blue water spilling over wings and no rocking soundtrack oh no no no. Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady changed from the loving , gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin. Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform , you crafty bugger.

Bodyform were eating this stuff up though. It follows the classic advertising technique where the company has to convince you that you have a problem, before they can solve it for you. If you think periods are ok, you probably won’t have a lot of time for people who seem afraid to talk about it. But if you are a company that targets people who think periods are gross, this is right up their menstrual street. Which is why their response video intro on their page says:

We loved Richard’s wicked sense of humour. We are always grateful for input from our users, but his comment was particularly poignant. If Facebook had a “love” button, we’d have clicked it. But it doesn’t. So we’ve made Richard a video instead. Unfortunately Bodyform doesn’t have a CEO. But if it did she’d be called Caroline Williams. And she’d say this.

See what I mean about the totally fake CEO? She’s a made up character. Which reminds me – Richard’s girlfriend is a nameless, faceless possessed child. There are no women in the fake focus group (the fake-us group? the faux-cus group?). There are no real women anywhere in this exchange, with no real voice – they’re simply spoken about. Yet loads of women enjoyed watching it all unfold. I’d imagine the ‘battle of the sexes’ trope provides for a satisfying ‘smug male’ smackdown. I suspect some women who really do have horrendous periods caused by underlying medical conditions may have felt vindicated to finally see their take on things put across on screen. It’s definitely funny that the only graphic description of periods in the ad is accompanied by a subtle zoom out that takes in a conveniently placed plate of red jelly (that’s Jell-o or generic gelatin dessert, for speakers of US English). The eating and drinking menstrual blood metaphors are a little surreal – I’m not sure if they were going for vampire or cannibal, but these bits add a quiet menace that keeps up the horror movie theme running through the whole thing, just in time for Halloween.

Bodyform could have taken this opportunity to tell the real truth: that periods are part of a bigger cycle, can be anything from painful to annoying to no big deal to an exuberant turn up for the ‘not pregnant!’ books, or just, you know, a sign that you are in good reproductive health and everything’s ticking over nicely, like your pulse, and your blood pressure and your peak flow and stuff like that.

For some people, it’s just fine, you know. Periods are a part of life – like every other bodily function. We call them bodily functions because most of the time, they’re functional. Stuff works. And when it doesn’t work, like with this awful cough and head cold combo that is sweeping the UK right now (I hope this makes it into some professor’s pandemic prediction algorithm, but I’m nerdy like that…), you get cranky and irritable and may feel short tempered, like my wife does right now. I don’t think she’s acting like a character from The Exorcist, though. I think she has a head cold, and I will probably buy her some ginger ale to sip and try not to bug her too much. Like I said, this guy sounds like a real charmer. Bodyform is his target, but it’s at his girlfriend’s expense, and she’s not the only one on the receiving end of the putdowns.

The original post is at a woman’s expense. It’s written in a patronisingly innocent tone toward Bodyform, and the butt of the joke is the man’s girlfriend – a woman whose period causes her to become, quote, “the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin”. He does call out their outrageous adverts, but not for implying that women’s real bodily functions are normal. He says (and Bodyform sticks with this view in its response) that women lose it during their periods, which are unmentionably horrible, and men are the real victims.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed. There are a number of dissenting voices in the comments on the Facebook page, calling this stuff out, but many of these commenters are dismissed with replies that are patronising or accuse the poster of, charmingly, not being able to take a joke because they are currently on their period.

Here are a couple:

I estimate about 25% of the female responses on here are very aggressive towards Richard, even though he was clearly just making a joke. Hmmm what on earth could be currently causing about a quarter of women to act like psychos, lacking any form of reason or logic? – Chris Dubuis

Lol, seems like half the woman on this post have their monthly friend. Good thing Richard is on their mind! – Paul Antoniuk

Here’s one from a woman who wanted those who were not amused to shut up:

Very clever Richard and I like the companies come back……. both VERY clever……… LIGHTEN UP LADIES…….. it’s a joke, a HA HA, a giggle, snicker and or snort…… it’s all for fun……. I found it amuzing, thank you for writing this Richard. it was a hoot – Linda-Lee Bosma

Wow. Effective reinforcing of negative messages, Bodyform. But here are a couple of commenters who do a better job than Bodyform in terms of injecting some fair representation and role reversal into your humour:

Richard, sometimes a man just needs a little more game in order to get a date with a skydiver, dancer, biker, surfer or rock musician. Keep trying, buddy, and good luck. – Liisa Pine Schoonmaker

@Richard…I train at a MMA gym..I train in Muay Thai Kickboxing, regular boxing, and BJJ. I do it while my “Happy Period” is in session. I don’t let it slow ME down. I also do the fun stuff like dancing and amusement parks. So, I guess they must have made the advertisement about me… – Lorelle Massageworks

They did have a particular target in mind for their advert, but it’s not the person above, it’s not Richard specifically, or men generally, or women who have painful periods. The whole thing’s a smokescreen. The truth rocks up 45 seconds into the viral video, when the C.E.FAUX (That works, right?) says:

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but there’s no such thing as a happy period.”

