VIEW: Menstrual shame is a deliberate social construct to oppress those who bleed – Michaela Rosandich

The stigmas around women’s menstrual cycle have existed for too long – because they still exist today.

Recent research found 70% of young Australian girls said the shame of menstruation was worse than failing a subject at school, and one in four women aged 18-24 are embarrassed to purchase female care products. In the UK, “One in five girls and young women in the UK are teased or bullied about their periods.”

Michaela Rosandich is a life coach dedicated to ridding society of the common stigmas around menstrual cycles. She categorises the rhythm of these cycles into six phases of what she calls My S.U.P.E.R.R Cycle (S for Spark, U for Understand, P for Present, E for Engine, R for Review, R for Rest).

In this interview, Michaela shares what a menstrual cycle is and isn’t, how it can be a superpower, why stigmas still exist today, and what employers can do to better empower of their female employees.

  • What’s a Cycle Superpower and why have you dedicated your career to them?

There are 12 time stamps during the menstrual cycle when your brain chemistry is perfectly suited to a particular task. These 12 energetic changes are your Cycle Superpowers and they consistently show up in a predictable way throughout a menstrual cycle, but also throughout the seasonal, lunar and circadian cycle too.

That’s because we are all cyclical beings – it’s simply a part of being a human living on Earth. The Sun and Earth rotates through its seasonal cycle, the Moon waxes and wanes through the lunar cycle, the cells in your body make, use or store energy according to the circadian cycle, and the lining of the female uterus grows or sheds according to the menstrual cycle.

I worked in corporate multinationals for nearly 2 decades before I realised the power of the cycles. At that time and like most global marketing managers, I thought I could control jet lag, had no clue that the Moon was in a different position in the sky every night, and I didn’t think about my menstrual cycle until I couldn’t avoid its monthly arrival card in my pants.  

And it was then, bleeding heavily and often with a menstrual migraine, that my biggest ideas for my sales teams would land. I would write down my big ideas as bullet points on my notepad at my desk, or on an aeroplane napkin if I was travelling, and I’d only look at them a few days later when it was time to start polishing my idea. Without doubt, those big ideas that landed during my period, were far and away the best ideas to achieve cut-through in my competitive industry.

This awareness of my menstrual creativity started me on my own menstrual revolution, following the gluten-free breadcrumbs to books, blogs, workshops, clinical studies, and eventually becoming an author.

I became a qualified life coach because I was tired of seeing people (and especially menstruators) completely exhausted and close to burnout because they were trying to achieve the same tasks in the same way as they had the week before.

With brain chemistry changing by up to 25% each week in a 4 week cycle, it’s super smart to understand when your energy is best suited to each task, and to make the relevant workflow changes so you can work with your natural energy on those days.

I knew I wanted to be a part of the future of work, supporting individuals and organisations to maximise the cyclical energy of the menstrual, lunar, seasonal and circadian cycles – which is why I became a Cycle Superpowers Life Coach!

  • In your view, why is menstruation stigmatised today and what are the most damaging stigmas around menstrual cycles

I believe that menstruation continues to be stigmatised today because it keeps people who menstruate small, confused and ashamed. How can you feel confident, strong, invincible, and inherently capable when for 5-7 days in a month you are ashamed of the blood that shows up in your pants?

It’s absurd that there is so much shame around a biological process that simply demonstrates that you are healthy! Imagine experiencing shame over a healthy process like your nails growing, or your lungs filling with air?

Menstrual shame is a deliberate social construct to oppress those who bleed, but it’s overstayed its welcome and it’s absolutely time for it to go! Show a child menstrual blood and they will show the same amount of fear or curiosity as blood from a grazed knee. Show an adult menstrual blood and they completely freak out over some imagined germ invasion, irrespective of the fact that clinical studies easily show that menstrual blood has significantly less bacteria than venous blood. (Quick fact: menstrual blood is actually made up of 20% stem cells!)

  • What can individuals, businesses and communities do about changing the way we view menstrual cycles and their impact on women?

Some progressive organisations around the world have already implemented a menstrual leave policy. This could be a general company-wide policy, or it could be arranged at a department level. At its core, a menstrual leave policy provides menstruators with a facility to manage their work flow differently on the days that they bleed to include conditions like additional breaks, rest or working from home.

While it is recommended to let menstruators decide which days they would like to work from home, for most it’s Day 1-3 of their cycle when bleeding has just begun. This means menstruators can take care of themselves at home and still show up to some work through online channels.

If working from home is not possible (although Covid-19 has shown that many roles can be worked from home, at least for some days of the month), it’s ideal to create a facility for rest. Some innovative organisations have napping or meditation rooms. At a minimum, ensure menstruators are able to sit down more often if they usually stand their whole shift, and move around and stretch if they normally sit their whole shift.

  • What’s the low-hanging fruit for women to leverage the positive aspects and benefits of their Cycle Superpowers?

Start tracking your energy every single day and notice how you are feeling. Notice that you feel differently each day – sometimes subtly, sometimes profoundly – and take note which tasks felt easy that day.

You can use one of the many period apps, or I have a very simple calendar that tracks the lunar cycle and the menstrual cycle together. It’s free – you can download it from my website.

You only need 3 months of tracking to obtain 3 data points, and 3 data points are enough to plot a trend. Once you have a trend (or near enough) start experimenting with changing your schedule to match your natural energy on those days. A really simple place to start, is to try and change your workflow so that travel dates or significant events aren’t planned for when your period is due.


About the expert

Michaela Rosandich is a Cycle Superpowers Life Coach, Speaker and Hello Wonder Woman Workshop Facilitator. Michaela is a passionate advocate for tracking the cycles – menstrual, circadian, seasonal and lunar. She founded Empress Crow and Rabbit in 2016 to support High Achievers with their cycles.

When High Achievers discover that their changing energy each day is both normal and predictable, plus resolve their period problems while changing their workflow to meet their Cycle Superpowers, that’s when the real magic happens – they become more productive, more resilient, and even more successful!

Michaela is sassy, quirky, deeply pragmatic and works with clients all over the world using video consultations. Her book My SUPERR Cycle is available at http://www.empresscrowandrabbit.com