Soft, reusable, absorbent, and often handmade, cloth menstrual pads are a pretty yummy option for people who cycle, and who have access to the soap, water, and sunlight necessary for their care.
Made from cotton flannel, these popular pads, including the ones WiseBodies makes, snap onto underwear, stay in place, are gentle next to our sensitive vulvas, and do a great job absorbing flow and being easy on our over-extended landfills.
Cloth pads do require care, and resources. They need access to water, and soap for washing, and dryers or sunshine for drying. The fact is that the best way to dry cloth pads is in sunshine, where the light and heat from the sun can sterilize the cloth, leaving them ultra clean and sweet-smelling.
A huge bonus from wearing cloth pads is that they have the wonderful effect of putting us in touch with our menstrual flow, something that's entirely cool and desirable. Who doesn't want to grow into knowing all the different ways menstrual blood can look, feel, and smell? This special fluid, the blood that nurtured each and every one of us until our parents' womb created a placenta, is utterly remarkable.
We live in a culture that rarely mentions how magical menstrual blood can be. Instead, our culture usually supports the idea that our menstrual flow is something to hide, to feel shame about, and to secretly dispose of via disposable pads and tampons.
Given all this, it's surprising to have New York Times writer and Ob/Gyn, Dr. Jen Gunter, come down in her piece entitled "Are Reusable Feminine Cloths Safe?" from January 17, 2019, without clear, strong support for cotton flannel pads.
Instead, the article leads with a title that raises the anxious possibilty that cloth - a common product used worldwide in communities with access to water, soap, and sunshine, may not, in fact, be safe. (Imagine if the title had been "Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads are Fabulous!" as an example of a clearly pad-supportive title.)
The title also uses the phrase "feminine cloths" rather than "menstrual pads." For those of us not familiar with the look of a menstrual pad, we may not have known the article was about a period product. "Feminine cloths" reads like something a woman might use to wipe down her body, rather than a product that everyone who cycles (including some non-binary people and trans men) can use to collect menstrual blood.
The author continues to be wishy-washy on her support for cloth pads by beginning her article with the sentence, "There are several studies looking at providing women with reusable menstrual cloths designed specifically for menstruation in countries where women have limited access to products for menstrual hygiene."
Locating the use of cloth menstrual pads in "countries where women have limited access to products for menstrual hygiene" and, in our reading imaginations, marking those other women as poor due to their "limited access to products," Dr. Gunter suggests that cloth menstrual pads are for poor women living in countries apart from, and therefore separate from, people in the U.S.
This trope separates the doctor's readership from the rest of the world's cyclers, and for no reason. In the U.S., we have a large percentage of cycling people who do not have access to menstrual supplies, who can afford neither cloth nor paper pads, and who do not have easy access to soap, water, and sunshine. In addition, the US holds an anti-menstruation culture, one in which publicly hanging cloth menstrual pads in to dry in the sunshine most often would not be welcome. This conversation is greatly needed, yet is not included in this piece.
The author continues, "The material is the same or similar to that used for cloth diapers." While the author could have chosen a cloth comparison that links menstrual pads with an adult item, like a cozy flannel shirt, she instead has chosen to connect cloth pads with diapers, infantalizing pads. This suggestion, that cloth pads and diapers are similar, continues the US gynecologic system's pattern of infantalizing those of us who have vaginas, including their practice of suggesting to us that they know more about, and are in control of, our bodies rather than the reverse.
There's more. While stating that "...many patients of mine have reported using reusable cloth menstrual pads and have been very satisfied," Dr. Gunter begins that sentence with this: "These menstrual cloths are generally safe to use...," again raising doubt about the safety of cloth pads. Since we have yet to have had a single study done in the U.S. in regard to the safety of cloth pad use in communities with access to water, soap, and sunshine, the use of the word "generally" has no factual basis.
The only available pad studies have been done in communities outside the U.S., communities where pad users have not had access to water and soap. And while these studies have indeed shown an increase in vaginal infection related to cloth pad rather than disposable pad use, the studies are clear that the increased infection rates are due to the lack of soap and water for cleaning. Moreover, studies have demonstrated that the lack of cultural approval for hanging cloth pads outdoors, in the sun, where the cloth can be sterilized via sun exposure, has had an impact on the cleanliness of cloth pads.
