Nourishing Our Young Women Forwards and Backwards, The “Red Party”
As parents, our actions always send a message. Hosting a Red Party tells girls they can own and celebrate an essential part of themselves. Menstruation is both a taboo and a function of power. This is true, not only in the ability to re-create life, but in the heightened senses available to women throughout their cycles. It is clearly time to let our young women (those with a female body, regardless of gender identity) know that these senses are actually super-powers, to be claimed and revered.
As kids of all genders grow up, it is essential that we as parents give them an alternate message about bodies, sexuality and intimate relationships. The bulk of media will likely only send messages that would separate a young woman from her body and her power; that part is beyond our control. Yet, to come together in celebration this way is a far more compelling message, one that will be felt and lived on the emotional, physical and interpersonal levels.
1. With self-acceptance, we love better.
Self-love and self-compassion are strongly correlated to greater satisfaction in life via motivation, strength and improved relationships. Dr. Kristin Neff has reported that one effect of self-love is decreased stress (as cortisol levels), which allows for an increase in oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone. A practice of self-love helps kids to be clearer and more available for healthy romantic/sexual intimacy down the line. The red party says, “This is part of you. We honor and accept it, so you can accept it too.”
2. With body awareness, we learn to trust ourselves and our instincts more quickly.
The late cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. speaks of the four intelligences: mind, heart, body, life force/spirit. She notes, “In wilderness training programs of any kind, one of the keys to survival is that you have to employ all of those intelligences. And when in doubt, trust the body intelligence because it will not lie.”
This kind of celebration brings her closely into connection with positive body awareness. It is a time to celebrate menstruation in general, as well as the young woman before you. The party may act as an introduction and a permission slip, to live from a place of embodied intelligence.
3. When we are connected to other women, and our ancestors, we have the peace of knowing our place.
Menstruation links women/those in a female body to all the women who have come before them. It is a shared experience and the source of the connection itself. Parents can bring this element into a Red Party by inviting living female relatives, and speaking of a girl’s ancestors, as far back as can be remembered. Symbols of connection, such as red ribbon through pictures of all her women ancestors can be a powerful representation.
4. Our attitudes toward our physical systems can actually influence the flow of blood in our bodies.
Research on stress and the ways we think of our body’s functions reveals dramatic findings. Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal reports on a study in which research participants either believe that stress is bad for you — or view stress as helpful. When participants viewed stress as harmful, their blood vessels actually constricted, limiting the flow of oxygen to all major organs of the body. For those who could re-think of this bodily response as helpful, blood vessels stayed relaxed and open — mimicking moments of joy and courage in the body. Healthy menstruation depends on the relaxed and free-flow of blood in and through the body. Think of this for a moment; the implications are profound.
As a Professional Coach for love, sexuality and human connections, I have held these profound stories of menstruation for female clients. I’ve watched women cleanse and deeply heal negative ideas about their periods, to find a more pure relationship to their bodies on the other side. They report healthier cycles almost immediately as a result. Imagine the gift of prevention, here, through a healthy message at the very start.
5. The beginning of menstruation, or menarche, is a rite of passage in a number of ways.
When handled with intention, parents can address a few basic needs of adolescents, while helping to prevent negative risk-taking behaviors in the teen years. As she leaves something behind and crosses a threshold into the unknown, a door of possibility opens. We all weather life transitions better when our needs are met. Her developmental needs as she moves through puberty: Recognition, Belonging, Identity & Individuation.
Let the Red Party be a celebration that marks a time of focused instruction, ideally in healthy sexuality and relationships. It could be a moment of return, away from the day-to-day life in a special trip. This reinforces the letting go of what was. Be ceremonious in acknowledging her return, ‘You are no longer a child and we welcome you into a new, larger circle’.
Invite other adult women of various ages, and ask them to share stories of first menstruation. Have everyone offer what they love/d most about being a menstruating woman. Give recognition of the new person she is becoming. Let her claim who she is. Honor her innate gifts by drawing attention to her character strengths and her unique presence in the world. Help her to feel deeply seen. Let her know the world needs her. Give your blessings, for all the ways you want to see her thrive.
The gifts of the Red Party go far beyond a fun and luscious evening among women. They are a blessing, backwards and forwards in time, for all it means to be female.