Archive for the women’s bodies Category

The Illusion of Beauty: Part 3

Posted in body image, objectifying women, raising daughters, self-esteem, women's bodies, women's liberation, women's rights with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” ~ Dr. Steve Maraboli

“Health makes good propaganda.”  ~Naomi Wolf “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women”

In 2013, the cry amongst the media is for “healthy” bodies. Of course, what is healthy? Who decides what is healthy and what is their incentive/motivation when doing so? The doctor attempting to sell yet another diet book? The companies trying to convince you their product will make all your body image woes disappear? Once again the ideal body for a female is slender, but with rock hard abs, defined arms and large breasts:

Perfect body

Victoria's Secret


Of course, this look is completely impossible for most women to achieve. Others will come close with serious food deprivation, hard physical training and sometimes surgery. It’s not enough to just be “thin” anymore, unless you are on the runway.

In the fashion world, skeletal thinness is still used by runway models who have become the perfect human clothes hanger:

thin model 1

thin model 3

There’s another place and time this look was seen:

concentration camps

Concentration Camp Inmates

How is it that there are people who favor a look only attained by torture, starvation and near death? The rise of anorexia and bulemia (in girls as young as 8!), the increase of hospitalization and even death among young women has made some people sit up and take notice. The efforts of specific organizations who attempt to raise awareness about the havoc being wreaked on our young women is slowly shifting the consciousness. A rising tide of rebellion is beginning and although still not enough to completely infiltrate and break down the cult of beauty that has our culture in it’s grip, it is creating cracks in the foundation. Today, more people are recognizing that beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. Better yet, marketers are starting to realize (finally) that showing size 0 models to the average size 10-14 woman is not serving them well. Slowly, slowly, we are starting to see women that, although still almost impossibly beautiful, look more like women who don’t starve themselves into an unnatural state.

Plus sized model 2Ford Models Celebrates The Publication Of Crystal Renn's "Hungry"Plus sized model 3

It’s a start, a good one, to showing women that it’s okay to be human beings…healthy, happy human beings who don’t have to fit into a mold created by society. There are women who are naturally thin and women who are not. There’s nothing wrong with being thin, athletic and toned…just as there’s nothing wrong with having breasts and hips and thighs and a stomach. Finally, the designers and industries that cater to women are starting to realize WE are the consumer; we’re just not going to take the abuse anymore. It’s still a slow road: These mannequins, used by a Swedish store, have sparked much controversy. While many have reacted very positively and praised the use of  mannequin models that resemble the average woman, some have claimed it encourages obesity.

Swedish mannequin pic

Of course, the use of size zero mannequins and models, some with legs hardly larger than a person’s arm, has encouraged anorexia and bulemia for years. It’s encouraged depression and low self-esteem in women and, increasingly, in very young girls. Showing only women who look like prepubescent girls with large breasts has perpetuated an unrealistic fantasy for men, who begin to believe that is how all women SHOULD look, when very few women will be able to attain it. It has equated “thin” with “good” and “healthy” and anything over a size 8 (and sometimes that’s considered too big) with “bad” and “unhealthy”. Plus sized models start at a size 8, when the average  American woman is a size 12 or 14. And yes, there’s an argument to be made that the average American diet is unhealthy, thus leading to a problem with weight. Setting up unrealistic, unattainable and in some cases, unhealthy, standards for women to look to is NOT the answer. Even very thin women can be heard lamenting about the few ounces of extra weight they have on their bodies…despite a predisposition toward thinness, healthy eating and diligent exercise. How do women learn to feel comfortable in their bodies when they are being sent constant messages that say they are unacceptable?

Plus size vs straight size

A “plus” sized model compared to a “regular” model

How can we get to a place of acceptance that we are more than our bodies, when we are constantly being told that our bodies are all that matter? On top of that, the constant message is our bodies are NOT acceptable unless they are starved and exercised into a form that is often unnatural. Even our little girls learn from an early age that beauty has a specific size:

woman object 4

How do we teach our young women (and our young men), that the female body can be beautiful in many shapes, many sizes? When do we stop acting like we all need to resemble barbie dolls in order to be acceptable, beautiful…good?