What the doctor and the studies neglect to mention is that the same conditions for cloth care exist here in the U.S., where people with access to soap and water are more likely to be cloth pad users rather than those without. Increased rates of vaginal infection due to poor cloth pad care are not country-bound, but rather bound by access to necessary resources. When cyclers have access to clean water, soap, and sunshine, the conditions for healthy pad use are fully satisfied.
If we were to change the focus of these studies of "other cultures" away from cloth pad miscare and toward misogyny and induced poverty, we likely could imagine the end of both as a cure for safe cloth pad practice.
Dr. Gunter's last paragraph on cloth pads claims that "The biggest medical risk with any menstrual hygiene product that sits against your vulva is inadequate absorbency. If the cloth or pad is wet, it will irritate the skin."
While cloth pad wearers know their pads need to be changed regularly in order to not have menstrual blood soak through onto clothing, absolutely no data support her claim that wet cloth pads irritate the skin of the vulva. There is, however, increasing concern about the harm that chemical-rich paper pads may cause the paper pad wearer, a concern Dr. Gunter does not include in her article.
The author's final sentence, "If you are not wet and don’t feel irritated then the reusable pad or cloth you are using is likely just fine," leaves the reader where we started, with a non-affirmative okay to cloth pad use.
Menstruators experience wetness. That's a fact of bleeding. And menstruators know that the word "likely" is not as clear as "Yes." A strong final sentence might have read: "If you cycle, it's cool that you're using cloth pads! Change them often, wash them with soap and water, and get them out in the sunshine so the world can see that we bleed, and are proud of it."
At WiseBodies, cloth pads are a definite Yes. At WiseBodies, we support making sure those in our communities have access to free menstrual supplies, including cloth pads. At WiseBodies, we support our communities having access to soap and water. At WiseBodies, we support our culture transitioning to absolute support for hanging cloth pads outdoors in full sunshine, alongside our flannel shirts and our children's diapers.
The continuation of a class WiseBodies began last spring at Kite's Nest in Hudson, our group of wonderful young students have begun a semester in which they'll work toward creating and sharing a library of their own books on human sexuality. Led by bookmaker and WiseBodies Board member Maija Reed, the students were assisted in designing and creating their first books, soon to be filled with what they're learning and thinking.
KNOW High School students have designed a syllabus for their work together this year. It's an impressive list of topics. We've begun the year by getting to know one-another, by setting our safety guidelines, and by creating a warm, safe circle in which to learn.
WiseBodies has lots of exciting news. In response to our country's election's display of overt racism and misogyny, WiseBodies is moving forward, loud and proud. WiseBodies is opening our doors to more children, students, parents, and adults. We are broadening our teaching range in all possible avenues. With the help of our beloved neighbors, friends, and families, WiseBodies is continuing to openly display our powerful support for all communities.
Here are some cool details:
WiseBodies has begun teaching in Hudson. Joining hands with Kite's Nest and the Staley B Keith Social Justice Center, WiseBodies now is teaching an afternoon class that meets every-other Thursday in the warm and welcoming rooms of Kite's Nest's Space 101. This class is free to Hudson's high school students.
Our first night was filled with brilliant energy. We're looking forward to creating a long-term, focussed learning environment in Hudson. Hudson! Thank you for the very warm welcome.
WiseBodies also has begun teaching classes for parents. Our first class was so fun, and obviously so needed (!), we're about to launch a permanent, on-going class for parents of WiseBodies students. Watch for this! Parents, know this: WiseBodies makes it really fun to learn the stuff we've never previously had the chance to learn. We're going to look for 100% attendance.
WiseBodies is looking even further south, toward opening class in Brooklyn. Let's imagine into a Brooklyn branch of WiseBodies, taught by WiseBodies graduates.
As many of us know, the precious and sacred WiseBodies learning space has been several times violated by negative aggression. In respose to this assertion of violence, the wonderful WiseBodies community has acted with immediate, full-on presence.
WiseBodies community members have come forward with their motorcycles, cars, and trucks to monitor activity at our program; we've had parents stop in to check on our teachers, offering hugs and laughs; we have one very special farming family holding a bedroom ready for WiseBodies teachers and family members; we've had calls from the State Police, the local police department, and the Sherrif's office checking in on us; we've had a parent buy high-end security cameras now installed on WiseBodies property; we've even had a very large box of fresh veggies dropped off on our front porch.
