We Won’t Be Invisible: Calling out the Misogyny and Gaslighting Through the Lens of Lived Experience
You know the term “bad period” as a commonly used phrase to describe the pain experienced during menstruation.
But that’s as far as it goes.
You’re forced to take that vocabulary at face value and are taught for the rest of your life to live a lie as if that pain is normal.
As children, we cannot oppose the language we’re taught. As adults, we end up not opposing because we’re conditioned to what we think is our knowing. We are taught to trust the powers at bay.
But what does a “bad period” even mean? For women, a bad period just means they’ll be a social outcast or pariah. There’s a lot of victim-blaming and myth misinformation wrapped up in the effort to maintain the status quo.
Misogyny paints girls and women in pain with a dismissive brush, one with a loaded label conveying impurity and evil narratives ingrained in our psyche, compounded by the belief that we are an unreliable witness. We’re the hysterical, inherently evil, burden of a fruitless woman.
And it’s all disinformation. It’s all information we’re programmed to believe, only to have to either unlearn it all later, like me, or be forced into silence just to survive, like women suffering from stigmatized health diseases.
I was taught to be a good girl. I was programmed to be feminine, obedient, stay quiet with a smile on my face, and follow the supposed rules of my gender.
In the one health class I was ever required to take, we never discussed the topic of menstruation and women’s health. I learned about the act of making a baby, but not about what having a period actually does to my body.
Yet, I did have a home economics class, I learned to sew, and I got to carry around a fake baby for two weeks. Oh, the irony.
I never learned about my body through curriculum. Why? Why was the first I ever heard of Endometriosis, a disease that 1 in 10 is diagnosed with, at 30-years-old by the happenstance of meeting a woman in this conversation?
That’s the conditioning, isn’t it? That’s us being good girls, swept aside on every other account of agency over what it means to be a woman.
I didn’t realize I was taught oppressive language since childhood, without intervention, giving me zero chance of awareness or agency over my body, or that I would grow up to instead be fed a false narrative that would lead to social programming resulting in my imprisonment to the patriarchy.
Without an intervention like this, I would have unknowingly imprisoned my daughter and future generations.
Silvia Young, the founder of the FemTruth Organization, completely deconstructed everything I thought I knew about how capitalism thrives on our pain and shame, and silences our ability to use the truth of our story, forcing women to live a life that will emotionally, physically, and economically devastate us.
It’s misogyny. It’s gaslighting. It’s life-threatening. And one of the most prominently kept secrets of this battle is told through the lens of Endometriosis.
The FemTruth Organization began from a patient-centered perspective as Silvia navigated society living with a multi-layered stigmatized disease like Endometriosis. The same disease that leaves women like her on the fringes of society. She questioned why and sought to uncover lived experiences to understand the intersection of oppression and its impact.
When she brought her anthology to my press in hopes of circumventing this conversation with agency, education, and proper resources through the lived experiences of women in the cut of this disease, it was clear these stories had the power and potential to be an impactful counternarrative to help call out the criminal imbalance of power hiding in plain sight in every institution and environment we encounter.
They want us invisible.
And while it goes far beyond the scope of Endometriosis, a tool of misogyny is to gaslight women in pain. It could be any health ailment or any injustice, but through this particular lens, Silvia grants us first-hand access to the way oppression happens right before our very eyes without us ever really seeing it.
We want to keep finding ways to address menstruation and pain. Menstruation and access to open dialogue about pain. There is no better dialogue than through the truth of story. That’s the resolution, and it’s a tangible solution I want to be a part of.
Silvia’s anthology, Good Girl, Bad Period: Breaking the Silence on Misogyny and Gaslighting Through the Lens of Endometriosis, shatters stigmas through storytelling in an educational environment that promotes critical thinking and discussion. A place where our future leaders learn from the lived experiences of the community impacted. A place where we listen and learn from those that have walked this path.
As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I know better now, so I am choosing to be an active part of the conversation. I am choosing to educate myself. I am choosing to put myself in positions where I can open discussion.
I don’t want my daughter’s body literacy to be a choice she makes. I want it to be something inclusively integrated into society’s culture of teaching our youth as a norm.
I want more mothers in my generation to be given the opportunity to teach their daughters while our society is not. If the powers at bay aren’t going to educate me, I want to be a part of how I can educate myself and women like me.
History has repeated itself for far too long. We’re brainwashed into accepting that we’ve made progressions, but have we? How far have we come? How many women have exhausted their efforts to be heard, to feel seen, venting through their narratives, and falling on deaf ears?
The voices may change, but I’m afraid the narratives do not. How many cues did writers like Sylvia Plath need to give the world before their lack of agency caused their demise? She was a woman in the know, yet she was gaslit into hysterics by medical institutions designed to control her.
The Bell Jar is not just a compelling novel of the 1960s about a woman’s mental illness. It’s historical proof of systemic misogyny that Plath knew she was victim to, but could not crawl her way out of:
“I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent. Here was a woman in terrible pain, obviously feeling every bit of it…and she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again”
In her study of the American medical institutions of the 1970s, feminist nonfiction author Gena Corea says:
“The doctor’s motive in treatment was something other than the woman’s well-being, something connected to his view of woman’s function in the world.”
So, tell me, what do you think has changed in 50+ years? Less than you can fathom, I’m sure. But Good Girl, Bad Period lifts the veil. One woman in the collection writes:
“I have had four surgeries in five years. I have only one remaining ovary, and I remain in chronic pain. It does not have to be this way. Pelvic pain is never normal. We can no longer culture girls and women to accept that pain is a normal part of womanhood. This is a dangerous lie. When female pain is discredited and dismissed, the consequences can be deadly.”
Accepting pain as a normal part of womanhood in 2022 is not much different than it was for women like Plath, or many other influential women writers called to light in Silvia’s anthology.
This work is proof of the lack of change while breaking the silence to grant us the access we’re missing to create the change we’re seeking. We need an ample tool that proves we’re still being fed a lie, and Good Girl, Bad Period bridges that gap. The women in this anthology are the evidence.
We’re passing the proverbial mic to them.
Christine Weimer is an award-winning writer and publisher from Queens, New York who is honing all the guts and glory of motherhood while promoting and supporting womxn writers through her independent press Our Galaxy Publishing as the Editor-in-Chief. She is the author of three poetry collections; Tainted Lionheart, which won the Gold Medal Poetry Award for Readers’ Favorite 2021, I Got to Know Nature, and Claiming the Throne. Her most recent work is published in The Order of Us and Venus Rising anthologies and Sunflower Station Press literary magazine. Visit Christine’s official website and blog: amindfulwriter.com Instagram: @amindfulwriter