Do We Really Have to Be Proud of Our Periods?

What Women Really Think
Aug. 19 2013 3:24 PM

Do We Really Have to Be Proud of Our Periods?

51497323
Hear me roar

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Menstruation—a topic long confined to girls’ locker rooms and ladies’ bathrooms—is having a media moment. In an ad that went viral for mail-order tampon service Hello Flo, a young girl diabolically rises through her summer camp’s social ranks when she becomes the first camper to receive her “red badge of courage.” CNN correspondent Kelly Wallace—who admits that at age 46, she still lowers her voice to a whisper when asking for “feminine products” at the drugstore—recently took to Times Square to publicly interview women about their periods. And in Russia, lawmakers are openly debating whether it’s paternalistic or practical to allow women a couple of monthly menstruation days off of work to help deal with the “psychological and physiological discomfort.” As Tracy Moore writes on Jezebel, these new developments have shown us that “direct, even crass discussions of the realities of periods are possible! And funny! And enjoyable!”

For some women, it’s not just talking about periods that makes them feel good—menstruation itself is empowering. “Do you feel embarrassed, slightly ashamed, slightly awkward? Or is it ‘I am woman, hear me roar?’ ” CNN’s Wallace asked one woman about her emotional relationship to her period. “It’s ‘I am woman,’ ” she replied. Girls, mother and blogger Shannon Bradley-Colleary says, should be instructed to see their periods as “a source of pride and power.”

Advertisement

Do we really have to be proud of our periods? Women shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed or awkward about experiencing a normal biological function, but it's not like having a period constitutes a triumph of the human spirit. For a lot of us—sorry, menstruation lobbyists—the experience can sometimes be painful, annoying, and expensive. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my uterine lining feels like it’s punching its way out of my vagina every month, but I’m not eager to ground my entire personal identity in the experience. And some women—post-menopausal women, trans women, breastfeeding women, women on hormonal contraception—just don’t menstruate. That’s cool, because there’s no mysterious feminine energy in period blood that magically turns us into real girls. (On a related matter, it's not actually a feminist act for your daughter to announce the size of her "accomplishment" every time she takes a shit. Everybody poops.)

I get it. Menstruation has been stigmatized as gross and embarrassing for so long that it’s only natural to want to fight back with roaring pride. But trumping up the act of menstruating as a "source of power" only gives fuel to the detractors who hope to define us by our bodies. It’s just blood (and some mucosal tissue), y'all. It’s starting to look like we’re overcompensating.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?