So, this morning I have been following links. And this continued until I reached a post entitled: “blaah owwww aughh fuck meee uurgh an overshare“. How could anybody not want to know what the hell that’s about?!
And I read it, and it is about periods. Specifically, really nasty periods. The kind of periods described are the ones that make me rather unhelpfully think “thank fuck that’s not me!”. The whole post is definitely worth a read, including the comments, which are hillarious. And true:
“The most popular narratives are about how periods are really no big deal (and have become even less of one since the writer started using menstrual cups/got in touch with her inner moon goddess/stopped eating hormone-laden meat)” – Colleen
So this is me, jumping on the bandwagon:
I don’t give a flying fuck about my inner moon goddess. And, given that I take the pill and am therefore not at all following my “moon cycle”, I don’t think she really cares about me, either. I also don’t give a flying fuck about using disposable pads and tampons. You know, I’m pretty big on recycling – to the intense irritation of my housemates, I might add. So yes, I’ll wash out my milk cartons and recycle my cardboard boxes and tins and so on and so forth… but I absolutely will not feel bad about not using cloth pads.
Why? Well, because tampons and disposable pads are just that – disposable. I can get rid of them quickly and easily. Also, I don’t think it’s a problem to flush a wad of blood-soaked cotton down the toilet. I have not blocked a toilet yet, and I reckon any toilet that can cope with excrement can cope with tampons. Pads of course go in the bin, because they are clearly not biodegradeable.
If I were to use cloth pads, I’d have two choices: either I’d have to wash them out, by hand, every day, or I’d have to leave them for up to two weeks until I did my regular wash in the laundrette. And you know, regardless of how clean menstrual fluid is when it leaves my body (and it is, in fact, pretty clean), after two weeks, that would smell. And I do not want my room to smell of old blood. Also, when I am on my period, the last thing I want to do is unnecessary washing. I don’t even want to do the washing up, for goodness sake! I’m lucky enough to have pretty light periods now that I’m on the pill, which means I no longer have that horrible pooling sensation when I wake up on the first day of my period. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most people reading this will know what I mean, but for those that don’t – it’s that feeling when you wake up that you’ve already bled over your pyjamas/ duvet/ sheet, that your thighs are covered in blood, and that, furthermore, the moment you stand up, it will gush. Because the only thing that’s stopped you bleeding more is gravity. And when you stand up, gravity will not be working in your favour.
Anyway, the point is, I don’t get that anymore. I don’t have to shuffle to the bathroom with my legs together and my bloodstained pyjamas sticking to me, hoping that I won’t encounter my father en route, I don’t have to wash my sheets three times in my period week, and I don’t have to try to rinse the blood out of said bloodstained pyjamas when I’m half-asleep and hurting. I don’t want to have to revisit those days, not even a little bit. So no, I don’t want to have to wash out cloth pads.
It occurs to me now that if ever I had a problem with feminism, this would be it: that we police each others’ moral standards. Well, I mean, apart from the rather unsavoury history of bigotry that has plagued feminism and causes some women to identify as womanists/ humanists instead. But seriously, what are we thinking?
What have we achieved if we get society to back the fuck off from the idea that all periods are icky, but at the cost of pretending that none of them are? What have we achieved if we get society to acknowledge that a woman’s choices are none of their damned business, only to create our own hierarchy of who is the “most feminist” based on what kind of period controls one uses?
Isn’t the point of feminism to understand that women are human, and complex, and different, and that one woman’s choice will not work for another, and that one woman’s inner moon goddess is another woman’s fairy tale? Don’t we know yet that we’re not, and shouldn’t aim to be, a hive mind?
And, while I’m on a roll, what’s up with treating women like they all have periods? What about the women that don’t? What kind of a message are they getting? Do they get to embrace their inner moon goddess too, or is that a privilege reserved for the women that bleed? Aren’t we just creating another hierarchy, one which places women who bleed above women who don’t? And why? Is it coincidence that these discussions are prioritising women who show signs of being able to concieve? This, to me, is a pretty fucking uncomfortable thing to think.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be talking about periods. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t be challenging the notion that periods are icky because they’re a woman thing. I am saying that we need to think about who our period discussions are including, and who they’re leaving behind, whether that’s women who have periods that don’t conform to the comforting “oh, periods aren’t that bad really” narrative, or whether that’s women who don’t have them at all.
Something I’ve learned is that we can all be blinkered, and insular, and yes, privileged, no matter what privileges we don’t have, no matter how much we’ve learned. And if we want to gain allies, and if we want to avoid alienating people, we need to be asking ourselves uncomfortable questions. And then we need to be doing something about it.
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”.
Last night, J said something so mind-bogglingly mad that I immediately retorted, “I’m blogging that!”
Unfortunately, my memory is shite, and I can’t for the life of me work out what he might have said. It was probably about the female reproductive system, since I’m on my period and grumpy with it, but more than that, I cannot say.
This, sadly, means that the only thing I have to entertain you with is the exchange that shows me in a pretty foolish light:
Me: *tells half of a story I’d read about a tampon getting lost*
J: *goes off on tangent*
Me: Shit, I’ve completely lost my thread, damn you…
J: *laughs hysterically*
Me: *glares over the phone, tries not to laugh*
On a somewhat related note, I keep trying to get J blogging. I’ve come to the conclusion that I just want to live online vicariously through him, because my offerings at the altar of Blogland have been distinctly fluffy of late. In my defense, not only am I posting at least twice a week for the Sheffield Fems, but ordinary life leaves me with precious little time, and the stress of ordinary life leaves me with precious little inclination to put my feminist glasses on. It all just gets too depressing, and gives me headaches. Or bouts of murderous rage. Still, at least my weekend news-surfing means I do have some inclination of what is going on in the country. This is probably a good thing.