She looks straight into the camera, delivering a direct hit to the Always ‘Have a Happy Period’ campaign. (This tagline was in use in the US, more recently in the UK, and is still around in other European countries. It’s most well known for, ironically, a fake viral campaign that started out as a McSweeney’s article, and coincidentally namechecked another fake exec, but this one was male.) It’s not ok to pretend all periods are a walk (rollerblade?) in the park, but the reverse is also true. It’s not all doom and gloom, and it’s irresponsible to insist it is. Even their focus group fake out (The voice over: “We ran a series of focus groups to gauge the public’s reaction to periods.” is run with clips of men crying while watching a screen we ca’t see.) Playing up the negative maintains the taboo even while trying to pretend to break it down. It may seem funny on the surface, but look below the blue liquid for a minute and things do get scary.

This ad isn’t just a coy game with Richard, though, and it’s not just complicit in supporting men’s negative feelings about periods and the people who have them, or even those annoying old ads. It’s a big ‘up yours’ (as it were) to Always, a coded message to potential customers to laugh along with them at the international maxi-pad market leader’s catchphrase, and a bit of (nearly) subliminal encouragement to jump ship and declare new brand loyalty with cheeky old Bodyform (which many Facebook page posters have now done, including one lady from Canada, who went so far as to say that she had never heard of Bodyform before, but should she ever be in the UK and have her period, she would seek their products out specially, in some new kind of uber-brand-loyalty I have never before seen, except in my head where I covet Smeg fridges and they populate my fantasy dreamhouse).

But back to the ad. Fakety-fake-faker Caroline ‘Fake’ Williams continues: “The reality is, some peopele simply can’t handle the truth.”

One perceptive Facebook commenter seems to reply directly to this:

Finally, at last, we have found value in the truth. By the way, just when was it that man first became incapable of handling the truth? Speaking of the truth, when did we stop telling the truth? Ah! There in lay the rub, If we don’t tell the truth, how on Earth are we going to be able to handle the truth, let alone ever know it when we hear it? – Bradley Acopulos

A good point. Simply saying you’re telling the truth doesn’t mean you actually are.

Bodyform uses a clever ploy but it just reminds me of Nick Clegg. (I guess at this point, Bodyform would say, ‘It’s called a metaphor, Richard.’) At 18 seconds in, the actor hired to impersonate a pretend CEO says: “We lied to you Richard, and I want to say sorry. Sorry.” At the Lib Dem party conference, Nick Clegg apololgised for promising he wouldn’t raise university tuition fees, when he should have been apologising for raising university tuition fees. Bodyform apologises to a guy for making periods look like fun, but they should be apologising to women for playing up to the stereotype that periods turn women into possessed little girls.

So. It was remarkable, Bill. I have felt the urge to remark upon it at lengt. It was awesome Seonaid. I am in awe at the irresponsible and seemingly irrepressible force behind age-old period stereotypes, propagated by people who do their research and should know better. And Saul, it was not a step in the right direction, they were being coy, and unless advertising changes radically, they’ve probably got plenty to hide.

Cross-posted at Adventures in Menstruating

Culture-Jamming Kotex

Activism, Advertising, DIY, FemCare, Humor

httpv://youtu.be/qj46Y4BagC8

If you’ve been with us for a while, you might remember that we (and our fabulous readers) had a lot to say in the spring of 2010 when Kotex launched U by Kotex (or YOU.BUY.KOTEX, as we came to call it) and its “Break the Cycle” campaign.

In digging up a copy of the “Reality Check” video that launched the campaign for one of my classes this week, I came across this critique of “Reality Check” by an activist/artist identified online only as Annamalprint. She’s a menstrual activist after our own bleedin’ hearts!

The campaign has won many advertising industry awards, and has been credited with increasing Kotex sales by 10%, by the way. We can expect those neon tampons to be around for a while.

Not Having A Happy Period

Activism, Advertising, Disposable menstrual products, FemCare, Internet, Menstruation

Editor’s note, August 10, 2011: Procter & Gamble has responded that this video was NOT produced or commissioned by them, and is in fact a spoof. While it is still offensive and worthy of criticism as such and your comments are welcome here, please do not direct your ire toward Procter & Gamble.



Edited again, August 10, 2011: I’m beginning to doubt the veracity of the unsigned P&G claim that the company is unaffiliated with this video. The same anonymous quote, attributed only to “Procter & Gamble”, is starting to show up in nearly every online discussion of this ad — at least in discussion of how offensive and un-funny it is. I’ve traced the video back to the Ads of the World site, which provides the following credits:

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, London, UK
Creative: Jim Thornton
Director: Ben Jones
Production Company: Helimax Films
DoP: George Steel
Producer: Sherry Collins

I note that P&G has not posted their denial at Ads of the World, or at Jezebel – two blogs with *considerably* larger audiences than re:Cycling. Color me suspicious. I’d like to hear what others think.

