By Rebecca Drew
THIS ARTIST used to feel ‘utter disgust’ if she accidentally got period blood on her hands whilst changing a tampon but now she PAINTS with it every month and even uses her menstrual blood as a FACE MASK, which she says leaves her skin GLOWING.
Like most women, when artist Gabrielle Schlegel (22) from Alberta, Canada, first got her period when she was 13, she was scared to tell her mum who she had previously heard comforting her older sister during menstruation, and when she did she felt embarrassed and grew to see her monthly bleed as a burden.
When she became sexually active in her late teens, Gabrielle’s time of the month became increasingly painful and it turned into something she spent her days dreading.
Things started to change in October 2014 when Gabrielle discovered yoga and spirituality and after seeing a woman using her menstrual blood to paint with on Instagram in February 2018, Gabrielle, who loved to paint as a child, thought she’d try it too after collecting her blood in a menstrual cup.
Now Gabrielle tries to paint with her period every month, using it as an opportunity to fully connect with her body’s wants and needs. The artist creates beautiful yoni paintings and enjoys investing time in making something beautiful out of what society has conditioned us to believe is the opposite.
As well as this, Gabrielle takes time to relax with period blood face masks which she says helps to prevent breakouts and leaves her skin looking radiant.
Instead of dreading her monthly bleed, it is now something that Gabrielle looks forward to and sees those days as a chance to indulge in self-care and to celebrate being a woman, and she’s started to share pictures of her embracing her period on social media to break the stigma associated with periods.
“Aside from the unfortunately common feelings of dirtiness and shame, as a teenager, I felt as though my period was a great nuisance. Being an athlete, I wasn’t very fond of it due to the low bodily energy in which impacted my athletic performance,” said Gabrielle.
“The increased care and rest that my body needed while bleeding felt like a burden, and as adulthood approached, it preluded much pain and discomfort. Therefore, naturally I began to dread the onset of blood each month.
“Many feel ashamed and embarrassed, simply because they were taught to feel that way. We are so casually encouraged to enshroud and be discreet about our most innate, human life-giving processes. That does not come naturally.
“For thousands of years, societies have been ruled by males and more masculine ideals, in which menstruation was not the most embraced or of critical importance in accepting. Thus resulting in generations of shameful mothers inadvertently teaching their daughters to feel that same shame their mother taught them to feel in regards to their monthly bleed.
“I once felt utter disgust when my blood would accidentally get on my hands while changing my tampons as a teenager. Physical feelings of nausea would literally come over me. As mentioned earlier, these feelings are not natural, but taught.
“Once I overcame the shameful feelings of disgust I was conditioned to feel in regards to these acts, feelings of freedom, empowerment, and a love for my body gracefully replaced them. Something that had such negative feelings associated with it, suddenly felt so good.
“I want to help others feel good about it as well. Because our lives have become so visually orientated with the influence of social media and I am continually inspired by those sharing their truths online, I knew it would be the perfect tool to reach many people at once with my message.
“Seeing myself in the mirror, with my blood smeared all over my face, really allowed me to realise that there is absolutely nothing disgusting or wrong about menstrual blood. In fact, it is completely harmless, manifesting without a wound to the body of any kind.
“If anything, it is the most sacred fluid the human body is capable of secreting. The literal shedding of the uterine lining that was preparing to grow a human body, should a fertilised egg have been implanted.
“It has been a whole other level of embracing my period. Not only does it leave my skin absolutely glowing, in my experience, it actively works in treating breakouts, as there are stem cells and many nutrients that are meant to help grow a baby if pregnant and the uterine lining were not to shed.
“It has helped me understand why I bleed, what processes the blood is actually a result of assisting me in understanding the entirety of my monthly cycle, as well as the multitude of effects and changes my body endures while not bleeding, throughout the rest of the month.
“It has also helped me understand and relate to the cycles of nature, such as the Earth’s seasons and phases of the moon, and how that correlates and impacts my own body.
“Yoni painting has become my most favourite creative expression. Painting with my menstrual blood wraps me within a bubble of bliss that I cannot even attempt to describe. It is quite fun to create beautiful paintings with something that is heavily believed to be so un-beautiful.
“Sometimes I will have something in mind to paint, most times I will just allow whatever comes to flow from my paintbrush onto the canvas. I love to think of it as painting with all of the women and mothers within my ancestral lineage that bled before me, connected so deeply by the blood they too once bled for me to be.”
Gabrielle hopes to be able to inspire other women to embrace their period but she has been the subject of some negative comments online from people who don’t understand her desire to embrace her period, but she’ll never let these stop her from sharing her journey to period positivity.
“People have commented many things from claiming I am a disgusting ‘feminazi’, to accusing me of practicing witchcraft and trying to start a cult as well as all and everything in between,” she said.
“I was fully aware of the backlash that would ensue as a result of sharing such sensitive and atypical content, as it is the internet and people are free to say whatever they wish to behind their screen.
“All that they say has merit, for I probably would have had the same things to say at one point in my life. The reality, however, is that another can only meet you as far as where they have met themselves, no matter what words they have to share.
“I know that there are many people that will not accept this as truth or find any inspiration in this whatsoever, and that is totally okay with me. Because those people that are meant to, shall, and that is enough incentive for me to keep sharing.
“I have received many positive comments from those who bleed all over the world, letting me know that they have tried using their menstrual blood as paint or as a face mask, inspired by my posts.
“There is nothing that makes me happier than to know that something I share has encouraged someone to accept and love themselves and their body more, especially in regard to something so taboo within our society.
“No amount of negativity will ever surmount the feelings that follow another human being’s empowerment as a result of sharing my truth.”
She shares her journey on Instagram under the handle @rosiemoons and finally, she shared her words of advice to others.
“I know that you have been led to believe that your blood is everything but beautiful, magical, and holy but I would like to emphasise how truly sacred and special it is to bleed this blood every month,” said Gabrielle.
“This blood acts as a web, connecting us to every mother that bled before us. Not only within our own ancestry, but within all of us humans, as we all are born from wombs of ‘womben’ that bled each and every month to be able to grow the next generation.
“It is what unites us all, so it’s no wonder the trouble we have in accepting equality within one another possibly equates to the lack acceptance we have in regards to menstruation. Without our periods, humankind would not exist.
“I am well aware that sometimes it is not the most enjoyable, beautiful, and magical experience, but it totally can be. And I, as much as anyone, do not have to grant you permission for it to be so, but I will say this: What are you waiting for? Why aren’t you embracing your period as something you are gifted with experiencing every single month?”
For more information see www.instagram.com/rosiemoons