I want a different world for my daughters (and myself), yet sometimes am unsure how to effect change in such a rampantly superficial world. What can a single individual do to promote a healthier, more diverse culture of body image? Here are the things I’ve come up with that I CAN change:

  • Avoid negative talk about weight or shape. No more talk about “fat” or “skinny” and no more judgement language about bodies. Bodies are bodies, neither good nor bad.
  • Don’t use food as reward or punishment and avoid negative statements about food. Provide healthy food, then let your child make their own choices about it.
  • Compliment my child on accomplishments, talent and effort. Children should feel they are valuable and valued for more than their appearance. Only complimenting girls (or boys) on the way they look (“You’re so pretty!” “What a cutie.”) links their self-esteem to their looks. Teach my children from an early age they are so much more than just their bodies or faces.
  • Restrict media images. From the Disney Channel to the Victoria’s Secret catalog that comes in the mail. Discuss the media images with my daughters.
  • Help them to understand what is normal and healthy, especially during changes that may naturally involve their bodies changing. Keep communication open.
  • Write to designers/clothing stores/magazines and inform them of what you like and what you don’t. Use my dollars to reinforce my values. If I really dislike the way “American Apparel” or “Guess” uses images and models and I don’t feel they support healthy body image, then I won’t buy their clothes. A single consumer won’t make a huge difference, but change starts with one person, right? If a company DOES promote positive body images, then let them know that too.
  • Finally…love and accept my own body. My children will follow my actions more than my words. Work hard on accepting that I am not defined by my body, then realize that my body is beautiful. Let my children see that it’s okay to not look like Barbie and still take joy and pride in my appearance. It’s fine for them to see me making healthy food choices and exercising…that’s just modeling good health. What’s not okay is for them to constantly hear “I can’t eat that–it’s got too many calories” or “I need to stop being lazy and workout”. What’s not okay is for them to constantly be hearing about the latest diet or technique for losing weight. They learn from me, so I need to make sure I’m teaching them the right things.

Finally…realize how ridiculous it all is. Women spend a large chunk of their lives as slaves to the beauty ideal…which can’t even stay constant! We are slaves to something that shifts with political culture and socio-economic changes. We’re letting people who run the fashion industry (and let’s be honest: Should gay men really get to decide what a woman’s body should look like??) tell us what we should look like. We are starving, running, body-building, tweezing, waxing and even cutting ourselves open in an attempt to be “beautiful” and “sexy”, when those words could be/should be defined in many different ways! Realize the ridiculousness of it all and refuse to participate.

Tiny Fey, who is quickly becoming my hero, sums it all up nicely.


The Illusion of Beauty: Part 2

Posted in body image, objectifying women, raising daughters, women's bodies, women's liberation with tags , , on April 17, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

“Beauty is in the eye of beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye”

The notion of female beauty is a fluid one, subject to rapid shifts depending on culture and who’s running the fashion industry. Beautiful, sexy, healthy: These words all shift with the decades. Yet they greatly influence how we perceive ourselves and how we feel we measure up with others in our society. The obsession with female beauty and the ideal body is not a new concept. Throughout the ages, artists have been attempting to capture the curves, grace and mystique of a woman. Men pursue beautiful woman; women want to be beautiful. But what is beautiful? How has our perception of beauty changed?

From artwork of the Middle Ages, which showed women with hips and breasts and a rounded stomach:


To artwork and images of the 1800’s:


In fact, being “thin” was not a lasting trend that was considered beautiful or fashionable until the 1920’s, when the flapper styles came into vogue. There were exceptions to this rule: Before the Civil War, tuberculosis ravaged the nation; called the ‘wasting disease”, one of the side effects was severe thinness. This look gained popularity for a brief time, until the antebellum era, when voluptuousness was again on the rise. Lillian Russell, a theatre actress who was around 200 lbs, was considered a great beauty. Curves ruled the scene until the Roaring 20’s, when women began to push for more independence. A boyish figure was the look of the decade…


Until the 30’s and 40’s, when Marilyn Monroe and other actresses brought curves back into the spotlight:


curvy vs skinny 1

Then came Twiggy: A British teenager who was part of London’s “Swinging 60’s”, Twiggy’s ultra-thin, androgynous look changed the fashion industry overnight:


The 90’s brought a mixture of body styles, from the curvaciousness of Cindy Crawford, who was once dubbed “too busty” to be a runway model:

cindy crawford

Juxtaposed with the “waif” look of Kate Moss:


In 2013, where are we with body image? What is it that we’ve determined is the ideal beauty?

