This time on The Leak we interviewed author and founder of I’m with Periods Taqdir Kaur about her work on menstrual cycles and South Asian and North American traditional practices around menstruation, enjoy the conversation!
Q: What first inspired you to find out more about the menstrual cycle and then start @imwithperiods?
A: Firstly, I’m so honored that you all are interested in reading more about @imwithperiods. Sending solidarity vibes to you all virtually!
From a young age, I have been interested in women and all genders’ health. I learned about resilience, self-care, and home remedies for wellbeing from my family. Most of my immediate family lived in small villages in Punjab. Punjab is home to people of all spirits and religious beliefs including Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and more. Our home was split into Pakistan and India during the fall of the British Raj in 1947 and divided across religion.
Many folks survived this time by using methods of pelvic health care at home. My family left South Asia in the 1980s and became settlers on Coast Salish Indigenous Territory in what’s now Vancouver, Canada. Though they/we have all experienced a lot of pain, violence, and addiction in our life I think our mahwari (mxnstrual* in Punjabi) cycle practices kept us going. Mahwari cycles also remind me to honor Indigenous peoples of the land I live on now and to support movements of land and life re-matriation.
Living in Vancouver as a Ph.D. student at UBC’s Social Justice Institute in recent years, I began to notice the effects of intergenerational trauma come up inside me, and in many of my friends and colleagues. It was a friend and somatic therapist that recommended the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility to me after I voiced some concerns about my mental and sexual health. I was totally in shock that no one had taught me the Fertility Awareness Method in all my years of working in Canadian health research. In 2017 I came off the birth control pill and essentially moved my entire program of research towards revitalizing ancestral knowledge about pleasurable living, pelvic health, and periods. @imwithperiods is a project born out of my ancestral lineage that believes women, Kaurs**, and mxnstruators can love our periods.
Q: Your research into South Asian and North American traditional practices around menstruation sounds fascinating. Can you share some surprising and/or fascinating and/or useful practices or beliefs that you discovered?
A: There is so much y’all! I highly encourage all readers to look into their own ancestral lineages for pelvic health practices. Start with our families, which in my case I call the Aunti knowledge train, and go from there. Share with as many people as possible! There is so much that has been lost due to modern processes. Fun fact about South Asian ancestral knowledge: When I ask folks about their mahwari cycles, most people only reference their periods. From my ancestors, I’ve learned about the 4 seasons of mahwari cycles. Our self-care routines, energy levels, desires to socialize, sex drive and more vary according to each season, just like everything else on the Earth! I share some examples of self-care practices for each season in my new book Self-Care Down There.
Winter = period = ਸਰਦੀ (saardiya)
Spring = pre-ovulation = ਬਸੰਤ (basant)
Summer = ovulation = ਗਰਮੀ (gaarmiya)
Autumn = pre-menstruum = ਪਤਝੜ (Pat char)
Q: You have recently published Self-Care Down There. Can you tell us what your inspiration and intentions were for this book?
A: The inspiration for the book comes from all the teachers I have had during my own health and learning journey. My intention is for all 3 billion+ women, Kaurs, and mxnstruators to know what the word “cervical fluid” means for their own bodies and in their own ancestral languages too! Overall, to be able to find a safe place, home, and comfortability in our own being, which is experienced through our bodies.
Q: So, it looks like you have been busy in the menstrual education/activism space? What’s inspiring you currently and what’s next on your To Do list? (time off to rest counts!)
A: Women, Kaurs, and mxnstruators who practice compassion, kindness, and accountability inspire me every day. I’ve been listening to Oprah’s podcast Super Soul Sunday! Honestly, it feels almost like a spiritual practice. The stories passed down are getting me through quarantine, moving to a new city, and continuing to spread the word about mahwari cycles through @imwithperiods and amazing collaborations with organizations like the Chalice Foundation.
*Mxnstrual cycles: In my work, I tend to interchangeably use the words ‘menstrual cycles’, ‘mxnstrual cycles’, and ‘mahwari cycles’. Placing an ‘x’ in lieu of an ‘e’ in mxnstrual cycles is a signal for all of us to remember that pluralism exists in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experiences of our bodies.
** Kaur: a middle or last name that signifies a connection to Sikhi
Taqdir Kaur (she/her) is a researcher based in Halifax, Canada studying pleasurable living, pelvic health, and periods.
Jane Bennett is the founder of the Chalice Foundation and a social worker, researcher, writer and educator with nearly 40 years in practice. After experiencing the revelations of Natural Fertility Management in the mid-1980s Jane began working as a Natural Fertility Management counsellor, then trainer and later authoring The Natural Fertility Management Kits with Francesca Naish. Jane launched Celebration Day for Girls in 2000, Cool on the Inside in 2002, Fathers Celebrating Daughters in 2004 and Mense-Ed in 2016. Jane co-created The Rite Journey girl’s Year 9 program, and continue’s her long-standing role with Natural Fertility Management. Jane is the author of A Blessing Not a Curse and Girltopia, and co-author of About Bloody Time – The Menstrual Revolution We Have to Have, Woman Wise Conversation Cards, The Complete Guide to Optimum Conception, The Natural Fertility Management Contraception Kit and The Pill – Are You Sure It’s for You?, and is eternally passionate about nourishing healthy curiosity and best-practice self-care for women and girls.