MULTI-GENERATIONAL CONVERSATION ABOUT MENSTRUATION
Wren Winfield - Filmmaker. Acupuncturist.
Wren, the founder of W+E1 Productions, has taken 2 seemingly different career paths in her life: Filmmaker and Healer. With W+E1 she is merging her 2 passions and literalizing the term ‘healing arts‘ by making films that she hopes will convey ideas that heal.
Wren worked on hundreds of commercials including Levi’s, Taco Bell, Old Navy, the Sprint pin-drop shot by Tony Scott, and many more. By night, she worked on her films. Wren obtained grants for, produced, directed, and edited two award-winning films: Period Piece (1996) and A Pregnant Moment (1999).
In 1997, Wren felt a different calling and returned to graduate school for a Master of Science in Chinese Medicine. She healed people for years with Acupuncture and is now returning to her film-making roots to heal in a broader way.
How did you come up with the idea to create the film Period Piece?
My sister and I complained about how poorly our mom handled our periods and how we didn’t receive any preparation before getting our periods. Jay was present in the conversation and suggested creating a film about this and interviewing other women about their experiences. Creating the film was a very personal experience because we realized that we weren’t alone.
Was it hard to cast women who would be willing to talk about their period?
It was not hard at all. Everyone had a story and all of them wanted to share it, because they wanted to help others. I wonder if their willingness to share has something to do with the fact that there were no social media back then, so there was less fear of exposure.
Have you noticed any changes in attitude towards menstruation since making the film in 1996?
My own attitude towards menstruation has changed since making the film. I no longer menstruate, but I loved getting my period and it made me feel connected to nature and the cycles of life. I had a career change that changed my relationship with the menstruation. I became an acupuncturist and herbalist and that gave me a whole different relationship with menstrual cycle with my patients. When my nieces got their periods, they were more comfortable about it and didn’t feel shame or dislike. They suffered from physical pain, and I could help them with herbs and acupuncture. As part of the treatment, I asked them very detailed questions which showed them that I don’t think it’s gross or something to hide. On the contrary, it gave me information about their body and how it’s functioning. I live in a nature-based wellness culture that has a positive attitude towards menstruation. I think that mainstream culture chooses to endure and manage instead of embrace and integrate the menstrual cycle.
Why do you think there is so much shame around period and the menstrual cycle?
The shame girls feel about their menstrual cycle is a much deeper cultural fear of anything feminine. Feminine energy is the power of creation and is most powerful in creating life. There has always been oppression and disempowerment of women because women’s ability to create life is intimidating to the dominant male paradigm. One of the ways of our culture to disempower women is to create disassociation of women from their bodies, especially anything related to their reproductive organs. So, when women are encouraged to take pills to deal with their menstrual cycle it creates disassociation that splits us off from our bodies. When we turn period off chemically, we also turn off the ability to own it, to integrate it, to love it and celebrate it.
How do we teach girls to not be ashamed of their period?
Helping girls not to have shame is a revolution of the paradigm idea of feminine power. It must happen on a personal level – mother to daughter, aunt to niece, teacher to students because I don’t see that it’s easy for women to see that the dislike of their menstrual cycle is an internalized self-hatred.
How can we teach boys about the period?
We cannot expect men to have healthy relationships with women if they view the period as gross. Maybe there could be something like what Mistake Club does - educational concepts in a box talking about menstruation. You dive deep into a subject that is not handled well at school and present it as an option for school.
What is your main insight from making the movie?
When I started researching for the film, I stopped using tampons. It was a physical change but also a change in attitude. It was a flow I was not going to stop anymore. Menstruation is cleansing of the body, and it also cleanses the various bacteria that come in through the act of sex by the male. Stopping up the flow is not healthy energetically or physically. Our culture is not comfortable with this flow of blood, and we are not comfortable with it.