Period TimePosted: March 25, 2009
On a list of Things Which Are Not A Good Idea To Say:
Me: It’s strange, because it’s Monday now and I don’t have any signs of an impending period. And I normally get it on Tuesdays.
Me: I shouldn’t have said that. That just means I’ll get the pain, the excess emotions and the blood, all at once.
Me: Tomorrow is not going to be a good day.
Tuesday, of course, was yesterday. True to my prediction, I had everything, all at once, including ravenous hunger. Today is better, but this week is going to be pretty damned tiring.
In related news, I’ve been reading The Woman In The Body. It has some incredibly interesting things to say on the subject of periods, like the way that medical “wisdom” treats them as a form of “failed production”.
To paraphrase Emily Martin’s work, her point is that metaphors have been developed that treat the human body as a kind of factory system – the brain “sends signals” to other parts of the body, like a manager, and those other parts respond, as workers. In terms of the uterus, the “product” is seen to be a sucessful pregnancy, and periods are therefore seen as a failure to produce. She quotes from medical textbooks to underline this idea:
“Given this teleological interpretation of the increased amount of endometrial tissue, it should be no surprise that when a fertilized egg does not implant, these texts describe the next event in very negative terms. The fall in blood progesteron and estrogen “deprives” the “highly developed endometrial lining of its hormonal support,” “constriction” of blood vessels leads to a “diminished” supply of oxygen and nutrients, and finally, “disintegration starts, the entire lining begins to slough, and the menstrual flow begins”. Blood vessels in the endometrium “hemorrhage” and the menstrual flow “consists of this blood mixed with endometrial debris.””
Looking back over the descriptions – “deprive”, “constriction”, “diminish”, “disintegration”, “slough”, “hemorrhage”,”debris” – actually makes me angry.
Now, speaking personally, my period, frustrating though it is, is nevertheless a good thing, signifying as it does that I am not pregnant.
Actually, I’d go further, and say that even if every woman, at some point in her life, actively tried to get pregnant, she would be unlikely to do so for over half of her reproductive years, and therefore, it is likely that, for the most part, women in general will see the arrival of their period as a good thing.
So where is that, in medical descriptions?
Where is the idea that, far from being a “failure”, the occurence of a period is actually more likely, generally speaking, to be seen as a “sucess”?
I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to have my ideas about periods challenged in that way when I read the book.And I’m finding it quite hard now to wrap my head around the idea that what I have been led to believe to be objectively true, is in fact extremely negative and unhelpful.
But having been challenged, there’s only one description of a period that I think I now want to embrace, which is something that one of the women in the study said; asked to explain why women bleed, she replied, “to clean out your insides”.