Brain-Picking Becky #6: Rag Order

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“Menstruation Machine, by Sputniko!” by GlobalX / Creative Commons License

Let me get this straight. A group of male politicians can sit around an office and talk about uteri all day then go on national television and tell me what I can and can’t do with my own uterus, but I’m not supposed to talk about my period in public?

Um… no.

To all you men out there who continue to treat periods like some hush-hush taboo topic, I’m gonna give you some facts. Women bleed! Out of our vaginas! Every month for days! And we’re so badass that despite the cramps, bloating, backaches, fatigue, mood swings and dozens of other symptoms that accompany this blood, we also continue to do everything else our daily lives require out of us. This is an amazing feat. We should be celebrated!

But instead of supporting us and listening to us and cheering us on, you’re grossed out and therefore we’re supposed to pretend like none of this is happening?

Are you fucking kidding me??

We’re not talking about gallons of blood squirting out of somebody’s severed head in a Quentin Tarantino movie here. And even if we were, DEAL WITH IT. You are a grown man! Do not tell me how much you love playing war video games or watching zombie movies but then can’t deal with me talking about my period.

But in all seriousness, this isn’t about me and my frustration. The worldwide silencing of women is a real problem. Yeah, that’s right, this ridiculous taboo surrounding periods equals the silencing of women. And this hurts all of us.

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“Menstruationtasse” / Creative Commons License

Example number one: There are lots of amazing products out there, like Thinx undies (an amazing company, by the way), the DivaCup (pictured left), Instead Softcup, and even regular tampons and pads, that do an excellent job of keeping everything nice and contained. But most women don’t know about all of these products. Why? Because we’re not allowed to talk about them! And even if they do know about them, so many women across the world simply can’t afford them. Journalist Jessica Kane did some math in a 2015 Huffington Post article and, based on research from the American Pregnancy Association, she concluded that “the average woman endures some 456 total periods over 38 years, or roughly 2,280 days with her period — 6.25 years of her life.” Using these numbers, Kane calculated how much a typical woman spends on tampons throughout her lifetime of periods and came up with the figure of $1,773. Many women (myself included) also have to wear panty liners with tampons, so using the same figures, that totals another $443, equaling over $2,000 altogether. And this doesn’t include any painkillers, hot water bottles, or birth control. Many women just don’t have that kind of money. So, let’s role-play for a minute. Imagine that you’re homeless, hungry, and you just got your period. You’re bleeding into a pair of underwear that you know you won’t be able to wash anytime soon, your cramps hurt like hell, you’re starving and craving pizza because yes, hormones really do cause food cravings, and then a stranger gives you $5. Your choices are: 1. Eat but then sit in a puddle of blood while your cramps grow so severe that you can barely walk, 2. Buy tampons but then starve while your cramps grow so severe that you can barely walk, or 3. Buy Advil, sit in a puddle of blood while you wait for it to kick in, and then probably vomit because you can’t take painkillers on an empty stomach. This is a major global issue but we’re not talking about how to help these women because we aren’t even talking about periods.

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“Introducing the Menstrual Cup to women’s groups in Meru” by SuSanA Secretariat / Creative Commons License

Example number two: Because most men don’t want to hear about periods or see any sign of their existence at all, millions of girls across the world drop out of school every year because they’re afraid of having an accident in front of their male peers. MILLIONS. Can you imagine what this world would be like if millions more people finished high school? All the inventions, new businesses, and scientific discoveries we would see! All the children who would have enough food because both of their parents could work and earn money! All the hospitals that would have more doctors! All the schools that would have more teachers! All the countries that would have more female politicians and thus a more balanced and representative government!

Example number three: Not talking about periods keeps men and women separated in a way that hurts us as individuals and hurts our society. Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui recently said in an interview after losing an Olympic relay race, “It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired… First off, she’s a hero because she broke some serious societal barriers by saying this. Secondly, multiple sources reported that many Chinese people, men and women alike, were shocked to learn that women can swim on their periods, much less that their periods could affect their performance.

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“Fu Yuanhui – Rio Olympic Games – 8/18/16” by Boaz Guttman / Creative Commons License

Wait, back up. THIS MEANS THEY DIDN’T KNOW TAMPONS EXISTED. If people can’t talk about tampons, then how can we have serious conversations about birth control, sex education, pregnancy, miscarriages, and abortion? How can we come together and fight for women’s rights if women don’t have the right to talk about our experiences and be heard? If we’re ever going to truly be equal, then we need to talk openly about one another’s lives and actually listen to each other. This silencing is a very clear form of oppression and all of us are responsible for changing it.

So ladies, don’t let people shame you because you bleed every month. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re dirty or gross. If it weren’t for periods, none of us would exist. Talk about your experiences, educate men about what is actually going on inside of you (you’d be shocked by how many people are clueless about the female anatomy), serve as a role model for other ladies, and ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. And men, instead of acting like you’re going to vomit at the mention of a pad, use that moment to remind yourself that we women have to go through this and you don’t. Be grateful.

Click here to learn more about the ongoing column Brain-Picking Becky.

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