To be continued…

The Illusion of Beauty: Part 1

Posted in body image, objectifying women, raising daughters, self-esteem, women's bodies, women's liberation, women's rights with tags , , , , , on April 15, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

My youngest child has cheeks that are rosy with color and she loves to don a swimsuit or shorts and bare her skin to the sun. She is a lovely, sensitive, smart, artistic, incredible little girl. She is also quite chubby.

Three and a half years ago, she looked like a little ghost: Pale, with dark circles under her eyes. She was constantly sick and would be doubled over with stomach pain nearly every time she ate. After taking her to doctor after doctor, she was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease: Ulcerative Colitis. Freqeunt bleeding and a 106 fever even landed her in the hospital; it was a scary event for her father and I. This resulted in a massive dose of steroids to try to manage the severe symptoms. It worked. It also left her with raging emotions and a wicked appetite. Her weight gain was so fast and so significant, that I commented to someone once that it looked like this child had eaten the child she used to be. After awhile, we were able to wean her off the high dose of steroids and begin a more long-term approach.

Today, she looks like a healthy kid. A kid that plays and colors and sings and makes it to school. A child that looks at me and sometimes my breath catches, because she is so amazing, inside and out. Yet…

As a woman who has struggled with body image, I am concerned. As an adult who knows the way this superficial world works, I feel trepidation. When she reaches for seconds at meals or wants to have a big slice of bread for a snack, I struggle with how to react. I don’t EVER want her to feel like she is less than the beautiful, amazing girl she is. So when her pants don’t fit anymore, I simply buy new ones. I never disparage or comment on her body and I only use positive language. I stopped calling myself words like “fat” in front of my children long ago. Still, I know the way the world is; as she moves into adolescense, if the weight issue hasn’t resolved itself, I fear she will suffer the consequences. So I feel a bit sick inside: How do I meet this situation? To treat her differently than her sibling (who looks like a wraith no matter what she eats) around the subject of food will bring an awareness of her own body that I really don’t want her to have. To not take any action feels like setting her up for failure. I have been struggling with this dilemma for months…

And I’m angry. I’m angry at a world that punishes us for how our bodies look. I’m furious at a culture that believes objectification is okay. And I’m not certain that the average person is aware of how insidious, how prevalent, it is. Let me help put it in perspective:


woman object 1woman object 7woman object 5woman object 6woman object 8woman object 11woman object 2woman object 10woman object 9

woman object 3

What do these images convey about women? They are nothing more than the sum of their parts: Breasts, thighs, ass and legs. Because of this they are interchangeable; we don’t even need to show their faces! They are vapid, empty vessels waiting to be filled by men. Merchandise, to be used and displayed as desired. If the female model’s face is even shown, it is often void of expression. Afterall, she is simply an object and objects don’t think or feel. She is a coat rack, a fantasy, an apex of thighs, a valley of breasts, a hole (while the guy fantasizes about his real passion, as exemplified in the ad for the car), a product…not a human being.

As if those ideas weren’t degrading enough to women, there is also the implied violence and oversexualization present in the majority of the photos. A man between a woman’s thighs as other men look on, a man possessively clutching a bare breast with one hand while grasping a woman’s head with the other, text reading “NOW OPEN” above a photo of a woman’s spread legs. The apathy and bared breasts of a model who looks to be barely out of her teens, selling riding pants.

Do we really need to wonder why we live in a culture of violence toward women? These images were a few culled from thousands just like them. The message that women are the sum of their sexual parts, they are objects, they are prized only for their beauty and sexuality…this is the daily message blared at us from magazines, billboards, television and the advertising industry.

Women: Is this what we want for ourselves? For our children? Men: Is this the norm you’d want for your mother/sister/daughter?

How did we get here?

To be continued

I Am Not Responsible For Your Penis (An Angry, Long and Possibly Disjointed Rant)

Posted in Dating, online dating, women's bodies, women's liberation with tags , , , , , , on March 20, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

I’ve read a bunch of stuff about relationships over the last few years and included in that is a lot of research on understanding the minds of men. One book even contained a complicated system for attracting a man that involved specific eye patterns and subtle hand gestures that were supposed to mesmerize him into attraction. I laughed quite a lot, then threw the book in the garbage.

There is one “dating/relationship guru” that I’ve read quite a few articles by: Eric Charles of A New Mode. He has some interesting things to say and doesn’t seem highly gimmicky, which I like. I became a fan on Facebook and see his posts come across my newsfeed fairly frequently. After reading his articles, his posts, etc., I’ve come to some conclusions.

