Moody Bitches

Before I picked up a copy of Julie Holland's Moody Bitches, I would have told you it was degrading to reduce women to our hormones. Now, deep in Holland's scientific explanations of estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, and testosterone, I see a different side: that taking our hormones more seriously might be the most empowering thing we can do for ourselves.

I'm sure you, too, have read article after article, "think piece" after think piece, that starts with some version of this statement: "women today are more overworked, over-exhausted, depressed, and anxious than ever before." And you sit there, and you think--yeah, I'm stressed. I'm tired. But I have a good life, and I should keep that shit to myself.

The truth is, women of all backgrounds, experiences, and lifestyles have been taught to ignore our complex inner worlds in exchange for outer docile complacency. Even if you're a badass bitch, I'm guessing a small part of you has, like most women, been socially conditioned to perform more social niceties, issue more apologies, and conceal your true feelings more so than men. (Men have their own socially-constructed ideals forced upon them, too, like the myth that they should always exude bravado and masculinity--but that's a whole other thang.) From the 1800s on, "hysteria" was concerned a feminine medical condition. You know what the symptoms of hysteria were, booboo? Frustration, sadness, complaints. You know, probably because these women were living in the 1800s with zero independence, autonomy, or rights.

So now we're in 2016, and Julie Holland has written this book and it's telling us one simple thing: that our moods are not negative. That they hold us back. But the truth is, our moodiness is a source of power. We can mine our unique, feminine, emotional complexity for GOOD. The peaks and valleys of our estrogen, for example, link directly to our bodies' seretonin levels. At the start of our cycle, an influx of serotonin makes us naturally more accommodating and chipper. Once those levels start to plummet, mid cycle, though, we turn inward. We are more prone to crying, to get angry, and to issuing big ole' "FUCK OFF's" to anyone who wants anything from us.

This is based in our primal nature. This is the time of our cycle that our bodies' think we might be pregnant, and if so, we better stay indoors away from danger (or modern annoyances like social interaction and traffic) and load up on complex carbs. You know, to take care of another thing that might need us: a baby. Our bodies tell us to conserve our energy, and that isn't wrong. Wanting to lock yourself in your room with a tub of ice cream isn't some pathetic montage a la Bridget Jones Diary. It's kind of...natural.

As are the more blunt, rough-around-the-edges thoughts or feelings you may have during your period. Holland explains that the anger or sadness you feel during this time isn't irrational. It's real. It's just that the serotonin you have during the earlier part of your cycle is better at blunting those sharper thoughts. Holland suggests writing down or tracking the feelings you have during your period and revisiting them at the start of your cycle when you're feeling less angry. Chances are, you'll see how a version of those thoughts is signaling you to make some change--it's trying to help you get some need met that has gone unmet. Feeling angry at everyone isn't necessarily productive, but having a specific annoyance with someone during your period could signal that it's time to have a diplomatic discussion with them at the beginning of your next cycle.

You can see this is as genius, you can see this as ridiculous, you can posit that we are smarter than our biology. But if you, like me, are sick of article after article saying how overworked and exhausted we are without issuing any real solution, consider this: we have been taught to eschew our moods as silly, when really, paying attention to them and what they're trying to tell us (GET MORE SLEEP. FLIRT WITH THAT STRANGER. CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY ON THIS COUCH, GIRL) might vastly improve our lives. We might end up more balanced, less exhausted, and more, well, natural, instead of feeling like we're fighting against society's current anytime we need comfort, time to ourselves, and yes, fucking chocolate, bitch.