Speaking up and stopping the cycle. Period.

WHEN is it okay to say to a woman, “Women have a scent when they are on their period. You can just smell them and you know you have to steer clear of them”.

Yes, a man said this to my face. In fact, he said it to my sister as well while we were waiting for our lunch order.

Let’s say it turned me off my food and got me pretty revved up. I was so mad by the following conversation it has taken me a week to actually think about how to write this blog. 

Maybe I was also angry and emotional because on that particular day I was on my period. But clearly his stupid super power was not working that day.

It started innocently enough, asking us what we had planned for the weekend. We said we are involved in a project about empowering women, to love their bodies and embrace their beauty. We also said there were some brave women having their bodies painted.  He asked if they would be naked and where could he find them. He laughed. My sister and I grimaced at each other. He then said I am joking! I didn’t believe him.

The man then asked “Why do women need a project like this to make them feel happier and empowered in their skin? All women are beautiful, some are just more beautiful than others.” I thought okay he is trying to change the conversation. WRONG!

As we continued to wait for our lunch and continue on our small talk, I piped up and said well not all women have the confidence or belief that they are pretty enough, smart enough and the list could go on. As women we have all had moments in our lives were a person or event shakes our confidence to its core.

His response was if he ever won the lotto, his wife wanted to get a boob job and he could never understand why and said, “more than a mouthful was a waste”. Classy.

As he continued on with his conversation, he spoke about how he loved the short, shorts girls where and their cute bottoms peaking out and finally the gross comments about women and our periods, our scent and “emotions” during that time of the month.

I stood in shock listening to this man who clearly had no shame in voicing the fact that he had no respect for women.

I was so uncomfortable and in shock that I literally ran away. For one of the few times in my life I was speechless. No smart-ass comment made, no soapbox declarations. Nothing. I felt weak when I shouldn't have.

And why? Because I was dumbfounded and to be honest felt my words would be wasted on a man like that. Because the truth be told, he was a man of a certain age, from a different generation and his ideas and image of women is so deeply ingrained in a cesspool of sexism, harassment and sleaze, that I felt dirty just listening to his voice.

I do regret telling him he was a dirty old bloke, who should learn to speak with respect when it comes to women and that we are not just objects or a scent once a month. We are fierce, determined, brave, more than our bodies and that our heart is a powerful weapon.

I was angry too because I am so proud of JSP and our projects to empower and inspire women, and in a couple of sentences this bloke, turned the conversation from empowerment to discrimination.

We have seen with recent bullying and sexual harassment scandals it has opened the floodgates to more conversations about the treatment of women and what is not acceptable.  More women are finding the courage to voice their experiences and stand up for what is wrong and right.

For decades women have been at the end of conversations like the one my sister and I found ourselves stuck in, wanting to escape. 

Women have had to put up with the sleazy comments in the workplace, the inappropriate hand graze on the bum and conversations where women have had to endure sexism and discrimination and heaven forbid, women speak up and out against it. Silence is not the answer.

Women constantly have to prove who they are despite their looks and sex. I have said a few times, that I have never understood the social and cultural perceptions of hundreds of years ago that are still part of mainstream society, that women are the lesser sex. Excuse me? God create Adam and then Eve, because let’s be honest, he got it right the second time round when he created woman. But all jokes aside. Women have believed they were less than because our culture for so long believed it t be so. Which is a stupid as a man having the power to smell out a woman on her period. 

And it asks the questions, how do we stop these ideals of women? How do we change the conversations men have about women?

How do we change the landscape, the deep seeded ideals and beliefs of how women are seen, portrayed and treated in the world?

Late last week I posted a quote “Pretty is not the rent you pay to exist in the world as a woman”.

There is so much talk about how a woman looks to the world, rather than how they feel, what they contribute and who they are as a human being.

After our conversation with a man who clearly sees women as objects and not a human being, I was furious and then I was sad, because the year is 2017 and women are still fighting to be equal. But how can we move forward if the conversations that are taking place are like this one I just shared?

And the answer is simple. It is time to educate, stop the cycle.Don’t settle. Don’t apologise. Start breaking down barriers. Start new conversations. Share stories. Speak up. Believe in your own personal power and stop conversations where a man believes it is more than fine to have an opinion on menstrual cycles. He should shut up. Period.