Monday, 24 October 2011

Is the woman extinct?

Over ninety years on from Emmeline Pankhurst, the Suffragettes and hunger strikes and gender equality is still one of our most taboo issues. After almost a century of us females battling it out for equal treatment, the interplay between the two sexes has changed dramatically and, most probably, irreparably. What started out as a desire to be acknowledged as equals from a political and legal standpoint has turned into a plight to become the same from a biological perspective, too.

Chivalry and courteous behaviour from a man to a woman can be interpreted as sexist: women want men to treat them like men… but then decry the fact that romance is dead when they are not treated like the damsels in movies and novels of old in private. It seems that what women really want is to be hermaphrodites: a man in the boardroom, a woman in the bedroom. 

The fact that men and women carry out different roles in nature - and thus, must necessarily be built extremely differently - is something of an uncomfortable truth and one which western society tries most adamantly to ignore. It is now almost laughable for a woman to give up a career once she has children. Those who do so are branded as lazy. Women are expected to have careers and fulfil their original function as bearers of the next generation. Can't conceive? No boyfriend or husband? That's what IVF and sperm banks are for, honey.

We spend the first half of our life pumping chemicals and concoctions into our bodies to avoid the encumbrance of a pregnancy. And then when the tick-tocking of nature's biological clock looms louder, we pump yet more chemicals in to try and welcome back said encumbrance.

The very thing that makes us women, makes us feminine, makes men want to stick their parts into us is denied and even detested. That monthly event is seen as a major inconvenience. Men don't have off days, weighed down by bloating, cramping and lethargy, so we can't have those either. How will we get to the top if we take the day off? The notion that menstruation should be circumvented began for me - and for many others - in school when getting an off games slip on account of Patricia (as we affectionately called it back then) was nearly always refused.

The constant fighting, denying and resisting of fluctuating hormones and undulating moods is making the "problem" just that. Women don't want to be women. We want to be men in make-up and women's clothes because being a woman is not acceptable - despite the exponential existence of highly sexed-up adverts, magazines, TV shows, films etc which seem to worship the feminine body. However, look closely and these bodies have more often than not been airbrushed into oblivion, leaving no traces of definitive womanhood behind.

Fighting nature creates conflict in the psyche of women, exacerbating the symptoms associated with PMS, a.k.a. womb fury. The symptoms are not the problem. It is us perceiving them to be a problem by believing it is unacceptable to succumb to the natural rhythms of our body. Indeed, PMS is very much a Western affliction. If we embraced the fact we are women, capable of creating LIFE with our bodies (with a few essential ingredients courtesy of men folk, of course) then maybe we would start to appreciate these vessels that inspire so much lust. 

We need to start respecting and listening to our bodies and be grateful for them. In Syria (not usually lauded for its progressiveness in gender equality), female employees are permitted to take one day off a month to rest when nature comes a-calling. That certainly isn't equality from a Human Resource Management point of view, but it certainly is compassion.

The menstrual cycle is divided into the yin and yang halves. Yin is the female aspect. The intuitive, introverted, quiet part of the month when we may feel more tired, reclusive and pensive. Yang is the masculine aspect (occurring after ovulation) when we are full of energy, movement and more extroverted. Both phases are necessary to carry out our biological function as females. Instead of trying to make the yin phase disappear, we should learn to adapt and work with the two phases. Catch up on some reading during the yin phase; go crazy during the yang.

Next time the usually dreaded day looms, take the time to be aware of your body. Appreciate it. Rest. Eat if your body asks for it. And enjoy the fact that you were born a woman with life creating capabilities.

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