The m word

This week, when I’ve mentioned the word ‘menstruation’, people have subconsciously winced. A tiny flicker of discomfort appears in their eyes. This isn’t feminism gone mad, I’m not going to smear my menstrual blood onto my mouth and take a photo whilst encouraging my friends to do the same (check out Ingrid Berthon-Moine if you’re into that). Yet, why shouldn’t I? Why are periods so revolting? Deemed literally as a bloody nuisance, periods are treated as an inconvenience to the women who suffer the cramps, and the men who feel they can’t have sex with them. Even sanitary manufacturers cannot bear to use red liquid to advertise the absorption qualities of their products, using water with blue food dye in it instead. Nothing could be more absurd, or less realistic.

Our dislike of menstruation could be attributed to some primal association with injuries and danger, but really it’s because we don’t know enough about it. Most of us have attended a half-an-hour session in PSHE at the age of ten to equip us with everything we will need to know about menstruation for the rest of our lives. If you’re male, you probably didn’t even have this. Periods are unfamiliar and mysterious. However, women have to deal with them for approximately 38 years of their lives, and if men are in a close relationship with a woman, they’ll have to start understanding them too.

Biologically, periods are a sign of health and fertility. They’re an indicator of pregnancy and they help women to calculate when they are ovulating; when planning (or avoiding) a family, they are essential. They are normal. Despite this when a woman is at work, in a restaurant or in any kind of mixed company, and is also on her period, she takes her bag to the toilets with her to vaguely conceal her menstruation. It would be much easier just to take out the tampon. Both the bag and the tampon signify that she is on her period, so why most women choose the former is a social mystery. Are women ashamed of their fertility?

Fertility is actually pretty sexy. According to numerous experiments, women appear more attractive when they’re ovulating. The evolutionary psychologist, Geoffrey Miller, found that ovulating lap dancers made approximately $20 more per hour than their non-ovulating co-workers and $30 more than those who were menstruating. Companies worldwide are capitalising on the role that natural pheromones play during ovulation by offering synthetic substitutes for women to wear as perfumes throughout their cycle (check out www.pheromones-one.com if you’re into that). Furthermore, researchers offer proof that ovulation increases libido. Menstruation is essential for ovulation, so why do we shun the former and only celebrate the latter when it benefits us?

Bizarrely, many women are willing to sacrifice ovulation purely because they dislike their periods. Our whole existence is one of cyclical duality: night and day, wake and sleep, highs and lows. Why do we feel we have a right to reject one when its dual component cannot exist without it? Disregarding a woman’s period as ‘unnatural’ or ‘unnecessary’ is as ludicrous as saying the same for sleep. Periods tell a woman when something in her body is changing or if something is wrong. Many women claim their periods ‘don’t like them’ for this reason. A period is an important messenger to a woman; if she’s stressed, anxious or ill, her period will be heavier, physically forcing her to take time out. It acts as a natural defence. Female athletes will know that an irregular period is a sure sign of low bone density, a trigger for osteoporosis. More positively, periods tell women when they are healthy. Please, somebody tell me, why menstruation is so alien to us?

Alarmingly, in an American FDA survey on menstruation, out of the 1470 women asked, a third said that given the chance, they would choose never to have a period again. Are we, as humans, really that emotionally distanced from our bodies? Considering we only get one, you would think the impulse would be to understand and look after it, rather than ignore it.

Sanitary products are used by half the population roughly one week a month for approximately 38 years. If a woman uses four tampons a day for five days per month, that’s 240 tampons a year. That’s a lot of environmental waste (tampons are bleached and made of non-biodegradable materials) and a lot of money, so why not use a Mooncup? It makes perfect sense ecologically and financially, but there’s something stopping us. Many women just cannot face their own menstrual blood. Periods are not weird or disgusting, and people need to stop imagining that this is the case.

This year, major American broadcasting networks refused to air a Kotex (sanitary product manufacturer) advert on the basis that it used the word ‘vagina’. Has the biological word for female genitalia now become offensive? In 1878 it was declared in the British Medical Journal that ‘it is an undoubted fact that meat spoils when touched by menstruating women’. Though scientific understanding of periods has advanced, actual education on them still isn’t satisfactory. The Native American Apache people perform a Sunrise Dance when a girl first menstruates and celebrate her biological initiation into womanhood for four days. I’m not going to attempt to bring this practice to Britain, but it definitely educates people to view periods in a liberating light. Menstruation is not a freaky, unclean source of unnecessary suffering; it’s a vital messenger and essential part of women’s health and her understanding of her body.

