All of the angry anti-radfem stuff that I see about periods has lately been bothering me. I’ve been in my bed today, with heating pads and ibuprofen, trying to distract myself from my uterus twisting around, and I’ve been giving it some thought.
A few days ago I saw someone say that older radfems “teach younger women to drink period blood”. I see complains about uterus artwork, about women who use period blood in their wiccan/witchcraft rituals, women being asked not to speak about their periods as women, and of course women describing vulvas as a “nightmare of flesh”. We’re accusing of reducing ourselves to genitalia, of being obsessed with our periods, told that nobody is oppressed because of their menstrual cycle (sometimes, of course, they add “in America”, as if female oppression is something else we’ve outsourced).
My mom told me that, when she was a kid, she didn’t wrap up a tampon enough when she threw it in the trash. Her dad called her in and hit her because “her brothers could have seen”. She tells me that one of the first times she fell in love with my dad was when she found out he kept tampons in his bathroom “just in case”.
I remember being told that I couldn’t use the bathroom once in middle school, as I had already gone that class. My friend gave me a sweatshirt to tie around my waist after I bled through my pants.
I remember in gym class, when we went out to run, trying to explain to my male teacher that I couldn’t run because I was on my period. He told me that I didn’t have a sick note and that telling him was inappropriate. I threw up on the track.
When I talk to doctors about my irregular periods, they tell me I must use hormonal birth control. We don’t have any medications that weren’t made to make women sexually available. The “period” you get on birth control is withdrawal from hormones. Nobody tells me for years that hormonal birth control doesn’t mix with mood disorders. Five doctors put me on this routine. Each time I go crazy. When I refuse with the last doctor, tell her I can’t do it again, she tells me to “grow up”.
My period hurts, hurts more than it should, with PCOS. My grandmother had it, had surgery after surgery like many women in her family, to remove ovaries bit by bit. They wouldn’t take them all out at first because, the doctors said, they might want to give birth. My grandmother calls it “her cancer”, because that’s how the doctor described it to her.
I know a woman who passed out in class. The teacher called an ambulance, and when they got there and she woke up she was mortified. She had endometriosis and she was angry that others had seen her in pain. I read later that cramps can be more painful than a heart attack.
I ask if I can postpone a meeting at a job until the next day. My co-worker asks if I am PMSing because I’ve been so grumpy all day. I go to the restroom and vomit, because the nausea from my period is so awful. I miss days sometimes because I can’t make it out of bed.
So when I see positivity about periods, when I see people trying to make art about this thing we have in common, when I see women talking about ways to make their period more comfortable, when I see the stitched pads they make, when I see people who can view the period as somehow divine, I truly do appreciate it. It isn’t gross, or awful. What’s gross and awful is telling us to be silent, not letting us learn, not making accommodations, the idea that this is a thing that we have to actively hide.
I don’t think those things are “glorifying” periods, but so what if they are? I think that taking something that hurts and making it into something positive and beautiful is incredible. I think that accepting ourselves as we are and finding ways to love that are some of the best things we can do in life.
So, as I lay here, in a lot of pain, I just want to say thanks for all the talk about menstruation. I love your uterus art. I love the things that I’ve learned from women about menstruation–why we have periods and how that relates to our bodies avoiding pregnancy, what normal periods should look like, signs and symptoms of gynecological disorders, and how to use menstrual products that are less toxic to our bodies.
Our periods shouldn’t have a stigma, and we should remember that we aren’t alone. Cheers, and I hope all of you have a great day today :)