The Monthly Curse is a topic that’s still so touchy even commercials don’t talk about it directly. We hear about how these products will help us ignore the fact that we are on the rag, which sounds good but it implies that if you show any signs your body is pissed that you didn’t get pregnant this month, you have failed.
The women in these commercials never look bloated or cranky, they are swimming and playing tennis. Most women I know are happy if they stick to their schedule and don’t snap at anyone.
It’s different for each of us but, since it often goes undiscussed, I’ve met women who didn’t know that. Some of us gain ten pounds, some of us have cramps so bad they can hardly function. Any of these is made out to be a personal failing, which feels all the more acute because you are less than your best in general.
I hear plenty about all the weird things penises do! Hardly a day goes by that I don’t find myself sitting through a pill ad where they use the word ‘erection’ repeatedly (during the news, people!) I hear women rated by how much a boner might like them. I read debates about whether men are controlled by them. I see them painted onto buildings. I hear about how tough people, regardless of their sex, have “balls.”
Just the other day I found myself explaining to Hubs a little about how Dracula’s Tea Bag effects my thinking. I had been upset about something and I felt like he had brushed me off unceremoniously. He admitted to assuming it was “just hormones.” Ooh! Them’s fightin’ words!
As patiently as I could, I asked him to think about how some days are better than others. Some days are good days, you sail right through and nothing much bothers you. Other days aren’t so good, you feel drained and little things get to you more than maybe they should. The things bothering you are not imaginary, you are just at a low ebb and less resilient. He seemed to follow this. Now, I said, imagine all of your bad days were strung together back to back, with little hope of waking up tomorrow feeling any better.
I’m not sure if I really got my point across, but I couldn’t just let that ride. My guy is very progressive as these things go, and I was surprised to hear him say that.
But how convenient it must be to have that loophole! If a woman is being unpleasant in some way, he can simply write off whatever she is saying with, ‘it must be Leak Week.’ I suppose I already knew this, but I have always kind of assumed this was a sentiment endorsed by hardcore misogynists and similar fringe views. Surely guys like my mama’s boy husband know better?
Sometimes I feel so naive.
Maybe they don’t know better because we don’t talk about it! That’s usually why otherwise intelligent people walk around believing bullshit, because we as a society don’t have a good framework for interacting with the topic. Taboo keeps it out of sight, even between women. I have tried to do my part in breaking the ice, but when I bring it up in casual conversation other ladies become obviously uncomfortable. We will graphically discuss our sex lives and tell childbirth horror stories, but talking about how we are cramped and bloated because Aunt Flo is in town makes us nervous because it’s like admitting we are failing.
Are you sick of these euphemisms yet? There are so many more — Bitchy Witchy Week, Anal Sex Week, Clogging Molly, Dropping Clots, Girl Time, Falling to the Communists, Having the Painters In, Ketchup With Your Steak, Pad Straddling, Arts and Crafts Week at Panty Camp….
Some of them are, admittedly, hilarious. Some of them are unsettlingly descriptive. Some of are so obscure you might have to think a minute before you figured out what was going on. The linguistic lengths we go to to not name the issue are sometimes pretty outlandish. And for what? These days there is so much gore and crass language in our entertainment, but the mess women deal with every month is still so hidden that women in media almost never have one. A film will portray years of a woman’s life and somehow she never gets her period.
The only place I have seen it portrayed that I can remember is a Netflix series called The End of the F***ing World. It was unexpected and unceremonious, then not discussed at all, which struck me as a realistic portrayal. I loved it. (The show was pretty good too.) But where else?
The Walking Dead, a show about people surviving after the end of civilization, never deals with where those women get their feminine products — sorry, period hygiene products — or how they deal with any of that at all. The two pregnancies depicted are amazingly self-contained, it sure is lucky neither of them had complications that confined them to bed rest. Or preeclampsia. Or any of the many other issues that can, ya know, kill you.
I suspect this is because, well, men don’t like periods. Women may be the writers and directors, but men are still usually the bankrollers and they are still considered the main audience. If a movie is aimed at women it’s considered a niche film, despite us being half of the ticket-buying public. Experience has shown me that most men prefer not to hear about women’s cycle, except where it directly affects them. And if lady’s things are lesser unless they can be framed in a masculine way, this is the one thing it’s really impossible to do that with. So it just gets left out.
And all this has succeeded in keeping us quiet about it, making us ashamed of the best indicator of our reproductive health. Sure, it’s messy and gross, but so is feces and we sure hear enough about that. Shit is funny. Periods are not.
I tried looking for information on positives about it, and I did find an interesting perspective: Whatever bothers you while you’re at that end of your cycle probably bothers you the rest of the time, you’re just better at ignoring it. When your body drags you into the gritty reality of your physical existence, you are less insulated from the crap you put up with on a daily basis.
Take note of the things that piss you off. Listen to the bitch inside you who is sick of it and find ways to improve your life. Draw boundaries, don’t let people talk to you like that or demand that you cater to them. Stop wearing clothes that make you uncomfortable. Whatever it is. We assume we are being irrational, but — stay with me here — what if there’s something to it?
A wild thought, right?
Women put up with a lot and we are conditioned to put our needs last. Not least because, when we assert them, there’s a good chance we will be brushed off, gaslighted or patronized. I strongly believe that we need to learn to insist and assert ourselves in ways that might be less palatable to the menfolk. Sometimes it seems reasonable to take our cues from how they succeed in making their concerns the world’s concerns, and they better be our concerns lest we be left to die alone in an apartment full of cats.
But they need us just as much as we need them. Most men are obsessed with women, or at least their idea of us. These days the ones who cling to the old model of male supremacy are often bitter and insecure, because we have made a good deal of progress in breaking the structures that kept us beholden to them.
But a twisted, pornified idea of us still permeates. The consumerism machine sells it to us and many of us accept these ideas before we are old enough to understand them.
I am old enough to understand that the culture has sold me short. I’m fed up with loopholes that allow us to see each other as shallow stereotypes that are easy to write off when they bother us. Women’s cycle is what populated the world. We need to demand respect for it.
No, assume respect for it. Stop asking, stop demanding. Leading by example only works if they care to follow our example and if all the intelligent, caring women of the world behaved as if our needs, our time and our experience is just as important as anyone’s….
….they would have such a fit! I know, I know. This is a dangerous game because there are women who are regularly beaten for no greater crime than insulting an insecure man’s ego. It’s not so simple as just making them listen because they learn from a young age they don’t have to.
But we can start by allowing ourselves no shame about our physical existence. Pass gas when you need to. Take up space on the couch and in the bed. Sit comfortably and don’t worry about how you look! I have read comment threads by women who say they are too distracted to enjoy sex, they are worrying if they look good! This is wrong, it’s a stupid amount of pressure and responsibility for us to have to take on.
Be less than perfectly beautiful, only the shallow will reject you, and they don’t deserve you anyway. I know it’s scary, but we do it for all of us. For our daughters and their daughters.
And our cycle is the source of our power. We make life! (Or don’t!) I heard a line in a movie recently that I loved: “In my world, Nature made women strong, so they bear the children.” I suggest we embrace our strength and stop letting ourselves be shamed into hiding it to save men’s egos. They need to learn that it’s okay to not always be the strong one.
And what better way to begin the lesson than by reminding them that they couldn’t handle what we go through?