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Grizzly, Grizzly, Grizzly

Finding peace in the wilderness has become an integral part of my life. If I am not plotting the nearest trail to blaze, then I am blazing it. I go weekly. Sometimes bi-weekly. Like taking a bath, and cleansing myself of the weary worries of life. The task at hand washing away my hardened feelings, and self-doubt. I don’t let anything get in my way to the trails. I go rain or shine, regardless of time, and with no consideration of menstruation. 

I would go even at a time when I thought menstruation would pose the threat of catching attention of unwanted friends. By chance I was introduced to an article covering the myths surrounding women menstruating while in bear country. What a shock it was to find that everything I’d ever been told about bleeding in the woods was a falsity. Although this information was liberating to read, at the same time I couldn’t help but feel anger. Women made the scapegoat. Here we go again. I thought about all the women who lost jobs, or were pushed out of a natural and healing environment for a natural bodily function that has no bearing on the threat posed. As the story goes, in 1967 two women were killed by grizzly bears in Glacier National Park on the same night. These women were 20 miles apart, and one of them happened to be on their period…… Only one. How did this widespread myth come from this event? Well, the shock of two deaths for the first time in decades had authorities scrambling for someone to point the finger at. Since pointing out that the Granite Park Chalet was dumping trash near to campers and attracting bears wasn’t an option, all of womankind seemed the better option. The United States Forest Service co-published a brochure telling women to stay out of the woods while bleeding because it would lead to bear attacks, then to support this claim a team of researchers did experiments with polar bears. The fact that grizzly bears, and polar bears are different kinds of bears with different behaviors didn’t occur to any of the researchers. The researchers went on to place used tampons, and women close to the polar bears and see how they reacted. Guess what happened…. Yep! They were interested in a bloody tampon! What a surprise…. I could have gathered that information by not putting a lid on the garbage of any bathroom that shares a house with a dog. Alas the conclusion was that women should stay out of the woods while menstruating. This brochure was published for nearly 20 years until one woman who had worked as a logger, but was forced out due to new regulations disallowing women to work on their period. This approximate 2 months a year was unpaid. Caroline Byrd changed profession, but raised her voice on the matter. Caroline wrote a paper invalidating the research done in the arctic with polar bears and convinced to United National Forest Service to change their pamphlet. 

Women face physical disadvantages and shaming surrounding an active outdoor lifestyle, and don’t need another bullshit claim to keep them from trying. It is so wonderful to have clarity on this issue for personal reasons, but also because I hope that it brings women together and makes us stronger. We have withstood the natural challenges, and the extras. What else can we do? 

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