  • I think it is valuable to be given insight into a man’s mind, because women think so differently. In terms of sheer honesty, he lays it all out there. The good, the bad and the ugly. Forewarned is forearmed, right? So he’s doing women a service, isn’t he? However…
  • I always wind up feeling like he gives men a free pass to be assholes. Now, I’m sure he would fall back on the “forewarned is forearmed”, but there is a particular segment that finally sort of gelled why I found several of his posts off-putting….

Mr. Charles has been very outspoken about the fact that men who say they don’t want a relationship, for whatever reasons, really just don’t want to be in a relationship with you. That if he’s continuing to date you/sleep with you and yet won’t commit because of ANY cited reasons (My life is a mess, I need to focus on my career, I’m just not ready to commit, etc.), that what he’s really saying is that he’s happy to continue hanging out/having sex until the woman he wants to be with long-term comes along (the woman who, clearly, isn’t you).

Here’s my problem with this: Doesn’t that mean these men are liars? If they’re willing to string a woman along for sex, knowing they don’t really want to be with her (and most of these men know the woman wants a relationship), doesn’t that mean they are users? Doesn’t this put the responsibility on the woman in a weird and unfair way? Instead of constantly having to arm women to recognize men who lie and use, shouldn’t there be more information teaching men to not be douchebags?

So many of the questions I see being answered on this site (and with good reason) involve: How can I tell if he’s really interested in me? How can I know if he considers me his girlfriend? What can I do to get him? What can I do to keep him? Some of the messages are fantastic and I applaud Eric Charles and his professional partner Sabrina Alexis for trying to empower women with some of their statements. Be the attraction, instead of the attracted. Live your own life and stop waiting for a man. Be happy with who and what you are, instead of seeking that in a relationship. Bravo! However, there seems to be this pervasive undercurrent that makes women feel like they’ve always somehow erred in the dating/relationship world. They’ve probably been too needy, clingy, dramatic, too uptight, promiscuous…they must have been either too much or not enough of SOMETHING. So much of the dating advice for women feels blaming; If we had done more or done less, it all would have worked out! What about the men??

To me (and I’m about to go out on a fragile limb, because this is controversial), this conjures up all the discussion about rape and how women can prevent rape, another situation where the onus is placed on the woman. Because if you get raped, obviously you simply didn’t take enough preventative measures, right? You wore the wrong clothes, or were in the wrong place. You were too flirty, sexual and didn’t take enough safety measures. We are constantly, as women, inundated with information on how to protect ourselves from physical attack. (Thank God for some stirring in the media by organizations who aim to put the responsibility of preventing rape back on the place it belongs: Men who rape and a society that creates men who rape. (Men Can Stop Rape Organization).)

Yet women are also constantly being inundated with ways to protect themselves from emotional violations.

Yes, men and women are different and it’s crucial to work at understanding the differences if you want to have a great relationship. I realize that little girls are trained from birth on to play into a culture that is screwed up about sex and relationships and it isn’t ONLY men who create this environment. This blog, today, isn’t about the women. 🙂 Why can’t we start teaching boys from an early age to respect women? Why don’t we start training them early about women’s needs? How women respond? How about teaching them that it’s not okay to lie to or mislead a women to keep sleeping with her, just because they want to put their penis somewhere? That using a woman’s desire for a relationship and her emotions just to get laid is not okay? Impress upon boys from an early age that women have value beyond the decorative and sexual. Teach boys to be men of integrity.

I realize there are lots of men who DO have integrity; this is simply a rant because I’m tired of feeling like men frequently get a free pass for bad behavior. I’m exhausted by the daily conflicting messages women get about everything from looks to careers to relationships. I’m sick of the sly insinuations and subtle to overt criticisms, often conflicting, that still exist and break a woman down. I recently received a disrespectful email from a man on a dating site, stating that my hair was pretty and looking at it made his dick hard. I responded VERY negatively and then relayed the exchange to a dear family member, whom I love and respect. His response? “Good god, what kind of pictures do you have up?” When I wear a cute dress on a first date that shows some cleavage and my date attacks me in the parking lot, is it my fault? Can he not help himself, because he’s a man and wants to have sex? There are many who would say yes.

Bluntly put: Women should not have the constant responsibility of helping men control their dicks.

