March 5, 2018

Women: Create your own Version of the Red Tent.

From the age of 21, when I started working in an office, I struggled.

My endometriosis symptoms (a condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found in other parts of the body, causing large cysts, chronic pain, heavy periods, and fatigue) began when I was 11 with my first period.

It’s clear to me that my first foray into a marketing career exasperated those symptoms. The competitive environment, long hours, and the “keep pushing, keep working harder” mentality led to my first operation when I was 22.

The stress and the long hours continued. By the age of 25, I had cysts the size of tennis balls on each ovary and the endometriosis had spread to my bladder and bowel. I felt sick all the time. I felt weak—physically and mentally. I felt like a failure. Was my body trying to tell me something?

As a young girl, I’d long dreamed of a successful career in marketing. A dream that I quickly came to realise was totally out of reach. Not because I wasn’t capable, hardworking, or creative, but due to a patriarchal working system that favoured qualities that were unnatural and impossible for me to keep up with.

One thing is clear: the way we’re working isn’t working.

The system in which I and so many other sisters struggle is not nourishing us. The structured environment that has, over time, become so path-dependent doesn’t allow us to honour or nurture our femininity.

It exhausts our minds. It exhausts our bodies.

I wonder why we see so many women’s health issues. Are they recalling our attention back to our roots?

Recalling our roots:

For so long, the feminine has been disowned and disvalued. At first, I wasn’t even aware of a voice inside that was demanding my attention. I suppressed my femininity, rejected my periods, and masked my pain for years with hormones, painkillers, and a brave smile. As a result, I felt numb. I couldn’t go on living a life that didn’t feel like mine.

Things are changing. Perhaps you feel it too? A gentle rage is simmering—a creative awakening back to our roots, back to a world of embodied feeling, back to the deepest level of ourselves. We’re being called to remember our wild woman within.

Let’s look at the menstrual cycle.

For too long, there’s been a stigma around the changes women go through each month: the embarrassment, the disgust, the hiding of the most natural flow we can experience as a woman. However, all around me, I hear sisters waking up to the power of our cycle, and businesses are following suit.

In a movement led by the wonderful Alexandra Pope, Western companies are adopting “menstrual leave” designed to synchronise work with the body’s natural cycles. This is a well-known option for many women living in feminine cultures like Asia, and it’s so powerful to see this now beginning to take shape in masculine cultures like the United Kingdom.

Leaders are beginning to see it makes business sense to allow female employees flexibility during their period.

When we are menstruating, we are in our inner winter phase where we need to rest and nourish ourselves. In turn, after our period, when we enter our inner spring phase, we’re “three times more productive.” We’re at our fullest creative potential, meaning that whatever time we have off is recouped by over 100 percent. This is much more beneficial for both parties—rather than us pushing ourselves and becoming even more depleted because we do not (or aren’t given the permission to) listen to our bodies and honour their needs.

With a modern-day twist, supporting women during their menstrual cycle mirrors what our ancestors have done throughout history.

Many cultures, including Native Americans, Chinese, and Africans set up “red tents.” These were specific spaces where women of tribes could gather together during their menstruation, or their moon time. Women would gather to bleed, nourish, rest, sing, and vision together.

Other female members of the tribe would join to support their fellow sisters in the red tent through sharing massage, ceremony, and honouring their menstruation in any way they could. Often, the visions shared would be used to guide and lead the tribe as a whole. Menstruation was seen as a powerful and sacred time.

Science and spirituality are coming together in the need to readdress the feminine-masculine balance within society.

In 2017, it was revealed that women were less likely to conceive due to chasing masculine work goals. When we constantly ask our bodies to live and perform in a masculine way, and go against our natural rhythms, it’s then difficult for them to step into feminine roles.

Embodying masculine energy at work can also impact our life when we get home, particularly in our relationships. Marianne Williamson, when speaking of a woman coming home after a full day in a masculine working environment, says the best thing her partner can do is allow her 30 minutes to step back into her feminine energy—whether that’s by taking a bath, practising yoga, or meditating.

This creates harmony within the relationship as it nurtures and balances the feminine energy of nourishment, softness, and mind-body-soul connection with the competitive, strong, dominant, masculine energy.

However, if this doesn’t happen, it becomes a masculine on masculine environment, which can create tension and conflict. Think of it as a magnet—negative on negative repel each other. You may even see a scenario where the male partner takes on the feminine energy. It also applies to same-sex relationships too. It doesn’t matter who takes which energetic role; all that matters is that there is balance.

The future of femininity at work:

Recently, I was so excited to hear of primary schools in Wales adding entrepreneurship to the curriculum. My vision is to see girls and women of all ages creating their own structures and processes that honour their feminine. I believe this is possible through entrepreneurship.

In my recent experience of becoming self-employed, I’ve seen incredible value in scheduling and organising my work around my cycle. It’s not always possible, I admit; however, I aim to schedule most work for when I’m in my inner spring and summer phase, which is my most creative and energised time. I then plan my inner wintertime (menstruation) to rest and tune into my intuition as a stock check to keep me in alignment.

Honouring the feminine does not only benefit women. Femininity is inclusive.

It calls for us to bring our brothers along with us. Men have feminine energy that resides within them too. In our awakening and in the rise of the feminine, we’re allowing our brothers the permission to be vulnerable, to feel their emotions, and to express their sensitivity and softness. For so long, it’s been taught that boys don’t cry. This is a destructive lesson.

We’re all human. We all feel. As we see femininity at work rise, we will see a greater balance in society for everyone.

When we look to practices that honour the feminine, we find space to explore healing and wisdom, nourishment, and a deep, gentle rest. It’s so awe-inspiring to see the growth of women’s networks and gatherings across the world. We may not be able to sit in a tent for the duration of our period, but we can lend a hand to sisters out there and share our experiences openly and honestly.

It’s in this sharing among women that the catalyst for change will continue. Each woman will spread this seed to the men in her life, with each brother passing this wisdom into the hands of another.

This is femininity at work.



How it Feels to Have a Period.


Author: Vickie Williams
Image: Pete Johnson/Pexels 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Travis May

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Vickie Williams