Huge strides have been made in the body positivity world to embrace people of all ages, shapes and colours. Yet one final taboo still remains.
Whether you’re a fully-grown woman who insists on buying other items with her tampons so that it doesn’t draw attention to your sanitary products or whether you’re a guy who squirms at the idea of menstrual blood, we are all guilty of perpetuating the stigma.
However, one woman is on a mission to revolutionise our views and make the female cycle something to celebrate rather than fear.
Now, Charlotte Pointeaux is ripping up the rule book that says puberty has to be shameful and is empowering girls with her First Moon Circles organisation.
Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Charlotte reflected on her own experiences growing up and why she is dedicated to help young people embrace who they are.
Charlotte explained: “I began my period as a 12-year old at my dad’s house, where I couldn’t find any period products and felt absolutely unable to speak with him about it.
“I felt crushingly alone and scared and totally unprepared, so rolled up some toilet paper to put in my underwear until I got back to my mum’s house where I knew I could access some pads.”
Charlotte went on to experience very heavy and painful bleeds, before being put on the pill aged 16 to try and regulate them, along with her teenage acne.
However, more than a decade later when she stopped taking it, she realised just how damaging this misinformation was and the impact the pill can have on reproductive hormones.
Charlotte explained: “I could not believe I hadn’t been told about this when I was younger and was horrified that we grow up feeling that periods are a curse and we are captives to it.”
Coincidentally, while working as a youth mentor and life coach, Charlotte jumped at the opportunity to share her knowledge when she was approached by a mother asking if she would run an event to talk to her child about periods as the girl was extremely uncomfortable doing so.
She put a lesson plan together and soon First Moon Circles was born.
In her sessions, Charlotte leans into storytelling, play, and craft to create a safe space where participants can ask as many questions as they like and learn accurate information ahead of their own menarche (first period) instead of relying on the playground grapevine.
Charlotte said: “I knew that many mothers were trying to do their very best to talk openly with their children about periods, but the children had internalised so much menstrual shame that they just couldn’t open up to them.
“They needed to hear it from someone they perceived not to be an authority figure and someone who had done their own inner healing work to hold the space for them without projecting my own shame onto them.”
The programme combines education and rite of passage celebrations, with the girls participating for the first two hours alone before their mothers join them for the final hour.
Charlotte revealed: “In the education session, we begin with a beautiful story before covering the basics of what occurs during puberty and periods.
“We explore period products available and play with them to normalise them, we focus on earth and body friendly product options, and I assure the children that they have options and sovereignty over which products they choose to use.
“We then explore menstrual cycle awareness and teach the mothers and children about the superpowers within each season of the cycle and how they can best care for themselves with self-care and diet as their energy, moods and feelings change.”
She added: “Mothers then share wisdom and blessings with the children to show them that they are not alone and will be guided through this critical rite of passage and beyond.
“We draw attention to how teen periods differ to adult periods – as much to empower mothers to advocate for their kids – and that each person experiences the cycle differently.”
Charlotte’s organisation is an inclusive one that also invites non-binary and transgender people to take part to normalise that menstrual cycles are experienced differently by each person.
All of the First Moon Circles facilitators are trained to understand that menstruation can be triggering and even deeply traumatising for some non-binary and trans people.
Charlotte explained: “Some people will know from a young age they do not identify with their assigned gender at birth, while others will not have realised this yet and puberty might be the first time they do become aware as their body changes, breasts develop, and periods begin.
“This can trigger or exacerbate dysphoria, when a person experiences distress because of a mismatch between their bodily appearance and their gender identity.
“We have to be mindful that culturally there is the deep-rooted notion that to menstruate is an inherently female experience, which it is not.
“Of course, many people do identify with ‘becoming a woman’ but I have moved to using more inclusive language such as reaching adolescence, growing up, or becoming an adult instead.”
Quizzed on how she would like to see education shift around menstruation in schools, Charlotte believes we need a “full-blown overhaul”.
But first, we need to start with the big boys and girls.
Charlotte concluded: “We need to heal the adults first; both women as menstrual shame is so deeply internalised, and men, who don’t have knowledge and have always been excluded from conversations or exposure to menstrual cycles.
“The aim should be on whole-family education so that fathers and brothers of menstruators know what is happening and are shown how to be supportive. Knowledge is power!”
Charlotte also believes that schools have a critical role as currently sex-ed classes are reductive and confusing, focusing solely on the ‘don’t get pregnant’ mantra.
She said: “Schools need to have better menstrual policies for students by even just covering the basics; free product access and sanitary bins in all bathrooms, permission to go to the bathroom without teachers assuming children are attempting to misbehave, and a better policy around support and care, especially as teen periods can be heavy and irregular as the cycle matures.”
Charlotte also believes that workplaces need to evolve and allow staff to do hours around their cycle, rather than being expected to show up every day despite wavering energy and productivity.
She concluded: “We need a huge overhaul of how we view productivity and profit, and as a global community the more we honour nature’s seasons and cycles, the more space and reverence we have for women’s health and menstrual health overall.”
Amen to that!
To find out more, click here: First Moon Circles.