And this: two WiseBodies families have bought almost two dozen Gay Pride flags, and are intiating a community-support action, an action in which homes in the large WiseBodies community will be able to hang Gay Pride flags from their own windows and doors, in support of WiseBodies programs! This is the kind of community-supportive brilliance WiseBodies loves! Let us know if you would like to join this community initiative and hang a Gay Pride flag; we have flags ready for you!
For all these gestures of support, large and small, we at WiseBodies are enormously grateful. The work of bringing healthy and whole sexuality education to all truly is community work. WiseBodies sure has the right community to bring this necessary work to fruition.
Together, and only together, we've got this.
In WiseBodies class tonight, we'll focus all our brilliant energy on anti-Donald work:
WiseBodies students will study the clitoris, all parts honored and present.
Tomorrow WiseBodies will make sure everyone we know votes to get a clitoris-embodied being into the White House.
Here is WiseBodies critically important, brand-new offering in Hudson. All youth deserve Real Sex Ed. This education changes lives in radical ways.
Thanks to the support of Kite's Nest and SBK, WiseBodies will bring this class to Hudson.
You can help by passing out pocket cards - on a regular, on-going basis - to the Hudson's high-school-aged youth.
You also can help by offering help pay for meals WiseBodies will offer these Thursday evenings, by helping us find clean, soft rugs and pillows on which to sit, by helping pay Kite's Nest's heating bill this winter so we can be warm!...
but mostly by helping youth know about class. And helping make sure youth get there, for every class.
KNOW, our large, amazing class of high school students and their parents, is growing into the kind of community every teacher loves to teach: brilliant, warm, energetic, kind-hearted, and funny.
We find we're now able to begin to reflect back on what elements have helped to create this new community. We're certain presence, determination, committment, and honesty are some of the emotional components that have helped us land in this fine space.
Becuase we want to improve our skills with building good relationships outside the classroom, we'll continue to pay attention to how we're doing this here, at WiseBodies.
Since our first class in September, students have used lots of games and strategies to learn names, get to know personal histories, find inner connection, and discover shared interests.
Students have helped prepare and serve lots of bowls of soup, biscuits and breads, fruits, and desserts. They've participated in scrubbing dishes, sweeping floors, and putting away utensils. We've found plenty of joy in repeating our shared, now known, routines.
In our classroom, we've focussed on building trust.
This is worth repeating.
In our classroom, we've focussed on building trust.
In addition, the students have developed a perfect list of topics they would like to cover this year.
We've begun to discuss our first subjects, discovering deep interrelationships. The students are participating fully in our conversation-based learning, sharing insights that are remarkable and profound.
The past seven weeks have found CircleBee class in the kitchen, in the woods, at the local Rite Aide, and in our much-loved Pillow Room.
We have focussed entirely on the male reproductive and sexual system, and have had a bunch of fun with our studies.
Not only have we had fun, so have the parents, the Rite Aide workers, and the strangers we've met in the forest. CircleBee kids are making a name for themselves all around town.
CircleBee kids can name all parts of the external male system. They not only can name parts, but know how to construct them, and with the correct proportions.
They know their way around our local drugstore, know how to engage with staff, and how to ask questions critical to making the best purchases.
CircleBee students also can tell you exact measurements for certain, very long body parts. Ask a CircleBee what human body part is about 975 feet, and they'll not only be able to tell you, but they'll also be able to show you how far out into deep woods this is.
In addition to our cool studies, we also have eaten 7 different varieties of homemade soup, lots of cornbread and biscuits, and enjoyed ginger tea and chocolate birthday cake.
CircleBee kids get to come to WiseBodies twice this week, since tomorrow is our movie night. The kids thought about films that might meet the requirement of having at least one positive romantic scene.
They came up with a list of 6 films. We watched trailers for each film, and voted on which one to watch.
You can find us tomorrow evening, cozied up in the Pillow Room, popcorn and tea at hand, watching Pirates of the Carribean 3, with pauses for discussion about relational issues that arise. Parents will join us for the last hour of the film.
My beautiful home, home to my family and my unique and remarkable sexuality program, was egged last night.