Janey Stephenson is one of the two current YUSU Women’s Officers. The international psychotherapist, author and coach, Alexandra Pope, will be coming to York to do a talk on ‘Menstruation: Unveiling the mystery of periods and debunking our society’s final taboo’ on 23 May. This will be a great opportunity to get questions answered and if this interests you, e-mail [email protected] for further information or visit the Facebook event.

59 comments

  1. Understanding a man’s cycle is very important too:
    It has to have a little cab at the back for someone to sit in. But seriously men have cycles too. Haha

    lol

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  2. 19 May ’10 at 11:56 am

    Feeling liberated

    Janey, thank you for that refreshing and intelligent article. It’s nice to see some good quality research and opinion on Nouse in between the usual tripe about expenses and accommodation.

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  3. To be fair, periods make women in pain and as a consequence of that, grumpy. Also, copious amounts of blood is distasteful in my opinion, but maybe that’s just me.

    Having periods is healthy and natural, but so is having a poo. Some things you just don’t really want to talk about though

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  4. “…a third said that given the chance, they would choose never to have a period again. Are we, as humans, really that emotionally distanced from our bodies?”

    Maybe women would choose to never have periods because they make us cranky, give us cramps, make us bloated and are generally horrible to go through every month?

    Just because they are a sign of ‘health and fertility’ doesn’t mean we have to like them, or be proud of them. To be honest, I think they are pretty gross/disgusting – as well as being messy and annoying.

    And all bodily functions are a sign of ‘health’ (working organs and what not..), doesn’t mean I want to announce it every time I have a bowel movement.

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  5. 19 May ’10 at 1:05 pm

    Feeling feminist

    Etymologically the word ‘vagina’ is pretty offensive, it is derived from the Latin for sheath or scabbard.

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  6. That might put some people off their lunch, but if anything it made me hungrier.

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  7. 19 May ’10 at 2:28 pm

    Arthur James Balfour

    This is a very well written article, although I’ll admit mensuration still kinda creeps me out.

    I’m not sure I get/ accept your idea of:
    “Menstruation is essential for ovulation, so why do we shun the former and only celebrate the latter when it benefits us?”

    Well, sure, but just because it is essential doesn’t make it pleasant – To get drunk, often you get a hangover. To live, you must accept that one day you will die. Doesn’t mean people like hangovers or death. I know that seems excessive, but it illustrates that often things come in good/bad pairs, and just because one half is good doesn’t make the other half somehow good by association. I think it is perfectly reasonable to enjoy the benefits of ovulation, but complain about menstruation.

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  8. 19 May ’10 at 2:28 pm

    A concerned general practitioner

    “I’m not going to smear my menstrual blood onto my mouth and take a photo whilst encouraging my friends to do the same . Yet, why shouldn’t I?”

    Because you could catch oral herpes.

    “Our dislike of menstruation could be attributed to some primal association with injuries and danger”

    Maybe this is the reason why you don’t see many female lumberjacks around. Women have never been very self aware whilst wielding axes.

    Comment edited by a moderator

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  9. This isn’t masculinity gone mad, I’m not going to smear my sperm onto my mouth and take a photo whilst encouraging my friends to do the same (check out Japanese porn if you’re into that). Yet, why shouldn’t I? Why is sperm so revolting?

    Is it because it just fucking is?

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  10. This isn’t coprophilia gone mad, I’m not going to smear my diarrhea onto my mouth and take a photo whilst encouraging my friends to do the same (check out ‘two girls one cup’ if you’re into that). Yet, why shouldn’t I? Why is shit so revolting?

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  11. I’m sorry but this is ridiculous. The vast majority of people find blood somewhat disgusting wherever it comes from, even moreso if it’s from someone’s vagina. I can’t see why this is so hard to understand.

    This is just another attempt to challenge something that really doesn’t need to be challenged. I’m not sure that there are many women who’ll want to remove their tampons in the middle of a restaurant in polite company.

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  12. Probably not the best topic to write a blood on…sorry meant ‘blog’.

    Don’t know where ‘blood’ came from, oh wait a minute….

