Feminism | Posted by Georgia L on 11/19/2012

The Red Menace?

When it comes to competitiveness, I am the winner. I choose to be ridiculously competitive about certain things, and my fight to beat everyone else is bloody, bitter, and vaguely worrying. Of all the things I’ve fought hardest to win though, puberty was maybe not one that you’d expect. I wanted to grow up faster than all my friends, and I wanted it badly.

Maybe that’s why I never understood – and still don’t understand – the negativity that menstruation seems to evoke. Periods, to me, seem messy, annoying, and slightly nerve-racking. However, they’re also to thank for, oh, you know, just the entirety of the human race.

When it comes to the perception of menstruation, one could argue that our attitude towards it has almost regressed. In Ancient Greece and Rome, women were originally treated as demi-gods, as their periods were seen to be a gift from the gods. With the introduction of (very) basic science, and the slow understanding that menstruation was a biological process, women reverted to second-class citizens. Their powers were no longer mythical, and their bodies became tainted. With the advent of Christianity, periods were (and are) often referred to as “the curse of Eve.” What changed?

Nowadays, periods are referred to, across the world, as “the curse”, “the wrong time of the month”, “the beast”, “the monster,” and so much more. In some places, women and girls are locked away when on their period. They may not be allowed to have sexual intercourse, or eat certain foods, or even talk to males. I may have been excited about starting my period when I was younger – but with all of this negativity, I’m not sure every girl feels the same way.

What happened to turn something which, messy though it is, is a blessing – giving women the ability to have children, if they so choose – into something so shameful?

One factor to blame may be the booming porn industry, which inflicts a massive amount of pressure on women and girls due to its obsession with youth, the obsession with shaving off pubic hair being the best example. By hiding outward signs of our maturity, like hair, we also feel a need to hide, and be ashamed of, our menstruation patterns. It is something we feel we can’t talk about, unless it’s in hushed tones, and only ever to other women.

Even without considering terms like “the curse” etc., most names for periods are not particularly flattering. “Period” and “menstruation” are cold and scientific, “Auntie Flo” feels twee and obvious. I don’t exactly want to scream it from the rooftops, but isn’t it about time to invest in a word for, well, “it”, which feels right?

When my friends and I are talking about periods, we use the slang term “having your painters in.” We never get suspicious glances or a chorus of “ews” but actually kind of like the secrecy – it’s sharing something only we girls can have, and it’s kind of cool.

No doubt some people might like to assert that periods receive a bad press because of their “emotional effect” on women. My only answer to that is: everyone has hormones. Men suffer as many mood swings as women, and, like PMS, men have been known to face Irritable Male Syndrome each month. Projecting temper tantrums and sobbing onto such a positive thing as ensuring the future of the human race is petty, and harmful.

Young girls shouldn’t try and suppress what is natural, though many do. Whether you’re ashamed, proud or afraid of your period, just remember: it makes you the boss of your body. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool.

Originally posted on SPARK

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  • Ashlie Camp @ at 6:44 pm, November 21st, 2012

    Hello,

    I am currently writing my english literature dissertation on menstruation in contemporary women’s writing. I would love to talk to you about it, if at all possible. Amazing blog, brilliant article, thank you for everything you have done for my generation.

    Ashlie (UK)

  • Vanessa @ at 3:42 am, November 26th, 2012

    Being a feminist who reads 9gag, I know exactly what you mean. Seriously, the amount of kitchen and period jokes there would make me abandon the site forever if there weren’t genuinely funny stuff there.

    Awesome post, by the way :P

  • Sophia @ at 12:00 pm, January 6th, 2013

    Good article overall! Just a note, though. When you say “In Ancient Greece [...], women were originally treated as demi-gods[...]“, you have to get one thing straight: the attitude of ancient Greeks towards women changed between eras. For example, even though societies before the Dorian invasion (happened about the 12 century b.c.) were allegedly matriarchichal and women were in a very good position in general (Mycenaen, Cretan), Athens around the fourth-fifth century wasn’t the greatest place for a woman to be. Women were compelled to stay at home, not go out in public to converse with men, they didn’t get proper education and were considered to be lacking in every aspect compared to men. That is precisely why love between teenage boys and adult men was thriving at the time, considered “pure” and “lofty” in comparison to love between a man and a woman,who weren’t considered equal in the first place. Women were solely the bearer of children.(Plato talks about love between boy and man in his Symposium). It was a little different for other city-states, however, in example Sparta.
    Just wanted to get this thing clear for everyone. I am very sorry for any incoherences in my writing, I’m not a native speaker, I’m actually Greek myself and I have studied a thing or two on the matter.
    Keep up the good work, please. =)

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