My fear has turned to anger.
Our WiseBodies community is brave and bold, providing unique, life-affirming work that supports youth and families. We daily risk criticism, hatred - and apparently, eggs.
The programs that support human rights, Black Lives Matter, the right to whole sexuality education, the LGBTQ community, and feminism need communities that continue to stand up with us, that continue to be visible, verbal, and risk-taking. And that will vote!
I'm here, in the center of the Village of Chatham, where I'll remain, grateful for your continued support.
CircleBee, WiseBodies new class for Middle School kids and their parents, has had two wonderful weeks.
Kids have arrived to gather in the kitchen, where they've finished preparing our soup, bread, and dessert. Having a full meal after school is new this year at WiseBodies; the change has been wholeheartedly received by families.
Last week the students painted beautiful new name plates to hang on our classroom walls.
We're focussing our 8-week study on the male reproductive/sexual system. The kids, parents, and I are increasing our comfort by playing games, having conversation, reading books, and asking questions on everything related to this topic. This week the students drew, in many different languages, a word specific to the male sexual system. Gorgeous work!
Kids are reporting that they feel very comfy and cozy. They've decided that, on a scale of 1 - 10, they feel about 11's worth of comfortable.
Families are reporting they want to be nowhere else on Tuesday afternoons - this includes the family that drives almost an hour to get here. There's absolutely nowhere else I'd like to be on Tuesday afternoons either.
We're off to a great start.
We had a wonderful evening last night.
For those of you who weren't able to come last night, or who are anxious about walking in the door, I want you to know that this great big group of high school students is extraordinary, and will heartily welcome you.
We have two more weeks to settle into our final group, the group that will meet steadily through mid-June. If you're thinking of joining, this is the moment!
So you know, some KNOW students have worked with their coaches to allow for early release on Mondays, or with their bosses for permission to not work on Mondays...we can help you make these arrangements with your coaches/bosses.
And always, money is not a barrier to attending (Please see attached forms to look at payment options. All students/families are welcome, whether able to pay or not. No questions asked, no work exchange required...most families unable to pay work hard enough.).
The music of Alicia Keys came up last night. Some of us were familiar with her music, some of us were not.
To catch us all up (We'll also return to the word "douche"! In general, when we don't know something, we'll figure out ways
to learn it together.):
Here is Alicia Keys on walls, sexuality, love, justice, equality:
Here is Alicia Keys describing why she no longer wears make-up:
Nice work, KNOW students!
I have a feeling we're going to create a remarkable year.
To accomodate our families, we've changed the date for our CircleBee Introductory Evening!
Join us Monday, August 29th, 6:30 - 8:30pm, for tea and dessert, good company, fun WiseBodies games, and a solid introduction to this year's new class.
This evening is for Middle School kids and their parents.
Please RSVP to let us know to expect you!
Come join us!
This September, WiseBodies offers CircleBee, a brand-new, whole-being sexuality class for families with children in the 6th/7th - 8th/9th grades.
In response to the motion toward a non-gender binary world, WiseBodies no longer hosts classes for "girls" and "boys", but rather classes for all.
To learn about, and register for CircleBee, a year-long class for families with children in the 6th/7th - 8th/9th grades, please join us for an Orientation evening on Tuesday, August 23rd, from 6:30 - 8:00pm, here at WiseBodies in Chatham.
We'll enjoy tea and desserts, learning about this year's curriculum, and exploring WiseBodies-style educational games. We'll all go home having learned something new!
CircleBee will meet Tuesday afternoons from 3:30 - 5:30 pm, beginning September 20th.
RSVP required! Please contact Isa at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you here Tuesday, August 23rd, at 6:30pm!
All teens interested in joining WiseBodies KNOW class (high school age students) are invited to the final summer Open House gathering, on Monday August 15th at 6:30pm - 9:00pm, here at WiseBodies in Chatham.
This is an educational evening, as well as a final sign-up for the full-year class, which begins Monday September 19th, and continues through most of the school year, with holidays and the month of February off. KNOW classes will be held each Monday of the month, 6:00 - 8:30pm, and are paid through a sliding scale.
Teens, you are invited to arrive August 15th, on time, at 6:30, for cold drinks and pizza. We'll eat, hold class, sign up for the year, and leave with a fun homework assignment to do before we come back together on the 19th of September.
