#1 What is the Future of Feminism in Business?
In Sweden (where I live today) women have had the legal right to study in academia since 1873 but it was not until 1927 that the public universities officially opened their doors to welcome women. This is barely 100 years! and Sweden was early in this particular game!
Academic pursuits are daydreams I visit often. Reminded that this daydream hobby of mine could not have been reality less than 100 years ago. I’ve held a lot of anger for the amount of inequality and destruction that exist in our world (I am still angry at times, this is not a blog post about a moment that shifted everything into a positive and a buddha state). Yet, I am present to how rarely I connect with gratitude to what I am allowed today and for those that have paved the way. The work of previous generations.
Filled with gratitude, I also hold the question of; What is next in the evolution of equality and progress in the world and how are we contributing towards future generations?
Of course, I find myself with few answers and countless questions.
As advances in gender equality in terms of pay gaps and roles are increasing, I wonder when the way we are doing and how we organise will start becoming an important aspect of equality.
What if we integrated the learnings of the menstruation cycle, what would the impacts be on society?
Needless to say, there are endless perspectives to consider and an abundance of rabbit holes to go down in such a complex question. I am by no means suggesting that there is an answer, rather I am entertaining a curiosity in exploring the insight that it brings as a fraction to the whole rather than a finite result.
Like many others around me, I did not grow up learning about the female cycle or get initiated to menstruation in an educational way. I imagine it was similar for you? Whatever gender you identify with.
It was not until my mid 20’s that I learned about the different phases in my natural cycle and its impact on my day to day. As I visit the topic from a different angle, I talked to friends and colleagues who have an expertise in these areas. A natural starting point is highlighting the 4 phases in the menstruation cycle. As our levels of awareness vary, the qualities of the cycle will be old news for some while completely new to others. I have tried to make it as simple as possible while giving enough insight to raise awareness and educate others.
As we learn about the cycle it is important to consider that every woman’s anatomy is different. Each woman will have a unique hormonal profile and will therefore have varied experiences to her cycle. The below 4 phases is purely an overarching map and gives an idea of the similar rhythm that menstruating women experience.
So, What actually is the menstruation cycle?
Between the years of puberty and menopause, a woman’s reproduction system will go through a set of changes on a monthly basis to get the womb ready for a possible pregnancy.
The cycle is regulated by a complex interaction of reproductive hormones which prepares the womb for a possible pregnancy, or if no pregnancy happens a drop in the hormone progesterone which leads to shedding of the uterus lining and recommences the monthly cycle. This complex interaction of hormones is what we call the menstruation cycle and can be mapped across 4 phases which are described below.
The complex and clever cycle moves through an average of 28 days, however many women will have cycles that vary from 21 to 35 days.
The menstruation cycle and seasons
Many women, including myself, find comfort in connecting each phase of their cycle to a season, the qualities of each cycle phase are similar to the various seasons. Comparing it to the seasons gives a framework for reflection on both the qualities and challenges to each phase. I imagine it’s a very intuitive wisdom that has existed for many generations all over the world as cycles are something that exist all around us, all the time. From astronomical cycles and the moon phases , weather cycles and the seasons to biological cycles and the circadian rhythms and of course the cycle that governs us all — the life cycle.
So let’s look at the menstruation cycle and its 4 phases.
Phase 1: Menstruation — Winter
4–8 days (on average)
Known as the period. The menstruation phase starts on the first day of bleeding and is counted as day 1 of the cycle.
It is triggered by the previous cycle when an egg is not fertilised. Levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop, these hormones are in-charge of thickening the lining of the womb to prepare for pregnancy. The drop of these hormones sends the message to the body that the thickened uterus is not needed and for it to be cleaned out of the body. A clever system that like all other organs uses blood as its preferred cleaning force. The uterus lining is shed with the help of blood via a woman’s vagina.
10 to 35ml on average is the amount of blood it takes to clean out the uterus.
🛏 Rest & Hibernation 🛏 A woman’s body will naturally ask them to slow down and stop. Like sleep, deep rest and reflection gives space to new fresh ideas to emerge.
🧹Cleansing 🧹 Think Mari Kondo for your physical and emotional body. A time for deep cleansing of emotions, letting it all out from tears to laughter. Like material, hoarding emotions can create stagnation and clutter.
🚦Social Constructs🚦 Social bias towards productivity, little focus on celebrating rest and hibernation. Many women are not able to take time off.
💊Pain & Discomfort💊 Some women experience intense, sometimes paralysing cramps and deep exhaustion.
🎧Educate & Listen 🎧 Tell those you feel comfortable around you which phase you are in and what you might need, perhaps that you might need more rest and downtime. Practice listening to your body’s unique message. Tracking the symptoms of your individual cycle can be done via many apps support this.
🗓 Schedule 🗓 Rest, self-care and minimise social activities when possible.
