Holy Hormones Journal – not to say that is has always been mainstream for women – and many of our partners and our children. Right – once a month pretty significant. And for many it is like a stream.
But never in my journey of many moons over many years would I have ever have expected to see “Menstruation” on the cover of Newsweek Magazine. Nor that the menstrual health advocacy organization I belong to, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research be mentioned in the article. I became a member in the late 1990’s when everyone was still pill happy and now am please to say that they have become international in their membership and a major player as watchdogs for the pharmaceutical companies and the products marketed to women.
Menstruation and menstrual shaming have indeed hit mainstream. Perhaps now menstrual shame will become a relic of a past that has lasted for centuries. Am I being too optimistic… never forget what a small group of people can do. The stigma suppression of menstruation is directly involved with the suppression of women’s lives and values. The act of menstruation is powerful. PERIOD. And we should not have to endure taxes and toxins in our fem care products. Nor should we have to endure the side effects of suppressing the act of menstruation.
March 20, 2016
Let’s begin with the obvious: Every woman in the history of humanity has or had a period. Each month, her uterus sheds its lining, sending blood flowing out through her vagina (unless she’s pregnant, in which case she gets a lengthy reprieve). This process is as natural as eating, drinking and sleeping, and it’s beautiful too: There’s no human race without it. Yet most of us loathe talking about it.
When girls first start their periods, they embark on a decades-long journey of silence and dread. Periods hurt. They cause backaches and cramps, not to mention a cloud of emotional ickiness—and this goes on every month, for 30 to 40 years. In public, people discuss periods as often as they discuss diarrhea. Women shove pads or tampons up their sleeves on their way to the bathroom so no one knows it’s their “time of the month.” They get bloodstains on their clothes. They stick wads of toilet paper in their underwear when they’re caught without supplies. Meanwhile, ad campaigns sanitize this bloody mess with scenes of light blue liquids gently cascading onto fluffy white pads while women frolic in form-fitting white jeans.
In a 1978 satire for Ms. magazine, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem answered the question that so many women have asked: “What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear—menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much,” she wrote. Steinem envisioned a world where “men-struation” justifies men’s place pretty much everywhere: in combat, political office, religious leadership positions and medical schools. We’d have “Paul Newman Tampons” and “Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads” and a new model for compliments:
“Man, you lookin’ good!”
“Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!”
Nearly 40 years later, Steinem’s essay still stings because “menstrual equity” has gone almost nowhere. Today, tampons and pads are taxed in most states while adult diapers, Viagra, Rogaine and potato chips are not. Men can walk into any bathroom and access all of the supplies they need to care for themselves: toilet paper, soap, paper towels, even seat covers. Women, however, cannot. In most schools, girls have to trek to the nurse’s office to ask for a pad or tampon, as if menstruating is an illness rather than a natural function. In most public and private places, women are lucky if there’s a cranky machine on the wall charging a few quarters for a pad that’s so uncomfortable you might prefer to use a wad of rough toilet paper instead. No change? You can pay for a parking spot with a credit card, but have you ever seen such technology on a tampon machine in a women’s bathroom? The situation for prison inmates and homeless women is far direr.
Even if you do have access to tampons, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require companies to list the ingredients—yet the average woman has a tampon inside her vagina for more than 100,000 hours over her lifetime. Tampons may contain “residue from chemical herbicides,” says Sharra Vostral, a historian at Purdue University who wrote Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology. “We do not really understand the health consequences, because we are not testing for them in relation to tampons.”