Therapist, life coach, and relationship consultant Harrison Thompson believes that if males can focus on four things – knowing how they are communicating, developing understanding, learning to release negative judgments of themselves and other people and taking responsibility, that men can positively impact the conversations around menstruation and feminine hygiene.
Thompson was the lone male panelist at the recent Dignified Girl Project’s (DGP) “My Period My Pride” seminar, which brings awareness to menstrual inequity and empowers adolescent girls by educating them about their menstrual cycles.
Like most men, he admits he did not initially understand the menstrual cycle, but admits he now gets it.
“My mother sometimes has pulled away; my wife sometimes has pulled away, but now I get it. I realize that women go through such a hormonal change that sometimes it’s not just them acting up. They literally have an inability for about three or four days where they may not be able to internally regulate because of hormonal changes,” said Thompson.
“I have had an experience with my mother who had bad periods pretty much all of her life, and my wife also struggles with having bad periods, too, and so I know what it is to get ready for her to go through a particular thing every month – whether it’s the lower back pain or her needing the heating pad or she needs [pain meds] to deal with some things.”
Thompson said men no longer have an excuse to not be understanding.
“There was a lot of times I was ignorant, when I wanted my then-girlfriend to be ready to go out to the movies and out of the blue she didn’t want to go and couldn’t tell me why.”
He said like most men, he did not understand because males tend to look at life from what they think is right, and that stops them from being able to understand that more than one thing should be able to coexist in the same environment simultaneously.
“So, we have to learn to release these things, because if we don’t, we will continue to hurt our women and we won’t even realize that we’re doing it. We’re going to put them in a box and add pressure on them to become something just so they can avoid arguments with us. All of these things – they push this narrative that it’s not OK for women to be women – and we have to stop that.”
The therapist said males have to give women the space they need to be, and not what they want them to be.
“For such a long time with patriarchy, we have ostracized women, and we haven’t given them safe spaces to have needed conversations about their health, their hygiene, their emotionality,” he said.
Thompson said men and women want the same things – to be seen, heard and understood. And that no one wants to feel like they have to fight for space at the table. He said people can always feel comforted when they know that who they are is not going to be criticized when it’s both people versus the problem.
“And I think for a lot of women, they have been put in this box where they have had to fight for things that men just kind of get the privilege of walking into.”
Expression, he said, is close to a female’s heart and that their ability to express how they feel, their thoughts – whether positive or negative – is critical to their sense of self and identity. But that is something he said men may not value.
“A lot of times as men, we keep a lot of things inside and don’t actually speak unless we’ve thought through something in our minds very clearly. But this is also a problem because we have also demonized the expression of women as being problematic.”
The therapist said many women have probably heard they’re too emotional, too dramatic, are doing too much, and need to relax and calm down. That, he said, needs to stop.
“We have to stop demonizing expression because expression is what leads to deeper conversation. Men need to give our women an opportunity to have their feelings. We don’t like it when people tell us how to feel, so why is it that we feel so comfortable telling other people how to feel when sometimes we don’t even go through the same things that they go through?
“The pressure that we put on women to always be something instead of just being, has been a big contributor as to why we see so many problems happening within women. And when you see a woman starts to break down and starts to blow up, you can rest assured that she has been dealing with something like that for quite a while.”
Thompson said women have been made to feel like it’s more important to look good to be strong as opposed to actually internally being strong. And he said men have a role to play in that.
“I know some of us may struggle being able to communicate with ourselves, but it is our duty and responsibility to make sure that we are taking active roles in nurturing these types of conversations, so that we can start this.”
He encourages men to not just wait for things to happen but to take initiative and be responsible by starting purposeful communication, so that the dialogue can begin to shifting the culture and the narrative. Once communication happens, he said people then have to deepen their understanding.
Thompson said everyone is responsible for creating an environment and a culture in their lives. And that culture is just the way that people do things, but that culture starts with experiences. Daily, he said, a person is either nurturing a positive experience, or a negative experience.
He encouraged men to ask themselves whether the female in their life can say to them that they have been cultivating positive experiences with them, or negative experiences.
“Slow down that ego, humble yourselves fellows, and ask yourself, I wonder what her experience has been with me?
“Ask your wife what her experience has been with you regarding menstruation. I wonder what my girlfriend’s experience has been with me regarding her period? And don’t just limit it to that, ask yourself about these types of things on all matters and what you’re going to find happening is that the more you can ask yourself what this person’s experience been with me, now you have the power to change this environment. Once you have acknowledged that, you have an opportunity now to become responsible for creating that particular type of change,” said Thompson.