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I Tried Free-Bleeding For 5 Days & This Happened

Hold on, sis. It's actually less gross and more liberating than you think.

I Tried It

As black women, sometimes the subject of one's period can be a contentious one. Even if we're OK with it, many of us simply don't talk freely about it or anything to do with our reproductive parts.

I think we need to be a bit more transparent and real with one another about our vaginas and everything connected to them beyond sex, especially since we are disproportionately affected by conditions and illnesses including fibroids, endometriosis, and cancers. Sometimes the silence can literally be deadly and stifling.

So, I'm about to get really real with y'all.

I've never been a fan of my period, and as a teenage tomboy I dreaded the first day it introduced itself to me. I didn't even know I'd gotten it until after I'd come home from a day of bike-riding and tussling with my cousins and found blood in my panties. I felt embarrassed and dirty.

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Periods just weren't something you'd dwell on or talk extensively about in my family. You slapped on a pad, took pills for the pain, and kept it moving. As a teen, my period would be heavy in the beginning, with bad cramps that weren't evil enough for me to miss school like some other girls. By the fifth day, there was barely any spotting or pain, and I'd be good to go.

Once my late 20s hit, things changed. The periods got heavier and my mood swings became intense. I almost considered taking meds for that, but again, the pharmaceutical skeptic in me rebelled. I'd pray, go out with friends, have a few cocktails, curse a few people out, and ride the wave.

When my 30s hit, I became more empowered about my period. I would break rules by wearing white during my cycle if I wanted to. I'd even let guys run the red light. (Yep, sis. Read that again.)

Then I found out I had fibroids that were causing increasingly heavy bleeding, crazy mood swings, and cycle irregularity. (You can read about the ways I was able to heal here.) I was forced to spend hundreds of dollars each month on overnight pads, super tampons, painkillers, and therapy. I found out that the silence about periods during my teen years contributed to my ignorance about fibroids, its history in my family, and the affect it can have on quality of life and mental well-being.

One day while I was searching the Web, I came across a woman in a video who was talking about free-bleeding. She had basically said to hell with tampons and pads for a week and just allowed herself to be free, letting the blood just flow.

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At first I was super grossed-out. I thought, "That's disgusting. She probably stinks. She's ruined sheets and towels. That's dirty. That's nasty."

Then I did a bit more thinking. After all the drama with the fibroids, I was exhausted.

When I finally got a handle on the bleeding after having blood transfusions, being put on birth control, and consulting with my doctor about more long-term solutions to get rid of the tumors, I decided to try free-bleeding to give myself a mental break. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

I'm a freelancer and can work from home, so it really wasn't a gruesome transition or thing to consider trying.

For five days, I'd lay on my side if doing work from my laptop on the couch or the floor. I'd always put down a few strategically placed towels, especially at bedtime. Sometimes I would twist up a towel and put it between my legs during stationary moments of my day. When I needed to move around and do things, I did, wearing dark loose-fitted pants or joggers.

The first three days were moderately heavy. (This was pre-surgery, post-birth control by the way. The bleeding wasn't as extreme as it had been when I first found out I had fibroids.)

I did mess up sheets but they weren't your luxury high-thread-count kind anyway. Same for towels. And I've always kept a mattress protector on my bed from living in cities where I've never felt things were truly "clean" even when bought brand-new. I'd simply wash the dirty sheets, loungewear, and towels on my usual laundry schedule, but would change to clean ones daily.

The last two days were pretty light, and I had no visible accidents that could show up on my bed, my clothes, or anywhere in my home. There might have been a few blood spots on panties that I could've cared less about. I avoided going out to run errands if they weren't super-necessary. Food and grocery delivery services were my best friends.

Image by Giphy

I felt so liberated because the experience took away the anxiety I felt every time I'd have to remember to change a tampon or double up on a pad. I just let it all hang out.

I wouldn't recommend doing this on the regular, but for me, it helped loosen the shame and anxiety I felt during a period of dealing with my fibroids. It also helped jump-start my confidence, and it renewed my spirit.

I think more black women should try something like this and be part of conversations about the woes and wonders of our periods. Free-bleeding helped erase the stigma of, well, seeing blood and releasing it monthly. That was something I was taught to view negatively since my cycle first introduced itself to me. When more of us embrace at least getting real with one another and ourselves, we can contribute to finding better solutions and advancements to finally get rid of the ailments and illnesses that plague our community.

Originally published on March 8, 2020

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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