Whether we are talking about emotionally misleading women in relationships just to get some nookie, disrespecting them with your words and actions, or forcing yourself upon them physically. Do all men do this? No, definitely not. However, I do think there is still a cultural trend to be more forgiving of men who behave badly concerning sex and relationships. Instead of outrage, there’s still a rueful “boys will be boys” headshaking that goes on;  to the women who have been left with the consequences of WHATEVER the behavior was, there’s almost a “well, you should have known better” attitude. Or, what did you do to deserve it?

And yes, I know that to a certain extent, this is just the way it is. I know that Mr. Charles’s forewarned-is-forearmed approach is to help women deal with the reality of how many men approach dating and relationships and I mostly respect and like his advice. I can see that some things I might rail against are built-in, biological imperatives. Men are probably always going to be more sexually-oriented, while women are more relationship-geared, but there’s more going on with our dating/sex/relationship culture than just biology. I also recognize I am living in a world in which women are still second-class citizens, bound in part to the rules that are created by a society that does not respect them. On some days, like today, I just need to acknowledge that it sucks.

Still, I will continue to monitor my physical and emotional safety. I will try to apply my garnered “wisdom” to all my dating adventures and relationships, to ensure I’m not being misled or lied to. I’ll still closely watch what I do and say around men, in the hopes that they don’t get the wrong idea about me. I’ll look over my shoulder in dimly lit places, to make sure that I’m not about to be prey and hope that my dates manage to control themselves at the end of the night, so it’s not awkward or dangerous. I’ll still always think about birth control and disease prevention, because it’s my body and life most affected if I don’t. I’ll continue to watch for the verbal and non-verbal cues with men I’m dating, to try to find out if I’m being played or used.

And I’ll hope that perhaps we get to a place one day where women don’t have to feel so vulnerable, emotionally or physically. There are a lot of things that would need to be different in order to make that change in the world. Because it’s easy to say “Well, that’s just the way it is.” Yet for any significant change ever created, it had to start with someone who said: No, this is not acceptable.

So, let me state it clearly: NO. This is not acceptable. Where to go from here, I’m not certain…




Thought For The Weekend

Posted in self-improvement, women's bodies, women's liberation with tags , , , on March 15, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

Ladies, this is particularly for you as you head into the weekend.

If you’ve ever suffered self-esteem issues….If you’ve ever felt rejected by the opposite sex….If you’ve ever looked at another woman and felt like you pale in comparison…

Dita Von Teese is a modern-day pin-up/burlesque beauty, known for her sultry looks and dangerous curves. I’m heterosexual and even I just want to keep looking at her photos. Keep her wisdom in mind:

dita von teese pic

You can be beautiful, sexy and luscious and there will still be men who don’t want you. There will be men who think you are the most amazing goddess ever and men who wouldn’t spare you a second glance. So much of our insecurity is created by our culture who says we MUST look a certain way, or it’s created from early experiences as we’re becoming women. But beauty is very subjective, obviously.

I’ve struggled with insecurity my entire life. Yet I can attest to the above quote, personally. I’ve had men who practically drooled every time they looked at me and men who thought I was so-so. Does any of this really have anything to do with me? Sure, I can do things to increase or decrease my attractiveness, but in the end, some men will find me beautiful and some men won’t.

So, ladies…this weekend as you head into dates or out on the town, lift your heads up high. Know that you are beautiful. Because waiting for a man/men to validate your appearance is going to be luck of the draw. Validate yourself.

Know that I’ll be working on doing the same. I am a luscious peach. The haters can just move along to the bananas! 🙂

Who Is This Crazy Woman? Oh Wait…

Posted in Parenting, PMS, women's bodies with tags on January 23, 2013 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

So, I’m rabidly hormonal. Within the past few days I’ve felt homocidal rage, abject grief, joy and peace. The events of the last few weeks are not helping this situation.

Over the weekend I did my first training hike to prepare for the big May hike; we did 4 miles that went fairly well, except for the dizziness I experienced on the first incline. That could prove problematic! Still, I’m no wimp; I’ll just train harder!

I attended a birthday party thrown by the ex and his new partner. As it was made clear that this was THEIR party and I was only invited (and asked to make the birthday cake) by their good graces, it made for a bit of awkwardness. Mostly, it was fine. When the parents who are my friends asked what the timing/plans were for the party, I replied with a straight face: “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask *****. It’s their party.” Any attempts at coparenting have been rejected by the father of my children with the statement “It’s just not worth it.” Of course, any desire by him to alter his scheduled  nights with our children results in an instant attempt to get me to rearrange my schedule. Apparently, “coparenting” is worth it to him if it involves a night out on the town. It’s only “not worth it” if it only involves his children’s welfare. Otherwise, he simply can’t be bothered. Do I sound bitter? Well…I’m working on my anger issues with him. He provides me with such wonderful challenge to evolve as a person.

