A lot of the thoughts and feelings we have about menstruation are a combination of personal experiences and cultural perceptions. Western culture has relegated menstruation to a necessary but silent aspect of female sexuality. It's often depicted in literature and other forms of media as debilitating and even disgusting, a negative source of control over the female body.
Most of us were brought up to think that while menstruation must be endured, it must also be concealed: women must be strong with how they deal with the painful symptoms, but at the same time make sure not to express or call attention to their suffering. This can lead to a difficult and confusing set of emotions. In effect, we're taught contrary perceptions of how we should think about dealing with menstruation, which not only results in confusion, but possibly even reduced self-esteem and body image.
Moreover, Western culture characterizes menstruation as a hygienic calamity; we must be sanitized; otherwise, we'll be unclean. These kinds of ideas are culturally passed down from women to girls and even men to boys
With these prevailing attitudes toward menstruation, it's important for us to make the deliberate effort to cultivate a healthy and positive disposition around menstruation. From there, we can positively build and otherwise influence additional aspects of our self-perception, including body image.
Yet some research suggests that some young girls correlate menstruation with similarity among peers and becoming a woman — both indicated as positive attitudes in the literature. Increasing affirmative messages about menstruation in the media could be essential for shifting our beliefs. Perhaps commercials could discontinue portraying menstrual blood as blue water in order to demonstrate the absorbency of their products. This current depiction is sterilized and totally alien. If there were a different approach to advertising products such as tampons and pads, girls and women might confront the reality of their bodies in a way that celebrated, or even honored, themselves as a healthy, sexually functioning entity.
Parents can facilitate a positive outlook. Allowing your daughter to feel special and unique in her imminent womanhood cultivates an air of excitement and anticipation of menarche, and ultimately promoting a positive outlook on menstruation. Some methods for setting the scene might be: creating a special space for menstrual items (such as sanitary pads or tampons although not in a manner which promotes secrecy or shame) or arranging a special shopping excursion for menstrual items.
It is important to highlight both the joyful and challenging aspects of menstruation equally: some research has shown that only emphasizing the positive can create confusion, and even feelings of duplicity. We don't want to enhance the feeling of abnormality around cramping or other possible side effects related to menstruation (they're uncomfortable enough already!).
Ensuring that complete and accurate information is exchanged will not only facilitate positive attitudes surrounding menstruation but will also alleviate the actual side effects associated with menstruation. This accentuates the urgency of encompassing and honest conversations regarding menarche and menstruation.