A follow up conversation with my Aunt on womanhood...

A follow up conversation with my Aunt on womanhood...

This article follows up a previous one that I had with my Lebanese mother about what it is like to be a woman. We spoke about periods and menopause and in fact after that first conversation, our relationship deepened. It strengthened. I am in my 20s and probably would never have asked those things of my mum or sat down and properly written out questions I wanted to know or recorded her answers. I've thought about that a lot since. Why? Why don't we speak to our mothers as if they hold wisdom, truth, lessons and value? Why do we see her as less than a woman? As just our mother? As someone who's story has no value or prestige? My mother is an amazing cook and I miss her food and I miss her laugh and her energy, but now I see her in a whole new light. She is a woman who has made choices for herself that sometimes she had no control over and sometimes she did. She made brave decisions about how she wanted to live and what she wanted to do at a time and in culture that often feels like she had to have one hand tied behind her back. She raised children and probably lost herself along the way because she didn't feel like she could be her full self, could be seen, or could be known.

I invited my aunt to have the same conversation with me. She lives in Australia and has experienced two very different cultures in her life. But her answers reflect the culture she was raised in, the one she has maintained, almost more determinedly, while living in Australia and the Western culture she doesn't always agree with or understand. I am grateful for these conversations and experiences to lift layers of taboo and distance off my family members, even when I thought we were close. I mean, close enough to have these conversations and record them! Yet, having these conversations lessened the space I didn't see before. There is a secret and a bond we now share.

If you can have these conversations with your own family members or people you feel close to already, it will change your life. I wouldn't have known that before and I wouldn't have ever decided this kind of conversation was important. After doing it twice, I know it is. The work that Phenxx is doing to open these conversations and share them will genuinely change the entire relationship with  women globally if enough can be done. Have a conversation like this and send it to us if you feel comfortable. Tell us what changed when you had it and why it was important for you personally. Encourage girlfriends, sisters and others to have conversations like this. Let's promote a deeper alliance of women globally. 

Enjoy the except of a longer conversation with my aunt Abir below:

N: how did you find out about periods? Who taught you about it? What did she teach about periods? What method did she use?

A: The first time I heard about periods, I was 10 or 11 years old. I would go to the bathroom and look at the pads. But I didn't know why they were there. I would ask, “why are these pads like this? Why are they all bloody?” I didn't know. I asked my mother, and she said, it's too early. But when I was 12 years old, my mother called me and told me that the girl, every month, has filthy blood in her body that needs to be removed. This bleeding takes 3 or 4 days, depending on the woman. And when she starts bleeding, that means that she has become a woman, ready to get married, and give birth.

N: كيف عرفتي عن الدورة الشهرية؟ ومن قام بتعليمك عنها؟ ماذا علمتي عن الدورة الشهرية؟ وما هي الطريقة التي استخدمتها؟

A: أول مرة سمعت عنها كنت في سن العاشرة أو الحادية عشرة. كنت أذهب إلى الحمام وألقي نظرة على الفوط الصحية. ولكني لم أعرف لماذا كانت هناك. كنت أسأل: "لماذا تبدو هذه الفوط بهذه الطريقة؟ لماذا مليئة بالدم؟" لم أعرف. ثم سألت أمي، وقالت لي إنها مبكرة بعض الشيء. ولكن عندما بلغت سن الاثني عشرة، اتصلت بي أمي وأخبرتني أن للفتاة، كل شهر، دمًا قذرًا في جسمها يجب إزالته. هذا النزيف يستغرق 3 أو 4 أيام، اعتمادًا على المرأة. وعندما تبدأ في النزيف، فهذا يعني أنها أصبحت امرأة، جاهزة للزواج والإنجاب.

N: how old were you when you first got your period? How did you feel? Were you happy? Sad? How did your parents feel?

A: I was 12 years old when I first got my period. I was afraid at first, because it was my first time seeing blood that wasn’t caused by a wound, but then I got over it and everything was taught to me.

N: كم كنتِ في سنك الأولى عندما حصلتِ على دورتكِ الشهرية؟ كيف شعرتِ؟ كنتِ سعيدة؟ حزينة؟ وكيف شعر والديكِ؟

A: كنتُ في سن الاثني عشرة عامًا عندما حصلتُ على دورتي الشهرية لأول مرة. كنت خائفة في البداية، لأنها كانت المرة الأولى التي أرى فيها دمًا ليس ناتجًا عن جرح. ولكن بعد ذلك تعودت عليها وتم تعليمي عن كل شيء.

N: Did you ever feel ashamed of being on your period? Did you ever feel ashamed of yourself at school? 

