“The school is giving abstinence only education to students who are already having sex!” I said to the principal during a conversation that was a little unrelated. I think the prompt was about naming something about the school that could be improved, and they were expecting answers like, longer lunch and less homework. I sort of remember a ‘standard’ answer to my outburst was about the approved curriculum blah blah and then a change in subject. Maybe this is where my outrage began. I wasn’t sexually active, but I wanted the information. I wanted to make an educated choice. But instead, I let my boyfriend and his church choose for me and I got sucked into purity culture. My church said nothing. The silence of the mainline church let the conservative chatter into the hearts and pants of teenagers. I don’t need to leave the evangelical church, but I would like it to leave me alone. And yet, these events made me who I am today. I’m still angry that the gaps in my education were filled in by people who wanted to scare and shame me out of some misplaced sense of morality and self-righteousness. And I was self-righteous about virginity too, eventually. And I regret it now.
But having lived through all of that, I think it is those experiences that have shaped my passion for educating women about menstrual health and about their bodies. Menstrual health, advocacy, and education are the foundations for healthy women having (and making) choices for their bodies and their sex lives. These give women and girls control over their bodies allows them to have more choices about their futures, education, jobs, family, etc. Having access to the education and to menstrual products is a vital first step in the journey of becoming the woman you want to be not the one you are forced to be because of lack of choice, agency, and opportunity.
So, twenty-something years after high school, I’m in a church basement making washable pads and still trying to figure out what mainline churches are teaching about women and their bodies. I think about Eve, the first lady, a lot. Where was the grace for Eve? Why does she bare the guilt, shame, and punishment of a period for wanting to be wise like God? Why do all women suffer at the hands of church and culture? Why is a period considered a curse and not a blessing? When men try to be like gods, we frame it as a hero’s journey. A fall for men usually comes with redemption. Adam’s hard work punishment becomes today’s strong work ethic. Some say it is Mary who redeems Eve. I’m not so sure Eve needs a hero as much as she needs a better publicist.
I wrote this piece for a spiritual writing class I took in January 2022. The prompt was something about finding where your passion comes from in your own history/story. We had to free write for 20 minutes and then edit it down to 500 words or less. I set a timer to keep me on task. I wish I would have timed the editing process too, I really don’t remember how long it took to pull something out of the free writing. It was an interesting exercise. Let me know if you try it.