FeminismGuest Posts

Guest Post: Wiping Out on the Crimson Wave

A guest post by Elly P.:

Psychologically speaking, humans have an aversion to blood because blood is generally not a good sign. If someone is bleeding, it means they're hurt. Women all over the world know that the sight of blood doesn’t necessarily imply death or dying. We deal with it on a regular basis from a fairly young age until our bodies are no longer capable of bearing children.

Having a period is a natural part of the ebb and flow of the female menstrual cycle. It’s a biological function, excellently explained by the March 4th Science Sunday. I have begun to ask myself: Why are women encouraged to be silent about their periods? This purely biological function has somehow knotted itself up in social stigma.

Men and women both seem to have some social problems with menses. Guys of all ages use a period or PMS as a way to explain away a woman’s behavior. “Call me when you’re off the rag.” “Stop PMSing and chill.” This is very dismissive and reduces whatever a woman is trying to say to “you’re being overemotional, oversensitive, and what you’re saying is irrelevant.” Oftentimes, these phrases are used without confirmation that the female in question is ‘ragging’ at all, which leads to my next point.

Women tend to be quiet about their periods. People claim that it’s ‘gross’ and shouldn’t be talked about in public, presumably because they find blood gross. (Although, these same people could treat a minor cut without breaking a sweat, but suddenly because the blood is coming from a vagina and they don’t even have to see it, it’s disgusting.) Knowing that a woman is on her period can put others on the defensive for any slight emotional change. It becomes a way to discredit a valid point, because it’s coming from a place of oversensitivity.

When men use a woman’s period, or PMS, to explain away her ‘overemotional’ state, it is damaging to women as a whole. It perpetuates the idea that women are less than men, and that we contribute less as a result. It’s a way of methodically keeping women subservient in a patriarchal society. Women are unstable and therefore can’t be put in a leadership role such as the Presidency because they’ll fire half the Cabinet just because they’re emotional. (I actually heard jokes to this effect when Hillary ran in 2008.)

This assumption of irrationality can be especially difficult for women in the skeptic community. The skeptic community prides itself on the ability to use rational thought and reason to come to logical conclusions. When our ability to put aside our emotions (or to use them thoughtfully in our arguments) comes into question, it limits our ability to be heard. Men within and without the community can be very dismissive of our genuine concerns.

Being embarrassed about our periods is a side effect of the way a patriarchal society keeps women down. It isn’t shameful to be a female, and we aren’t automatically dismissible because our hormones fluctuate. We are just as capable of thoughtful, intelligent conversation as our male counterparts, and you should tell that to the next guy who makes a joke about a woman on her period.

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Elly is an androgynous female and relatively new member of the skeptic and feminist communities. She is thoroughly atheist, possibly anti-theist, and enjoys having a cat in her lap.

Featured image credit: Siti Saad

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1 Comment

  1. March 22, 2012 at 3:35 am —

    O I agree fully. I find it deplorable when men and woman alike blame emotions on periods. I stated a while ago in a discussion with friends that I do not suffer from being rude, abrasive or over-emotional when on my period. Relising that I could possibly be biased and not realise any change in my behaviour (hahahaha) I checked with my husband who confirmed this fact.
    So yes people have emotions – note the use of the word people and not women – perhaps if we turn the tables and call men up on their moods whilst attributing it to some phenomenon like "morning glory" or some such – perhaps they will get with the program?

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