Phase 2: The Follicular Phase — Spring
11–17 days (on average)
The follicular phase overlaps with the period as this phase starts already on the first day of bleeding and ends with ovulation. Follicles are the fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries that contain the eggs. Now that the uterus is being cleaned the brain sends the message to release follicle-stimulating hormones which stimulate the ovaries to produce 2 to 20 sacs each containing an egg. Only the healthiest egg will mature (occasionally more) which will create a surge in estrogen that again starts the thickening of the uterus lining to prepare for a possible pregnancy and creates a nutrient rich environment.
💪Confidence & Determination 💪The surges in estrogen can create a larger capacity. This is a good time to do things that otherwise can trigger insecurity like speaking in public.
💡 Fresh Ideas and insights💡A good rest often stimulates fresh ideas. It can be a time of creative insights.
🚦Social constructs🚦 As society celebrates these traits it’s easy to glorify this time and relate to it as my best self and feel critical of the qualities in other phases.
❌ Overcommitting ❌ As we feel on top of the world in points of this phase it’s easy to over think we can act on all our creative ideas and overcommit.
🎧 Educate & Listen 🎧 Talk to those you feel comfortable with — the more people are exposed the more normative it becomes, perhaps remind people you have a tendency to overcommit. Listen to your body.
🗓 Schedule 🗓 Social activities both privately and professionally and working on tasks that need a creative and can do attitude.
Phase 3: Ovulation — 🌻 Summer 🌻
24 hours on day 14–17 of the cycle (on average)
Ovulation is when the ovary releases the mature egg to potentially be fertilised. As estrogen levels surge during the follicular phase the body now releases luteinising hormones which starts the ovulation process. Only during ovulation can pregnancy happen, the egg once released only lives on average 24 hours if it is not fertilised by a sperm.
🧠Growth Mindset🧠 Anything can be done, everything can be overcome and a solution exists. Many women experience a can-do attitude in these times.
❤️🔥Openness & Sensuality❤️🔥 The body is naturally open to sensual experience and all pleasure can feel heightened.
🌩 Frustration 🌩If not having an outlet to express sensually and allow the body to experience sensuality, frustration can easily build up for many women.
🗓Schedule🗓 Important conversation, High intensity workouts, Sexual expression activities, dancing, painting, embodied practices, delicious foods and flirting opportunities (even platonic).
Phase 4: The Luteal Phase — Autumn
Starts after ovulation and ends on the first day of bleeding, the period.
If the egg is not fertilised the body is now again told to prepare the cleaning process of the uterus lining. Just before ovulation, the follicles (the little egg sacks) close and develop into small yellow structures called the corpus luteum. If they are not fertilised they will deteriorate, and progesterone hormone levels will fall which maintains the thickened lining and the uterus will now start shedding its lining, which is cleaned out with bleeding during menstruation.
During this phase estrogen and progesterone surge dramatically which can cause what we call PMS symptoms, moods can often be quite unpredictable in this phase.
🎨Boundaries & Creativity🎨 A time that teaches us about healthy boundaries, time alone to focus on our internal creativity.
👀 Sensitivity & Community 👀 Senses are heightened and it’s a great time to notice what usually is overlooked. Both for ourselves and those around us.
🚦Social constructs🚦 If those around us are unaware of PMS, they can’t support us. Many of us are not surrounded by communities where it is accepted to talk about or pre-menstrual symptoms.
🌊Overwhelm🌊 As senses are heightened its easy to get overwhelmed, triggered by people around us where we wouldn't be in other phases. The body is noticing more.
🎧Educate & Listen🎧 Talk to people, especially if you experience intense PMS you might want think of specific requests or strategies to bring more ease. Listen to your body and rest where possible.
🗓Schedule🗓 Gentle time with yourself, creative reflection and processing, note that challenging conversations might be best scheduled for after day 1 of your bleed.
Of course this is an incomplete intro to the phases of the menstruation cycle. There are plenty of phenomenal communities out there with endless pools of wisdom.
Many other aspects, angles and combinations of these questions need to be explored. The mechanism we integrate on a society level for example. How to normalise cycles and re-familarise ourselves with cyclical living? Did you know that Spain recently became the first European country to legalise period leave (for certain cases), joining a small number of countries including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia.
I am amongst those who see a change needed in how we organise, in our doing and more importantly in our being. I recently attended the Inner Development Goals Conference which emphasis the need for inner change in order to see real outer change. Cyclical living and regenerative cultures are crucial to this development. If you are curious to get support in implementing these thoughts into actions, both personally and professionally. Get in touch, I am more than happy to have chats about this.
For now I leave you with the question:
How aware are you of the cycles of life, what would change if you gave cyclical living more attention?
A big thank you to Dr Bronya Gorney for keeping me in integrity with checking the biological facts and the wonderful Keren Levana for her years of womb wisdoms.
Relationship Coach, Mediator & Facilitator