girl is then left rudderless to steer a course through the experiences of a changing body and the politics of sex.
Many adolescent girls go through a period of rejection of their mothers. Whilst this may be quite common it is not necessarily normal since there are girls and women who have great friendships during this phase. As the younger woman seeks to assert her own identity beyond her mother's expectations, the mother, if she is wise, patient and clear about her own identity, will weather the storms of her daughter's adolescence. From out of this a more mature relationship may emerge, as the young girl becomes a woman and moves into her next phase.
If the mother / daughter relationship does not progress into adulthood with a closeness and respect, then a young woman rejects the family to find her own way in the world. Some are lucky, some are resourceful, and some do manage to mature sufficiently. But many more remain stuck eternally in their adolescence, unable to understand their own womanhood as it unfolds. If / when their phase of motherhood begins, they are poorly equipped to guide their daughters in such matters, thereby perpetuating the same old cycles for another generation.
Modern feminist debate has now raged for the best part of a century about rights and choices for women, but how much have women really gained when so many still feel unfulfilled, pressured, confused, disempowered and disembodied when it comes to the biological function of giving birth? Many young women approach physical maturity today by detaching from their bodies, and if / when motherhood approaches they then have a big job of trying to get back in touch with their bodies. So many women that I teach today, both young and old, relate primarily to their mind and seem unable to listen and respond to their bodies. They cannot perform even the simplest exercises without their mind pulling them away into other thoughts. So many suppress menstrual pain instead of investigating what it indicates. Many approach pregnancy and birthing with a high degree of reticence - largely due to an innate fear of pain and bodily ignorance.
True womanhood is now masked in the guise of what I call fake femininity. Being a "real" woman is most often something contrived and created from outside rather than an expression of what is inside. As I perceive it, much of the female liberation of the past fifty years has had little effect on the self image of women in general. Many are actually further away from
natural womanhood than their predecessors. From the corsets and stays of their grandmoth-ers' day, so many now torture themselves towards identical body shapes through dieting, eating disorders, obsessive exercise and cosmetic surgery - all to transform themselves into something other than who / what they really are.
According to popular contemporary stan-dards, to be feminine one must be hairless, flawless, odourless, (though smelling like a flower is OK), tall, thin, preferably beautiful, and definitely bloodless. That most womanly thing of all, the vivid, red monthly reminder of our own unique ability to create another life must never be seen, even by ourselves it seems. This downward cycle of blood, representative of regenerative cleansing, (not cleansing due to internal dirtiness), is still, even today, hidden and euphemised. We are supposed to be absolutely unaffected by it, carry on regardless, swimming, riding horses, having continual fun, wearing the sexiest body-hugging clothes, etcetera. These mainstream attitudes, the advertising and the products all amount to a fundamental psycho-social repression of this most natural and essential female function.
I believe very few Western women today have a proper appreciation of their body in all its manifestations. Our own mothers, as well as having to overcome their own inhibitions towards womanhood, had to jostle for position with the ever increasingly popular media to try to guide us through the minefield of adolescence. Many post-war generation mothers rightly wanted to help free their daughters from the perceived drudgery of being a woman. Those of a progressive mind encouraged their daughters to use contraception so that they would be free to explore their sexuality without fear of pregnancy. The use of tampons and disposable pads has been well accepted for at least fifty years, so how could we ever consider going back to the bad old days of "rags" and unwanted pregnancies?
But surely we now reap the by-products of what was previously sown. The real cost of popular items such as tampons, pads and artificial contraception is that very few women really understand what happens inside their own bodies each month. Ovulation may well be understood intellectually by most women, but certainly not experientially. The easy disposal of menstrual "inconvenience" and its by-products have removed women from the reality of their monthly period and created a very lucrative industry that most women actually think is essential