Please email me at email@example.com if you're interested in joining this large, fun, very friendly class!
Circle Girls and be boys join forces the first Wednesday of each month, forming the newly-named "Circle bees"! Thanks to Ma1, also called Teachie Mae, we now have a logo for our joint class.
Yesterday, our second joint class, was filled with excitement, some positive anxiety, and plenty of good energy.
We worked hard, from lighting our candle at the beginning of class, to blowing it out at the end.
Between the lighting and the blowing out, we realized that, with a month since our last class, we'd managed to remember each other's names; no small feat for such a large group!
We answered a "Gathering Question", served each other yummy food, sang Happy Birthday to 4 birthday celebrants, and tried on a few group-bonding games.
Circle bee kids realized it's fine to have a group game not work out; that we can talk about this, change focus, and try on a different game. These kinds of discussions are important to us; we get to take the the discussion outside WiseBodies to larger world experiences.
Parents joined us - we made a Huge Circle, entirely filling the room! - and we all worked together to come up with long lists of characteristics considered stereotypically "male" and "female". We talked about which stereotypes are negative. We talked about how most of the stereotypes we came up with fall under heterosexual norms. We thought about how stereotypes for Gay/Lesbian/Transgender/Bisexual norms might look different. We'll return to this conversation.
We finished our very full, exciting class by reviewing all we'd accomplished, and by looking forward to next month.
Fabulous work, Circle bees!
be boys practiced generosity by making a get-well card for a missing mate, then taking this and a bag of our popcorn up the street to hand-deliver to their friend's bedside.
the be's are preparing for a major game of Jeopardy, so are busily playing games to learn facts about the creatures they've been studying. If asked, be boys can tell you answers to the following: *which creature is lead by one female, who births all male progeny, progeny which can transform to female when a new leader is needed? *which creatures add spermataphores to each other's backs? *which creatures lay their eggs only on the full moon?
They've memorized this, and plenty more!
In addition, be boys worked with maintaining focus on their learning while also filling their classroom with good humor - their natural emotional stance. They did a beautiful job; teachers and students had a joyful time together, and learned plenty.
Great class, be boys!
WiseBodies was filled this week with children, parents, and visitors. We were a flood of movement, quiet, depth, laughter, games, and plenty of learning.
Science and The Body children now are able to describe - and paint! - all parts of a lily's stamen. If asked, they'll let you know Lily flowers are in the same family as garlic, onions, tulips, and daffodils. They'll also let you know the plant family lilies belong to is the Liliaceae...and they can spell that for you!
Science kids are working on understanding that social interactions that have gone awry can be re-attempted, re-configured, and re-done.
They also are working on figuring out what it takes to allow their circle to grow and change. We're paying attention to the kind of heart-focus that's neeeded to offer what they love - their circle! - to newcomers.
Good work, Science children!
be boys are beginning their travels into the human body, even as they finish their studies of the New Mexican Whiptail Lizard, the Clownfish, Centipedes, Ducks, and The Great Blue Whale.
be boys are completing their unit on creatures by preparing for a big, supportive, group-test to show they've Mastered Interesting Facts about the reproductive and sexual systems of these creatures.
We hope all parents will join us for our epic game of Jepardy! Invitations coming soon!
In addition to finishing artwork for the large posters about the creatures they've been studying, be boys and teachers focussed on Gratitude.
We pondered gratitude, answered questions about gratitude, shared gratitude with one-another, and prepared for the coming holiday which honors this necesary and nourishing quality.
It's that time of year, almost 3 months into our school year, when kids have become such a rooted, connected, generous gang, that they can begin to take more responsibility for what and how we learn.
Here's an example: When we wrote our haiku this week, one child volunteered to be "the teacher", another to the "the scribe". I sat back.
While I sat back and observed, the children wrote, not one, but two haiku.
The turkey gets stuffed.
We are grateful for many things.
We also get stuffed.
The children report these are their favorite poems thus far.
In this week of thanks, we gave thanks. And, rather than painting, the children requested cozy time with reading-aloud.
While they cozied together in pillows and blankets, I read aloud The Gardener.
I can say, because we've spoken this aloud, that all of us are grateful for the time we share together.