Bleeding Monsters

Got Misogyny?

One of the Everything I Do Is Wrong ads

Last yeast, the California Milk Processor Board launched an ad campaign “everything I do is wrong,” that focused on apologetic men buying copious amounts of milk because they believe that calcium reduces PMS symptoms. The campaign had two issues. Heterosexism was one. Implying that everyone capable of childbearing becomes a rage-filled, irrational monster before menstruating was another. The second bit got their ads pulled before long.

PMS—or just the possibility of PMS, regardless of the state of someone’s menstrual cycle or whether they ever suffer from PMS—is a common target. It’s the butt of jokes. It’s such a popular excuse for a villain’s behavior that TVTropes has a page titled Menstrual Menace, about supernaturally bad periods and pre-periods.

Fiction impacts reality. No insistence that ‘it was just a joke’ erases the hatred of female bodies behind a comment about menstruating monsters. When somebody asks me if “it’s that time of the month,” they are stating that my emotions are not valid. I am not allowed to be angry because of something I experienced; that’s just my uterus talking. Hillary Clinton is disregarded by sexists nationwide for her status of Uterus Wielder. All the PMS jokes impact how citizens—voters—view her.

All this talk of wombs leading to unrestrained, irrational behavior reminds me of something else. Hysteria. Uteri may have stopped wandering around people’s bodies, but apparently they’re still liabilities and we should never hold positions of power.

Sexists are so assured of the power of PMS that they have invented, and use, an app for tracking the periods of people around them. Why? Societal views on PMS, the ones that fuel ad campaigns and thousands of jokes, impact the people (assumed to have) functional uteri. These people are, at times, frightening. They are irrational and beastly. They are physically marked as Other. They inspire stories of supernatural terrors.

Photo by absolutxman

All the makings of a monster.

In Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Theory,” he states: “Through the body of the monster fantasies of aggression, domination, and inversion are allowed safe expression… Escapist delight gives way to horror only when the monster threatens to… destroy or deconstruct the thin walls of category and culture.” A monster upon which the viewer’s own aggression and domineering desires can be projected: sounds like the PMSing significant others of the men in the “everything I do is wrong” campaign.

Periods are not pleasant. I don’t expect anyone to enjoy their periods on a physical level, though some might enjoy the mark of fertility or mark of not-pregnant. But, periods are natural, and they inconvenience nobody more than the person having one. Why are people ashamed of their periods, if not because they believe themselves monsters?

Clinic Proposition: Or “Why I Am Now Obsessed With Periods”

Elizabeth, Eduardo and I recently created a video proposing a potential women’s health clinic:

Our focus on menstruation was initially conceptualized as a response to the second-wave feminism described in Morgen’s Into Our Own Hands. The gynecological self-awareness of Our Bodies, Ourselves and Carol Downer’s cervical self-examination movement struck us most powerfully, and we saw parallels between the ignorance of and shaming of women’s genitals in the 70s and the ignorance and shaming of menstruation today. We initially wanted our clinic to be broader in scope, providing information about birth control and counseling for eating disorders, but as we became more excited about removing the taboo on periods, the other issues fell by the wayside, to be picked up by other clinics.

Anyone who has seen Carrie know how traumatic a person’s first period (menarche) can be. We wanted our information to reach children before they began menstruating. Because we have known children who began menstruating as young as nine years old, we decided to start educating eight year olds. We could not rely on anyone that young coming to our clinic, so to educate children and preteens, we needed to design an outreach program. We also knew that we would be working with limited resources, so we limited the scope of our clinic to pubescent, who experience the most dramatic bodily changes and have not yet accepted menstruation as mundane. We selected twenty-one as the tail-end of puberty, based on how late in life we noticed puberty-related changes in our own bodies, and had our target demographic’s age. We decided to include all genders and sexes in order to choke off the ignorance and superstitions surrounding menstruation before it transformed into silencing and harassment of menstruating individuals.

What really caught our attention, as you can probably see in the video, was the unavailability of feminine hygiene products. Menstruation is a part of daily life, the products for managing it should be part of the daily landscape. However, we only ever see bathrooms with empty lack tampon dispensers or lack them entirely. Legislation seemed like the best way to unilaterally fix this problem, and we started working on the beginnings of a lobbying campaign.

The funding/payment part of the clinic was the trickiest bit. We didn’t want to be a publicly funded clinic because of the risk of being shut down. Knowing that government funded programs are at the mercy of bureaucracy, we preferred to be funded through private donations, and being paid on a sliding scale. This would eventually lead to getting sponsored by companies that sell products related to the menstrual cycle, like Tampax, Kotex, Midol, and Always. Being privately funded we would give us a better chance of lasting longer.