Discover more from The Things We Don't Talk About
A 'soft girl' doesn't cycle sync
A discussion on our current moment
Over the past week, conversations in my group chats and Diem have repeatedly brought up this Cut article by Lindsay Gellman, which critically examines the growing trend of planning your life around your menstrual cycle. The TLDR; “Cycle syncing” means aligning various facets of your life—exercise, work habits, sex, diet, etc—with the four phases of a menstrual cycle. There’s little scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of cycle syncing, but more and more influencers (especially on TikTok) are pushing the practice, offering it up as an antidote to hustle culture.
“Cycle syncing’s core claim that it unlocks a new paradigm for natural energy management — some sort of Woman Standard Time, if you will — that was latent in our female bodies all along, sits uncomfortably alongside its recurring pitch that adhering to its teachings will finally allow us to compete with men at work and in the larger world. We’re resting, it seems to say, so we can then hustle harder. Its insistence that we have, at best, one or two “good” weeks a month, and ought to wring every drop of estrogen out of them, seems bizarrely regressive — only a step removed from puerile arguments over a woman’s emotional fitness, say, for the job of President (and access to the nuclear codes). In its eagerness to absolve women of blame for our struggles, cycle syncing patronizes its adherents, constantly reminding them of their supposed limitations.”
While Gellman’s stance in the article seems to be pretty anti-cycle syncing, I’m a bit more conflicted. While I’m generally not susceptible to woo-woo wellness trends, I wrote about cycle syncing a few months ago out of curiosity. Since coming off the pill about five years ago, I’ve certainly paid attention to how my body and mind change throughout the month. For example, I do the same workout five times per week, and I can actually feel the difference in my body during the different stages of my cycle (i.e. I’m more tired during my luteal phase, which happens right before my period).
Cycle syncing is interesting to me because it speaks to what we don’t know about the female body. It’s well-documented that women’s health is grossly under-researched, which is why women are constantly coming up with new “hacks” like cycle syncing to simply cope. What’s wrong with that? The gender data gap means that women suffer needless pain, especially in our healthcare system. Sometimes, alternative approaches are all that women have; Can you blame someone with PCOS or endometriosis for trying out other remedies for pain management, often after many years of feeling let down by more traditional medical treatments? (Side note: I really admire the work WILD.AI and AAVIA are doing to help us understand more about our cycles from a more data-driven lens.)
Trends like cycle syncing take off for the same reason companies like Goop are successful: They cater to the lack of actual research on the female body, offering a patchwork of DIY solutions instead. To be clear, I don’t support the blatant money grab of BS “hormone supplements,” but I don’t see the harm in women trying to understand their bodies on a deeper level. The reality is that so many of us were never taught much about our menstrual cycles in the first place, a lack of knowledge that was replaced by intense feelings of shame.
Gellman writes that part of the appeal of cycle syncing is the permission to rest (during your period) without guilt. This aspect of cycle syncing is interesting in relation to another growing trend—the “Soft Girl” revolution. A quick TLDR: “The soft girl doesn’t value the grind or getting ahead. She prioritizes slow living. Her days are filled with a nearly obsessive focus on self-care, from making the perfect morning smoothie to tending to her skin and trading in hardcore HIIT workouts for leisurely “cozy cardio.” Long-term, the soft girl dreams of making dinner for her husband and, if she’s got them, staying at home with her kids. She’s not interested in making partner or founding her own company. She’s in touch with her feminine energy, her menstrual cycle, and her moods.”
In other words, being a “soft girl” is a rejection of success defined by capitalistic standards. It’s the opposite of a Girlboss. It reminded me of a question asked in Diem the other day: “Do you ever just wish you could vibe and not have a job and your partner paid for your life? lol”. Honestly, sometimes yes, and I’ve heard a similar sentiment from several of my girlfriends lately. A lot of these women have held high-powered jobs, but have been affected by recent layoffs. They’ve told me that, while not working is unsustainable, they’ve never felt happier. I get it—we’re all seriously exhausted.
I don’t think the current clash of cycle syncing and soft girls is a coincidence. If I gleaned anything from both of these articles, it’s that women want and need rest. We crave a break, eager to stop pandering to male systems that can, at times, feel impossible to exist in. “Girly” worlds are in, which we’ve seen play out across our collective cultural obsession with Barbie, Beyonce, and Taylor Swift in all their sparkly glory. I think women just want to live in a world that’s kinder to them, with spaces built for them. There’s a hint of radical energy in these trends and cultural moments, even if those participating don’t fully recognize it themselves. Rest can be a revolutionary act, especially for women, and if someone needs to buy into cycle syncing or “soft girl” trends to justify why they’re resting, then honestly, I’m here for it.
What do you think? Is cycle syncing a way to exert some control over our bodies? Is the soft-girl trend an attempt at guilt-free rest?
FYI! We launched the Diem app (and there are lots of fun updates this week!) Diem is designed to embrace the whims, questions, and hushed conversations that women have been having “behind closed doors” for centuries. Our community talks about topics just like this newsletter every day. Join us via web, iOS or Android.
VIBE CHECK! We rolled out an unauthenticated view of Diem last week, this means you can take a sneak peek at (anonymized) conversations happening in the app before creating an account ✨
Your Daily Briefing!
👀 How do I ask my coworkers how much money they make? This is our third question in partnership with Girlboss as part of our “Office Gossip” series. Get candid!
👀 How do you get over a fear of judgment when sharing publicly? Share tips.
👀 What does getting older look and feel like to you? Share thoughts.
👀 Did you ask the internet if you were gay? Share stories.
👀 Who’s got tips for someone starting their first corp job? Add yours.
👀 How do you talk about ring expectations with your partner? Spill the deets.
👀 How do you cope with a changing body? Offer advice.
👀 What actually makes you resilient? Share perspectives.
👀 What is an orgasm supposed to feel like? Help a girl out.
Enjoyed this essay? Share it with your friends.
PS. New Yorkers! We’re teaming up with The Stack World & Landing to host a Community Club on Vision Setting from 5-7 PM on Monday, 30th October. RSVP details, here.