 


Final edit, August 11, 2011: Many thanks to blogger Jane Fae, who phoned both P&G office and Leo Burnett UK, and received the following statement from a senior representative at Leo Burnett:

“All creative agencies will look at different creative ideas to push boundaries and engage consumers. We will occasionally make test films to try and bring an idea to life without a request from the client. These films are for internal use only, for us to understand the power of an idea and are not for publication. This creative was never commissioned nor approved by P&G. We regret this has been made public without our approval or authorization and apologise for any offence caused.”

 


Procter & Gamble have finally responded to consumer complaints about their patronizing “Have a Happy Period” slogan, with a disturbing video showcasing what they term “some of East London’s finest transvestites”. This is so many kinds of wrong, starting with the conflation of transsexuality and drag performance. But instead of re-inventing the wheel and taking it apart myself, I’m going to re-direct re:Cycling readers to the excellent analysis Shakesville’s EastSideKate did yesterday.

I pulled this P&G contact information and sample letter from commenter “Teaspoon” over there:

Toll-free phone number in the U.S. (Always brand specific): (800) 888-3115
Web form for U.S. contact: http://pg.custhelp.com/app/ask

A sample letter that anyone may feel free to adopt or adapt as they like:

Dear P&G representative:

I was recently directed to a web video ad for your Always brand products intended for airing in England and possibly wider audiences, featuring London “drag queens” in tears over an ostensible inability to menstruate.  Quite aside from the errors inherent with conflating cross-dressing performance with transsexuality, this sort of advertising is cruel to transwomen who do feel incomplete, and it helps create a hostile situation for transsexual individuals.  These individuals already face a greater risk of violence simply for being who they are, and your advertising promotes further dehumanization of those who are different.

As a long-time loyal purchaser of Always brand products, I am dismayed by such mocking and harmful advertising.  Until the ad is pulled and a public apology that acknowledges the harmful nature of the ad is issued, I will no longer purchase Always brand products, and I will be reviewing my other purchases to avoid other Proctor and Gamble products as well.

Sincerely,
A former customer

Menstrual Cups for African Girls

Activism, Girls, Menstruation, New Research, Reusable menstrual products
Rhoune Ochako, a research officer at APHRC, explains how the cup works in this photo from the APHRC web site.

Rhoune Ochako, a research officer at APHRC, explains how the cup works in this photo from the APHRC web site.

At re:Cycling, we’re interested in all kinds of menstruation and women’s health issues, all over the world. We have written several times about the need for menstrual pads for girls and women in developing nations, like the Kasissi Project Girls Program producing M.A.K.A. pads in Uganda and Sustainable Health Enterprises making pads from banana trees for women in Rwanda, and LunaPads’ Pads4Girls program, which collects and donates reusable pads to girls in several African nations as well as Mexico and South America. We’ve also suggested that cramps and menstrual pain may cause girls to miss school as much as lack of menstrual supplies.

So it was with great interest that we read about a new pilot program of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) that will distribute menstrual cups to girls in Nairobi.

Women and girls in Korogocho slums have been identified who will use the cup for up to four months, after which they will be interviewed about their experiences,” explained Rhoune Ochako, a research officer at APHRC.

The study will also assess acceptability of the cup, as many girls were intimidated to use the cup. A teacher at Our Lady of Fatima Secondary school initially queried 400 students, of whom only three were willing to participate in the study.

Celestine Awino [age 17] is among girls who agreed to participate in the project that started about a year and a half ago and has been using the cup since then. “At first I was afraid. I waited until a friend used it, then I tried. I have now been using it for over ten months,” she says.

Awino says she is able to engage in school activities during her periods while wearing the cup. “I take part in sports, cleaning and learning activities without any problem. It is better than missing school because one lacks sanitary pads,” she says.

Given the economic and environmental advantages of menstrual cups (not to mention their reliability), this experiment has great potential to make a big difference.


Maka Pads help girls and women in Uganda

Activism, DIY, FemCare, Girls, Menstruation

The Kasiisi Project Girls Program is now the first producer of locally manufactured sanitary pads in Uganda. Their M.A.K.A. pads (Menstruation Administration Knowledge Affordability) are made of papyrus. A package of ten sells for 650 shillings — one-third of the cost of imported pads. The availability of MakaPads helps women miss work and girls miss school less frequently.

Love Your Cycle

Activism, Menstruation

patelToday is Love Your Body Day, a program instigated by NOW to counter the media-fostered ideal of slender, white, long-haired, able-bodied, perpetually happy femininity. We here at re:Cycling are all about self-love, Health At Every Size, and fat acceptance, but we’d like to encourage you to celebrate your cycle while you’re basking in all that body love.

“The menstrual cycle is a window into the general health and well-being of women, and not just a reproductive event,” according to Paula Hillard, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics at Stanford University. You don’t have to “have a happy period” (as one femcare brand likes to say) to appreciate your cycle. Whether you welcome or despair the arrival of your flow each period, you can recognize menstruation as a vital sign of health, letting you know that your endocrine system is functioning as it should. Of course, symptoms of pain and excessive menstrual flow should be monitored, and can be treated with medications or lifestyle changes as warranted, to be determined by you and your health care professionals.

So as you’re celebrating your beautiful body and all it can do, share the love!