A: Yes, when I was older and married, we went to Jordan. We were going to a faraway place, and I got my period on the road and I bled on the passenger seat. It was just my husband and me and he didn’t say anything because he knew. But I was upset with myself. 

N: هل شعرتِ يومًا بالخجل من وجود دورتكِ الشهرية؟ هل شعرتِ يومًا بالخجل من نفسكِ في المدرسة؟

A: نعم، عندما كنت أكبر ومتزوجة، ذهبنا إلى الأردن. كنا في طريق بعيد، وحصلتُ على دورتي الشهرية أثناء الرحلة و انسكب الدم على المقعد الأمامي. كان هناك فقط زوجي وأنا ولم يقل شيئًا لأنه كان يعرف. ولكني كنت مستاءة من نفسي.


N: Was there a method or a way you used to do when you had your period that changes now?

A: Not anything. There was a time when I had fibroid, where my period was stronger and more intense. But usually, most of the time in my life, I get it for 5 days and a few days later it will be gone.

N: هل كان هناك طريقة أو طريقة استخدمتيها عندما كنتِ تمرين بفترة الدورة الشهرية تغيرت الآن؟

A: لا شيء تغير. كان هناك وقت عندما كانت لدي تورمات رحمية، حيث كانت دورتي الشهرية أقوى وأكثر شدة. ولكن عادة، في معظم الأوقات في حياتي، تأتي دورتي لمدة 5 أيام وبعد أيام قليلة ستنتهي.

N: As a mature woman. What is your opinion on periods? What does it represent to you? Does it symbolize a woman’s strength? 

A: This is a woman's body. It has to be like this: there has to be a preparation for the womb every month. because I studied, the womb has to be prepared in a tissue to receive the sperm. If there’s no sperm, the tissue will fall off, thus there will be no pregnancy. For me, this is a natural process of the woman's body.

N: كامرأة ناضجة، ما هو رأيك حول الدورة الشهرية؟ ماذا تمثل لك؟ هل ترمز إلى قوة المرأة؟

A: هذا هو جسم المرأة. يجب أن يكون هكذا: يجب أن يكون هناك استعداد الرحم كل شهر. لأنني درست، يجب أن يتم إعداد الرحم في أنسجة لاستقبال الحيوانات المنوية. إذا لم يكن هناك حيوان منوي، ستتساقط الأنسجة، وبالتالي لن يحدث حمل. بالنسبة لي، هذا عملية طبيعية لجسم المرأة.

N: Is there something you know now about periods that you wish you’ve learnt before?

A: no nothing.  

 N: هل هناك شيء تعرفينه الآن عن الدورة الشهرية تتمنين أنك قد تعلمته من قبل؟

A: لا، ليس هناك شيء.

N: If the subject of periods wasn't a taboo for the Arab society, and for the male society, what would you have done differently? Would you be more vocal about your period? Or would you still feel embarrassed? 

A: Because we have an Arab mentality, it was decided that a woman should not wear tampons. But in my opinion, it was not necessary for us to not wear tampons because I don't think that the tampon is what will remove the virginity. But, at the time we couldn't do anything. Maybe using tampons is the more hygienic than putting pads to prevent blood spilling. But I don't know if the tampon became allowed or if it makes you not lose your virginity.  I don’t have much information about this subject, but I would have used a tampon if I wasn’t in such a society. 

N: إذا لم يكن موضوع الدورة الشهرية موضوعًا محظورًا في المجتمع العربي وللمجتمع الذكوري؟ ماذا كنتِ ستفعلين بشكل مختلف؟ هل ستكونين أكثر صراحة حول دورتكِ؟ أم ستشعرين بالخجل ما زلت؟

A: بسبب أن لدينا عقلية عربية، تقرر أنه يجب على المرأة عدم ارتداء الأقمشة الصحية. ولكن في رأيي، لم يكن من الضروري بالنسبة لنا عدم ارتداء الأقمشة الصحية لأنني لا أعتقد أن الأقمشة الصحية هي التي ستؤدي إلى فقدان العذرية. ولكن في ذلك الوقت لم نكن نستطيع القيام بأي شيء. ربما استخدام الأقمشة الصحية هو أكثر نظافة من وضع الفوط لمنع تسرب الدم. ولكني لا أعرف ما إذا كان استخدام الأقمشة الصحية أصبح مسموحًا أم إذا كان يحافظ على عذريتك. ليس لدي الكثير من المعلومات حول هذا الموضوع، ولكني كنت سأستخدم الأقمشة الصحية إذا لم أكن في مجتمع مثل هذا.

N: Has your outlook on periods changed ever since you moved to Australia? Did your period change? 

A: no, it all stayed the same.