My job is currently up-in-the-air. A raise promised to me 9 months ago, then retracted, left me struggling to cope with the financial changes in my life. I have spent the last two years proving myself in a new job role and taking on whatever is asked of me (even if it’s outside the scope of my actual job at times). To see people hired in off the street at only slightly less than I make (and several hired in at more) after 5 years of employment is leaving me resentful and frustrated–especially when I am living paycheck to paycheck. I’m torn, because this job is important to me and I WANT to stay in it. Yet, I also have to provide for my family. I’m trying to meditate on it before I make a decision. I’m definitely in the “see what is out there” stage right now though. It’s a daily stress that I’m battling, wondering if I’ll be having to find a new job soon.

Which brings me around to my original problem: I’m hormonal and crazy right now. Every challenge I’m facing feels harder. I know that in a few days I’ll feel more at peace, but right now I alternately feel like weeping or punching someone. I know I have to go home tonight and train for this hike and I just want to throw myself on the floor and scream: “I don’t wanna!!!” at the top of my lungs (while kicking the floor loudly). I want to go home and lie in a hot bath for about an hour, while sipping wine and reading a good book. Then I want to climb out and have someone waiting to stroke my hair and soothe me and offer comfort. Oh…and bring me ice cream. Or pie. Or brownies. There’s only one time of the month I want sweet stuff and dammit, I want it NOW! Then I want to sit in my chair, with my cozy blanket and watch mind-numbing tv. The thought of NOT being able to do all of those things infuriates me and makes me want to start sobbing at the same time. Instead, I’m going to go and get on my stupid elliptical, with the resistance cranked up. Then I’m going to walk the dog, followed by laundry and housework. Maybe the endorphins will help to negate the crazy swirl of chemicals flowing through my cramp-riddled, aching body. Maybe.

If not…look out world! I’m going to be playing some Death Cab for Cutie and Sarah McLachlan at full volume. I might NOT do laundry. I might even eat sugar! I’m like a woman possessed…all sorts of craziness might ensue. I might stomp around my house or even cry if I feel like it.

Sigh. Even my crazy is too tired to pack much ooomph.

Prolific Thoughts About PMS From A Hormonal Mind

Posted in women's bodies with tags , , , on October 30, 2012 by sexandthesinglesoccermom

According to a recent study done by the University of Toronto, PMS may be a myth. Right now, I’d like to hunt down each individual researcher and punch them in the face, then weep over their prone bodies and beg their forgiveness sixty seconds later. Or maybe bake them some cookies and try to help them UNDERSTAND why PMS is NOT a myth by using compassion and reasoning…I’m tearing up just a bit thinking about how copacetic the conversation would be. Wait…maybe I should just go with the punching. Yeah…clearly they are idiot people who have a problem with women. Hmmm…I think it’s time to go and take some more midol for the cramping and hideous back pain.

PMDD (the medical term for PMS)  is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the “psychiatric bible” – and has been shown to cause depression, insomnia and  other behavioural and physical symptoms in the second half of the menstrual  cycle. Of course, Dr. Sarah Romans goes on to state that the disorder is relatively rare. She further spins the study to lay out the idea that women use “PMS” to fully vent anger, sadness and irritation 1-2 days a month, because the rest of the time we are expected to be lady-like. That by allowing ourselves a medical reason to be cranky or cry, we can still work within society’s parameters of acceptable behavior for women.

Personally, I think this woman needs to be punched in the face (but according to her, I’ll only allow myself to think it for a few days a month, while suppressing my rage the rest of the time).

While I do think she has a glimmer of an intution about something real in how our society treats and handles women’s emotions, I also think she is a loon. By conducting a study (which primarily seems to have consisted of finding flaw with previous studies) and stating that PMS is a myth, then laying out a feminist framework for why PMS has become a crutch for women within our society, she actually undermines women and the way their bodies work.

W0men’s bodies are constantly in a state of flux (no pun intended), chemically. Our hormones ebb and flow like the ocean and have even been linked (although studies both substantiate and refute this, depending on where you look) to the cycles of the moon. During the second half of the menstrual phase,  or pre-menstrual and menstrual, estrogen and progesterone levels start to decline Without getting too technical, during the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle (beginning at ovulation), if the egg that is released is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels begin to drop. These hormonal levels are at their lowest with day 1 of the follicular phase (menstruation).

