“The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina
So let me be very clear. I wrote this poem with a very specific intent. I have a 13 year old daughter. It is important to me that I throw every part of my experience, whatever wisdom I’ve gleaned from that, every part of my backbone, toward her, to sustain her, to offer her language that lifts her up and keeps her up.
That said, there is for me, a necessary conversation that seeks to undermine the shaming that happens to some girls around menstruation. I had that experience of starting my period in 7th grade, boys, finding out that I had started my period. And then it was some shit, like I’ve been to class with the frantic, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom now,” waved and they’re like, “You’re on your period, aren’t you?” You know, that dumb shit.
And so then my daughter, like she starts her period and she’s stricken and walks out the bathroom looking like she’s died or something, and I wanted to undermine that. So I threw her a period party, my home is red up, dressed in red, and there was red food and red drinks. It was great.
It was great. So all red, everything. I loved it. So, that’s what it was and it was wonderful. And then, when I was in Austin, Texas for Women of the World this year, she sent me a screenshot of a tweet and in 140 characters, this dummy, damn their, undermined my legacy. This is my response to the aforementioned today. You’re welcome.
The dude on Twitter says: “I was having sex with my girlfriend when she started her period, I dumped that bitch immediately.”
Dear nameless dummy on Twitter: You’re the reason my daughter cried funeral tears when she started her period. The sudden grief all young girls feel after the matriculation from childhood, and the induction into a reality that they don’t have to negotiate, you and your disdain for what a woman’s body can do. Herein begins an anatomy lesson infused with feminist politics because I hate you.
There is a thing called the uterus. It sheds itself every 28 days or so, or in my case every 23 days, I’ve always been a rule breaker. That’s the anatomy part of it, I digress.
The feminist politic part, is that women know how to let things go, how to let a dying thing leave the body, how to become new, how to regenerate, how to wax and wane, not unlike the moon and tides, both of which influence how you behave, I digress. [laughter]
Women have vaginas that can speak to each other and by this I mean, when we’re with our friends, our sisters, our mothers, our menstrual cycles will actually sync the fuck up. My own cervix is mad influential, everybody I love knows how to bleed with me. Hold on to that, there’s a metaphor in it. [applause]
Hold on to that. But when your mother carried you, the ocean in her belly is what made you buoyant, made you possible. You had it under your tongue when you burst through her skin, wet and panting from the heat of her body, the body whose machinery you now mock on social media, that body, wrapped you in everything that was miraculous about, and then sung you lullabies laced in platelets, without which you wouldn’t have no Twitter account at all motherfucker. I digress.
See, it’s possible that we know the world better because of the blood that visits some of us. It interrupts our favorite white skirts, and shows up at dinner parties unannounced, blood will do that, period. It will come when you are not prepared for it; blood does that, period. Blood is the biggest siren, and we understand that blood misbehaves, it does not wait for a hand signal, or a welcome sign above the door. And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.
And while all good generals know not to discuss battle plans with the enemy, let me say this to you, dummy on Twitter, If there’s any balance in the universe at all, you’re going to be blessed with daughters. Blessed.
Etymologically, bless means to make bleed. See, now it’s a lesson in linguistics. In other words, blood speaks, that’s the message, stay with me. See, your daughters will teach you what all men must one day come to know, that women, made of moonlight magic and macabre, will make you know the blood. We’re going to get it all over the sheets and car seats, we’re going to do that. We’re going to introduce you to our insides, period and if you are as unprepared as we sometimes are, it will get all over you and leave a forever stain.
So to my daughter: Should any fool mishandle that wild geography of your body, how it rides a red running current like any good wolf or witch, well then just bleed, boo. Get that blood a biblical name, something of stone and mortar. Name it after Eve’s first rebellion in that garden, name it after the last little girl to have her genitals mutilated in Kinshasa, that was this morning. Give it as many syllables as there are unreported rape cases.
Name the blood something holy, something mighty, something unlanguageable, something in hieroglyphs, something that sounds like the end of the world. Name it for the war between your legs, and for the women who will not be nameless here. Just bleed anyhow, spill your impossible scripture all over the good furniture. Bleed, and bleed, and bleed on everything he loves, period.
To be honest, I just got done watching this for the first time, and I’m a mess.
I never really realized how much shame I feel about my cycle, how I feel embarrassed when I ask for someone to grab me a pad or when I bleed on my favorite pair of shorts. But it’s real and it is there.
And it makes me angry.
How dare we be thought of as the inferior sex when we bleed every month for days at a time? I swear, that’s hardcore. Most times when people bleed for seven days straight, they die. We don’t.
There’s something in that, I think. We don’t die. We continue to live. Women know how to rise and rise again. We should be down, but we. are. not. We are resilient.
A while ago, after watching the first season of Teen Wolf, I commented to myself that women are like werewolves. Every month we turn into a monster and act in unnatural ways. I said it negatively, feeling shame over my cycle, but now this video has flipped that idea on its head. We do not turn into monsters. We turn into wolves. Wild, strong, and brave.
My favorite line of her video is this: “And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.”
I’ve always wanted to be a warrior, brave and strong. But every month, now I can be reminded: I am. You are, too. Remember it. Claim it and drive your stake into the ground. Mark your territory and roar as loud as you can. Be a lioness. Make up your own battle cry.
And sometimes, bleeding means being vulnerable. Asking for help, appreciating feminine things, crying, and not being unbreakable 100% of the time is absolutely okay, as much as the world may tell us they are not. Doing these things does not make you less of a woman. Nothing should.
You are whole. You are not broken, you are not a screw-up, you are not a burden, you are not less: you are a woman, and I am proud of you, I am proud of us. The world can tell us there is something wrong in the way we were born, because of the fact that we don’t have a penis. Frankly, that is bullshit. You are enough, and there is NO SHAME in who you are. Accept and be proud of the fact that you have a vagina, you have curves, you have a period, you have hormones; you are a woman. Be proud of yourself. Don’t be afraid to bleed, whatever that looks like for you.
And if you are afraid to bleed, that’s okay. We’re here right alongside you.
(P.S. – As Ariela said, our periods are bloody beautiful. See what she did there?)