Weekends give me a lot of time to think and gather my thoughts about the host of issues we have in our world. Magic Mic Mondays is an opportunity to share my perspectives, vent frustrations, and cultivate discussions.
As a teenager, I got my period pretty late in comparison with my peers. And just like the time I said I wanted glasses because I thought they were cool, me wishing to get my period was one of the silliest things I could have wished for.
Despite mandated health classes in late elementary to middle school, no one really explained how periods work or why they’re important. And even if they did, the information definitely did not stick. All I knew was that as soon as it happened, I’d probably get boobs. And that was the dream. Then, I’d grow armpit hair and be able to have children and maybe a boy would fall in love with me. Thanks, societal standards of beauty, for messing with my little kid brain. Things were a lot simpler then…or maybe just I was simpler then.
Anyway, even though I wanted a period before I got one, I am definitely not a fan of periods now. And it is not just because the idea of blood rushing out of my body scares me, even if it only is several teaspoons worth. But because what it means to get your period and the lack of discussion about menstrual cycles in general is extremely troubling to me.
I will wholeheartedly admit that I myself am part of the problem. I don’t even know if I have ever called a period a “menstrual cycle”, much less had an in-depth discussion about it with people who didn’t identify as women.
In public, I say “my aunt is visiting”.
You know, there goes Auntie Flo, at it again, with her inconvenient timing and “hanger”-inducing irritation. I know women who refer to their cycle as a “dot” (pardon me, but it’s more like a flood or river coursing through…a dot just makes it sound so easy to deal with). And I know other women who just don’t speak of it altogether.
The feminist in me just thinks periods are like the patriarchy. It impacts literally everyone and we still don’t talk about it. And because of that, it holds every single of one us back.
I really would like to be like the women who celebrate their cycles and Mother Nature & the moon for what periods represent –the ability to create life. As joyful as it would be to just embrace being a woman and hopping on the “treat yourself” bandwagon with all of it’s period subscription box glory, I just don’t think periods are representative of that anymore.
And I think it’s problematic when that’s the only solution people can come up with. I mean it is great that there are companies who target women and want to make their periods easier to deal with. I think that does say a lot about where we are going as a consumer-driven society. Yes, we make a profit on women during some of their most vulnerable times, but at least we give them options!! Pads with wings, tampons, pantiliners, pads with no wings…the options are really endless. I’m bashing on those companies a lot, but really, I do think the availability of those companies and having others invest in them is important and it tells me that women do have more a voice in the marketplace.
But, being a feminist, and an inclusive one that at, means listening to other narratives and needs. And when menstruation holds young girls back from attending school*, is used as a tool to control and trivialize incarcerated women**, and shame women into thinking they’re not good enough at home or in the workplace, I don’t think it’s enough to simply say you should be proud to be a woman, buy a subscription-based box of menstruation goodies, and move on.
See, we’re quick to talk about the magic and fragility of birth, but get embarrassed or upset at the mere mention of a vagina.
And we’re quick to protect our unborn children, but not the vessels they grow in. (And the simple fact that we refer to women’s bodies as vessels is proof enough that we devalue women at every opportunity we get)
And even still, we make women pay a ton of money for feminine hygiene products, but give condoms out for free.***
So what can we do as a community to help alleviate these issues? How can we tell young girls not to be ashamed of their periods or empower women to believe that they too are deserving of access to safe and healthy ways of caring for their bodies? How do we stop belittling and humiliating women because their time of the month is gross and you just don’t want to think about it?
There is no one answer, but it’s about time that we started the discussion. Auntie Flo wants to stop being yelled at every month. She’s tired of being the scapegoat, and I’m tired of calling her out.
*While menstruation and inadequate access to feminine hygiene products does heavily impact girls’ education around the developing world, it is not a quick-fix issue. Gender politics and women’s rights, in general, need to be discussed and handing out free pads to girls around the world is not going to be what solves gender-based discrimination in the education system and workplace.
**Dehumanization of inmates in prison, especially for female incarceration, is done through a variety of means. I could have an entire series of Magic Mics on the “criminal justice” system in the US and privatization of prisons. Withholding feminine hygiene products is just the cherry on top of a system that contributes to self-deprecation and hatred. A prison inmate in the link above describes it perfectly: “Prison makes us hate part of our selves; it turns us against our own bodies”.
***This is not to say I don’t think condoms should be free or not free. I think having fair and equal access to contraceptives is very important and completely necessary. But, the issue is that condoms often are accessible for free whereas feminine hygiene products (pads, tampons, menstrual cups, etc) are not and are, in my opinion, much more of a necessity.