Busy Philipps Is Teaching Her Daughters Period Positivity, Patriarchy Be Damned

"I hope that things change for my daughters' generation and that they don't hold onto any shame associated with something that their body naturally does."

Busy Philipps - Postpartum Body Issues
Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Busy Philipps has built her loyal fanbase on being unapologetically (and often hilariously) open and honest. As a mom, Philipps is particularly relatable. The actress and activist isn't afraid to talk about the difficult aspects of motherhood she's faced along the way, whether that's postpartum anxiety, bearing the sole weight of child care in her marriage, or raising daughters who are comfortable in their own bodies.

Philipps believes that now more than ever, being willing to have hard conversations, including those "about the realities of just physically being a human woman" is crucial. To empower women to talk about historically taboo topics, Philipps teamed up with Poise, which recently launched a grant program to assist women-owned small businesses experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19.

Busy Philipps - Postpartum Body Issues
Getty Images for Poise

Breaking down conversation barriers is a central part of Philipps's parenting philosophy, too. "It's one of the things that's most important to me as a parent of two girls — and just to privileged white kids — that we continually have open conversations in our house so that we can do the work to try to help de-stigmatize all of the things that have been plaguing our society and our culture," Philipps told InStyle. "And one of them, yes, is that women are taught from a very young age that there's shame surrounding their reproductive health."

She hopes this sense of shame and embarrassment changes for the next generation, which is why addressing the topic of first periods head-on with her preteen daughter, Birdie, is so important, she says. "I told her, 'Historically speaking, women are taught not to talk about the things that are happening in their bodies. It's a result of the patriarchal society that we live in, and one way to dismantle the patriarchy is to be open about your body and your reproductive health. It's just biology. Men and boys talk about their biology nonstop, but girls are conditioned and taught and told by society that it's, you know, impolite and improper. So that's why I'm talking to you about it.' She had a real epiphany when I reframed it in that way."

Still, she admits conversations only go so far if you can't model these behaviors yourself, especially when teaching her daughters body confidence. "Kids learn by watching. I can tell my girls that they should love their bodies and that they're perfect the way that they are and all of that, but if they don't see me acting that way about myself, it doesn't matter," she says.

And Philipps definitely practices what she preaches. Last year, she testified before Congress on abortion rights and revealed that she had an abortion herself at the age of 15. And when, earlier this year, the Oscars banned an ad from a postpartum brand for being 'too graphic', Philipps was quick to speak out on Instagram about the hypocrisy ("you probably don't even flinch when an erectile dysfunction ad comes on") and the need to normalize women's bodily experiences.

She believes that seeing these images in the media, and having conversations openly about the physical and mental challenges of motherhood, is key to making it a less isolating experience. "Twelve years ago when I had Birdie, I didn't even know that postpartum anxiety existed. I thought that there was just postpartum depression, and I only knew the horror stories of what that looked like. And it was so untenable. I was really having some firewalls in my head and I didn't know to ask for help," she says.

"I'm so grateful that women's publications are focusing on maternal mental health and well-being and the fact that the maternal mortality rate is going up in this country, and disproportionately affecting Black women. We need to make changes to that system."

We also need to continue to empower women to stand up and speak up for themselves and their own experiences, Philipps says. "For women, it always comes back to listening to yourself and your body. It's very difficult when you get into a situation where somebody who's in a position of authority is telling you that you're fine or nothing's wrong, when in your gut, you feel something is not fine," she says. "I don't give a f*ck that the person has delivered 10,000 babies. If you know something is wrong, you stay there and cause a scene until you get the results that you are looking for."

"We need to continue to instill in women of all ages is that whatever's happening inside of you, you are the expert on," Philipps says. "You are the expert on you."

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