Ask An Expert: Reel Talk with Dr. Julia [Long Line of Ladies]

Rayka Zehtabchi and Shaandiin Tome’s, “Long Line of Ladies” is a beautiful and inspiring film that follows a young girl, Ahty, as she prepares for her Ihuk, an empowering ceremony that girls in the Karuk tribe experience after they have their first period. The ceremony involves many tribal members and celebrates entry into womanhood. Intensive preparations are made for months, culminating in a four-day guided journey, while blindfolded and fasting, on sacred, ancestral lands. As Ahty prepares, she is excited and nervous, and as the ceremony nears, she is increasingly appreciative of the adults in her life, especially the long line of ladies who are all working so hard to guide her through this experience. 

How incredibly refreshing to see Ahty’s father talking about the importance of her first period as a marker to her becoming a woman. He has observed that men outside his tribe “don’t talk about it” and yet he is utterly comfortable discussing his daughter’s first period and the importance of this ceremony to a table of male relatives. They are all participating by making some of the ceremonial decorations. One of these men encourages the other young men to “make sure they are listening” because this is an important part of their culture that was nearly lost. 

At one point in the film, one of Ahty’s friends jokes that getting a driver’s license is a marker for entry into adulthood. I thought of the parallels between the process of preparing to get a driver’s license and the process Ahty was going through to prepare for her ceremony.  Both involve a period of practice and learning, then a sort of test, which results in a measure of increased freedom and responsibilities. And yet, at least in the United States, there is far more conversation and practice with our parents and teachers and excited anticipation about getting a driver’s license than there is about getting first periods. We celebrate teens getting their licenses and post pictures on social media; when was the last time you saw celebratory posts about getting a first period? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of periods and menstruation being a largely taboo subject, we could celebrate them instead, as Ahty’s extended family members did in the film? 

How were first periods acknowledged or celebrated in your family? 

Do you think that if first periods were more widely celebrated as a momentous event in a young person’s life, that it might lead to more openness and greater acceptance about discussing periods in general? 

Could it help remove the stigma of periods as being embarrassing or dirty or “gross”? 

Could it lead to more open discussion about medical conditions related to menstruation, such as menorrhagia (excessive bleeding) or endometriosis? 

Wouldn’t all menstruating people benefit from greater acceptance and increased comfort levels discussing this routine biological event that half of the world’s populace experience with regularity for several decades of their lives?

Our resident expert Dr. Julia Arnold VanRooyen is here to answer all of your rePRO questions!

Simply fill out the form below - you may remain anonymous if you choose - and she'll answer them in our bi-monthly Periodical emails and social media channels. Leave your question below!