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The Red Menace?

by Georgia Luckhurst

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.

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4 Responses to “The Red Menace?”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    The stigma against it may also be informed by the expectation that women be always sexually ready, and when we’re on our periods, many people are not interested in having sex with us. Also we’re expected to be always pleasant and accommodating but we don’t always feel like being that way when we’re on our periods, which is another reason why it might have such a negative stigma. Also also, taking the pubic hair thing a step further, there is a fetishization and sexualization of young girls (PRE-PUBESCENT GIRLS IT’S FUCKING CREEPY!), and porn sites are always raving about “barely legal girls” or having “teens”, and that “youth” aspect is enhanced by shaving off the hair that is one significant signifier of our womanly maturity.

  2. Shay says:

    I’ve never liked the terms used to describe a period either. I agree they are either cold and clinical or insulting. I have come to describe it as “lady time.” It has always seemed more appropriate and positive than the labels others want to use.

    I think part of the taboo around lady time comes from parents not being ready to recognize their “little girls” as sexually maturing. Once this occurs they can no longer put off the idea of puberty and are forced to see their daughters as growing up and recognize that they will one day have sex, maybe even have children of their own. The psychology field used to assume that menarche came with this huge burst of shame and embarrassment and really sent the message that girls should feel that way, that they should be as uncomfortable as adult men are with the idea of lady time.

  3. Ty says:

    HAVING YOUR PAINTERS IN! I love it.

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