 N: هل تغيرت نظرتك للدورة الشهرية منذما انتقلتي إلى أستراليا؟ هل تغيرت دورتك؟

A: لا، كل شيء بقي على حاله.

N: Did you start to have menopause? And how is your experience so far? How long has it been?

A: It's been a year, I haven’t felt any symptoms yet because I had my womb removed. 

N: هل بدأتِ في سن اليأس؟ وكيف هي تجربتك حتى الآن؟ كم مرور من الوقت؟

A: لقد مر عام، ولم أشعر بأي أعراض حتى الآن لأنني قمت بإزالة رحمي.

I wondered as I reread the transcript from my conversation with my mum and then the one with my aunt, are these secrets and these taboos that we accept for women, for ourselves, slowly reducing us to less than we started out as - or has culture shifted so much in a generation that I hold opinions and life experiences so different from my own mother and aunt? How do I even begin to test which is correct? Does it matter? 

So many of my beliefs about the topics of women's health and life are so much looser and renegade in comparison to my family and even my culture back in Lebanon. Why? How did this happen? Does it matter?

All I keep wondering is what matters for one woman surely matters for us all. The health and wellbeing of one impacts the health and wellbeing of us all in one way or another. We are all connected and all affected. This is a line of inquiry I will spend more time pondering and finding a greater clarity around. 

Maybe all that matters is that I love them for who they are and what they've given me and done for me to make me who I am. Can I truly love and accept myself without loving and accepting my mother, my aunts, my grandmothers? Instead of being angry at the suppression and the inequality of their lives compared to mine, maybe I can rejoice that despite all of that external difficulty that they faced, and persevered through, they have shown me the true core essence of womanhood - which is strength beyond my own knowing, especially in the face of adversity. 

Isn't that what it is to be a woman? Strength in silence, in taboos, in secrets?

Look around the world, in the West, in the East and in the Arab world and you will see countless faceless women who are rising up to meet or exceed the difficulties they are presented with on a daily basis. Women have always been fighting inequality and injustice in the last 5,000 years of patriarchy. Fighting doesn't always mean picket sticks and protests. Sometimes it means raising sons and daughters to know better and to understand love and kindness and equality. Women are the preservers of kindness on this planet. They love in the face of war - and have done for millennia. 

Choosing love no matter what is strength beyond measure. Fighting is easy, loving takes courage, bravery and choice. Women have been making strong and difficult choices for so long, and the do that because they love their children and that biological urge remains a huge part of their purpose.

What I hear from my mother and aunt when they talk to me about being a woman was a language of love. My periods, my menopause, my suffering is all worth it because it gave me you. My love for you my daughter cannot be reduced into the pain that I feel from being a woman. 

I breathe in, and repeat to myself "My love for you, my daughter, cannot be reduced into the inconvenience that I feel from being a woman." This concept has changed my perspective more than you can imagine. Is the suffering in silence not an act of victim martydom, but rather the courageous roar of a woman who knows love so intimately and closely that she can do anything? 

I think about my aunt's nonchalant mention of her hysterectomy like it was routine, like it was normal and like there was nothing more to say. She ends the conversation without further explanation or discussion. We so rarely open more space for discussion, but even if we did, do we hear the words or the meaning? When I reflect on my aunt's hysterectomy, yes I feel the weight of the story, but I also witness a woman's power to take a negative and spin it in a positive about her reduced menopausal symptoms. She accepts, this is life. What more to say? That love that fuels her life will get her through this too.

What I am learning from my two conversations is that womanhood is about rising above the difficulties with grace and dignity and presenting a role model to your daughters that they should expect more, behave better than those trying to hold them back and showing them a peaceful way of progressing this world forward that doesn't end up in war, conflict or violence. We know how to do this externally because each day we tame that conflict within us. A conflict between a hysterectomy and reduced menopausal symptoms. Which do you prefer - you have to have one?

No period for decades and then potential fertility issues later, as one of my cousins is experiencing?

There are countless examples of choices we make or choices that are made for us. We deal with them. We allow life to continue and we let love guide our life. We do our best to not let these choices become internal wars. We innately all know that you do not achieve peace with war. And until we calm the wars internal to us, we will struggle externally in them as well. We aren't perfect, and sometimes we lose it or get too tired and the war breaks out. But coming back to the truth of using our voice, claiming our energy and living in a higher purpose is all that we can do, and keep doing. 

I am so grateful for these two conversations that will forever change my relationships with my mother and aunt. Thank you to Phenxx for this rare opportunity to speak this way and let it transform me.


Congratulations! Your order qualifies for free shipping You are $100.00 AUD away from free shipping.
No more products available for purchase

Your Cart is Empty