At neuronal synapses, estrogen increases the concentration of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It affects their release, reuptake, and enzymatic inactivation. It also increases the number of receptors for these neurotransmitters. So in other words, the good stuff that makes us feel happy and have a balanced mood. The common side effects of low progesterone are severe migraines, unexplained anxiety, the feeling of malaise, hot flashes, poor sleep patterns and vaginal dryness.  So what do you get when both estrogen and progesterone drop…

Oh, wait…you get PMS!!! The chemical changes that take place in our bodies in the latter half of the luteal phase and in the beginning of the follicular phase are real, not imaginary and not a cultural phenomenon. It leads to back pain, leg pain, stomach cramps, fatigue, breast tenderness, migraines, mood alterations and many other symptoms. Of course, no two women are the same, so the extent to which any woman will experience any or all of these symptoms depends on her own chemical makeup.

Personally, my back hurts like I’ve been hit with a baseball bat for about a week and I have serious stomach cramps for 3-5 days. Emotionally, I cry easily and feel a bit blue. I crave sugar, which rarely happens any other time (Sweets, especially chocolate, raises the serotonin levels in the brain and increases endorphins. This probably helps combat the dropping estrogen levels). The study claimed that women use PMS as a crutch to verbalize things they’re already unhappy about…well, maybe. For me, the things I’m already unhappy about feel extra intense. A song on the radio that talks about lost love, which any other time might make me feel a bit nostalgic or sad for a moment, while “PMSing” will have me sobbing like a baby. Is this a crutch? Or an amplification, due to altered chemicals, of pre-existing situations? No one claims pregnancy hormones are false or a myth, yet these are the same chemicals changing our bodies during our menstrual phases. I’ve not heard claims that “‘Roid Rage” is not true; tricking the body into believing it’s getting extra hormones (testosterone) clearly causes mood/behavior changes. What makes PMS different?

I think part of the problem lies in the fact that the term PMS has been abused and used to justify bad behavior. So let me make this simple (because as supreme ruler of the universe, I will clearly have SUCH an impact): Hormonal changes do NOT make it acceptable to act like a bitch. It doesn’t give you the right to vent your anger, sadness or hostility on anyone. There have been times when I know hormones were altering my emotions, so I would avoid situations or conversations until I was more level. PMS should be much like a warning label on a drug that reads: Do not operate heavy emotional situations during use. Know your triggers and how you react. Each woman is different. For one woman the changes that happen during her cycle may be a blip in the month; for another, it may be a challenging time physically and emotionally. Regardless, it shouldn’t excuse behavior that is unkind or irrational. Men shouldn’t get a free pass for behaving badly due to the extra testosterone that flows through their veins; women don’t get to excuse bad behavior because of PMS. Let’s keep life simple and sweet by taking responsibility for ourselves and our emotions and knowing when we need to nurture ourselves a little more because of changes in our bodies.

When I’m on the hormonal drip, as I refer to PMS these days, I would probably choose to stay home and take a hot bath rather than have the “relationship” talk with someone I’m dating. If I suddenly feel lonely and sad and think to myself, “Maybe if I call my ex-boyfriend, he’ll reassure me that I’m loved” (which is stupid at any time of the month, but somehow more attractive as an option when I’m hormonal), I realize I am not behaving rationally and I just DON’T. If my children are driving me nuts and I want to either yell or burst into tears, I give myself a time-out in my bedroom and then suggest we all go get ice cream. Ibuprofen and herbal heating pads are my friend. I avoid at all costs listening to anything by Adele, because I know it will lead to sobbing fits. I can’t begin to make relationship decisions, because it would be disobeying my hormonal drip warning label of AVOID OPERATING HEAVY EMOTIONAL SITUATIONS. I know I’m altered for a few days (okay, a week); it’s my responsibility to alter my decisions to compensate for that.

So, to say PMS is a myth is ludicrous and disrespects women and nature. To act like PMS gives us a pass to do whatever we want disrespects women and gives us a bad repuation. Show yourself some love by respecting your bodies during this time. If the woman in your life has PMS, show her some love by realizing she may behave like someone on a mind-altering drug (oh, because she is). Forgive her if she loses her temper and cries more easily. Get her a heating pad and some chocolate. Above all else, remember this: