On Periods

Periods are one of those things which everyone knows about, but nobody ever mentions. We need to examine the way we talk and think about periods, but also the way the media deals with them. These are often at odds with each other, as it’s fairly safe to say that when people who menstruate think of their period it rarely involves images of pretty panties, wearing only white clothes and doing excessive amounts of dancing and rollerblading. And for those of you whose lives are straight out of a tampax ad, I envy you.
Because bending like that is great craic until the cramps set in…
The media seems so opposed to dealing with periods, that if you knew nothing about menstruation, you would assume it has something to do with peeing blue liquid onto a pad. The word ‘blood’ is never mentioned, despite that being pretty much what a period is. We seem to be obsessed with maintaining this idea that women* are lovely little clean, delicate creatures and our uterus’ don’t completely shed every few weeks. Sorry to burst your bubble, but despite the fact that I’m assured we only lose a few teaspoons of blood each menses, it sure doesn’t seem that way.
On the topic of pads and tampons, why are they heralded as our only two options? Bleached chemical-y pieces of cotton that you put up your vagina or that make you feel like you’re wearing a nappy. How can every period be a happy period when you risk death through toxic shock syndrome just so you can wear your lacy panties and white shorts?? And why are they so expensive? The average person will have around 400 periods in their lifetime (taking into account 3 pregnancies and about 9 months of breastfed induced amenorah – so really, there could be a lot more than 400…), and yet we have to pay stupid amounts of money just to be able to not bleed on everything. This cost isn’t taking into account the copious amounts of chocolate and wine necessary to deal with PMS and your period. It’s a tough aul life…
We’re conditioned to think periods are dirty or wrong. We’re told it isn’t polite to talk about them, yet they’re constantly used against us in arguments. I don’t think I know a single woman* who hasn’t heard a variation of the phrase ‘you seem angry/upset, you must be on your period’. Because sure, we couldn’t possibly have opinions and feelings about things unless we’re shedding our uterine lining, how could I have forgotten… But while it’s totally acceptable for others (usually guys) to berate us about being on our period and therefore complete harpies, it’s not OK for us to talk about them. Even the word itself is practically considered a swear word and can get you into all sorts of trouble. Recently, duting a radio discussion about abortion in Ireland, a friend of mine made the comparison between a medical abortion and a heavy period. This was a perfectly accurate comparison, and yet all hell seemed to break loose. The man she was arguing with at the time nearly had a stroke and was giving out to her for using such filthy language. Because sure there’s no link at all between periods and reproductive health, she was just being ‘proof of eve’ as Mister Man put it.
Periods suck. I’m not a fan. Zero stars, would not recommend. I got my first period a few weeks before my 12th birthday and a few hours before I was meant to be on stage for a play I was in. My mum was delighted and gave me a big hug. I was already pissed off by it, having had all of 10 minutes experience of it. Ten years later and I’ve learned my periods were more than just annoying, their irregularity was a sign of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, which basically means my hormones are all over the shop and my ovaries get confused when they try to ovulate. I have special snowflake ovaries. The pill saved me from massively painful and horrible periods, and now I only have to deal with them 4 or 5 times a year. If it wasn’t for my special snowflake ovaries needing the hormone regulation of the combination pill, I’d have the implant or an IUD and no periods at all (that’s the dream).
So yeah, periods are awful. They rarely, if ever, make you want to wear white trousers and smile like an idiot. But the way we discuss them needs a serious upheaval. My period may not be something I look forward to, but it is not dirty or wrong.
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