You want me to host what? That was my response when Seventh Generation asked me to throw a tea party for my 13-year-old daughter and her friends where the topic would be feminine hygiene products. We'd also talk about feminine care around the world, and the case of girls in Rwanda who miss five days of school each month because they can't afford sanitary pads. Now, my daughter is smart and fun and...as hormonal as only a newly minted teen can be. Would I be able to convince her to even attend such a thing?
She listened to me, and tried to understand the big issues. We went back and forth a bit and then she proposed this: "Mom, if we had a party like that and there were, like, younger girls there, I could tell them, Guess what? Having your period isn't that scary."
I was floored. And impressed. Heck yeah! The party was on. I checked with a few of my friends who have tweens. As it turns out, we all feel the same way. We put a high priority on talking to our daughters about their bodies and want them to be proud of being women, and empowered to make the right choices about which feminine care products they use. Every single mom I talked with agreed: great idea for a get together!
When I was a young girl I didn't dare talk to anyone about the changes my body was going through, much less join in a conversation about feminine hygiene and its impact on girls in school or women in the workforce around the world! I find it fascinating that only one short generation later my daughter can laugh, giggle and then talk seriously about her body. She has a strong understanding of what it means to be a woman.
Party day arrived!
We watched a video from the she28 campaign, run by an organization that wants to help women in Africa start businesses that use locally-grown ingredients to make sanitary pads. And I listened to the girls' responses. They were shocked and even horrified that girls couldn't afford pads and had to make do with rags or even less reliable methods. One girl asked… "Mud? How do you use it?" How indeed?
I think the girls (and their mothers) had an 'aha' moment, realizing how lucky we are. We all have plenty of pads, tampons, and supplies...now imagine having nothing? I want my daughter not just to relate...but to CARE.
She shows a glimpse of the strong person I know she will become here when she tells the younger kids about getting a period:
The girls all laughed about it being a shared experience for women. But my younger daughter later asked: "So that's it? Boys only get armpit hair? That's lame."
As a lesson in gratitude, we all took a piece of paper and wrote a 'Thank You Note to Our Bodies'. (Lesson learned: First assure everyone that these won't be read aloud.)
For me, the best part of the event came after the girls ran outside in the snow and the grownups were lingering. Several moms pointed out that they never spoke to anyone about their bodies as young girls. Ever. The last person they could talk with was their mom. What a different world we live in now!
And thanks to companies like Seventh Generation for providing feminine care products made with organic cotton, bleached without chlorine. Seventh Generation starts important conversations, and it's up to us to participate.
Carissa writes the GoodNCrazy.com blog.