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  13. What a fantastically well written, clearly researched article that clearly bucks trends in society to mask what is biologically certain to occur. While I agree that throwing a tampon around in a restaurant is a bit much, I do believe societies have tended towards mystifying something that isn’t taboo or dirty, yet is treated as such. I’m in agreement that we should be much more comfortable with menstruation. If the world can find ways to joke about it (giving it nicknames like Cousin Red, Aunt Flo, the crimson wave, etc.), then it can’t be all bad.

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  14. As a YUSU women’s officer, shouldn’t you be celebrating the fact that contraceptives such as the pill give women control over their fertility and menstrual cycle? I think your argument is entirely backward; yes, hormonal contraceptives need more research into their side-effects, and yes, we shouldn’t see menstruation as such a taboo (though that could be said for lots of things), but that doesn’t mean that stopping or altering periods is inherently a bad thing. Periods are painful, messy and inconvenient, while the pill (admittedly not for every woman but in general) makes them less painful and controllable, as well as allowing women to avoid pregnancy in a more effective way than condoms.

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  15. One of the drawbacks of not talking about menstruation, is not having the subsequent discussion of the health and environmental consequences of feminine care choices. As Janey writes, “…If a woman uses four tampons a day for five days per month, that’s 240 tampons a year.” According to the National Research Center for Women and Families, an average woman will use over 11,000 tampons in her lifetime.

    Conventional tampons are commonly made from rayon that is treated with hazardous chlorine bleaches that result in dangerous chlorinated toxins being released into the environment. Organic cotton tampons, like those made by Seventh Generation, contain 100% pure cotton grown without pesticides and not bleached with chlorine.

    Considering that if every woman of menstruating age replaced one 16-count package of regular absorbency conventional cotton tampons with Seventh Generation organic cotton tampons, we could prevent 51,000 lbs of pesticides from polluting our rivers, lakes and streams, organic cotton tampons are a simple but important choice to make a difference. You can find out more at http://www.LetsTalkPeriod.com.

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  16. 19 May ’10 at 4:03 pm

    theusualboutofmoroniccommentatorsIsee

    I notice that those who criticise the article only emphasise how ridiculous a society’s attitude to menstruation is: comparing foecal matter (waste) with blood that is used to create a lining that protects a tiny human being from growing inside you is ridiculous, and incredibly insulting to women. Women are going to bleed from the vagina once a month, get over it, sorry if it’s distasteful to you men but if you don’t like it, don’t get a girlfriend! Just enjoy your plastic blow up doll.
    Also, the ‘sperm’ commentator- umm… what do you think a blow job is? We put your sperm in our mouth and, moreover, many media outlets celebrate this practise with aplomb, whereas, as Janey pointed out, they won’t even show period blood on advertisements for sanitary products- INSANE.
    Finally, part of accepting women is accepting everything about them, this is an important part of a woman’s life, fertility is important for men, cited as a form of masculinity- men with a low sperm count can feel ’emasculated’ so why shouldn’t it be for women. Give them a bloody (sorry for the pun) break!

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  17. 19 May ’10 at 4:28 pm

    A 'liberated' woman

    I love my period; it makes me feel very feminine. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that I don’t get very bad period pain, and have a generally light and irregular period. But I still think that blood is gross. People aren’t squeamish about menstrual blood in particular, just all blood. Sorry to get graphic, but when I take a tampon out, I don’t want to LOOK at it. It’s just not nice. I love my period, I love being a woman, menstrual blood is gross. THERE’S NO CONTRADICTION THERE.

    There is still a taboo about periods; guys are a bit too squeamish about it, but citing a 19th century medical journal isn’t an up-to-date statistic. Things are a lot better now.

    I think a few commenters are misreading the article – I don’t think Janey is suggesting that we whip out our USED tampons in the middle of a restaurant. She’s saying that we should be able to hold a sealed tampon in our hand as we walk to the loo, without feeling like we have to hide it in our bag. I agree with this – people can infer you are on your period, which is not a big thing. Unfortunately I think people will always be a bit weird with the idea that blood comes out of you every month. I don’t blame guys. No woman could understand what it feels like to be going through puberty as a guy, no woman could understand morning wood or random erections. Guys should know about the biological ins and outs of the menstrual cycle, but people will always be wary of things they don’t fully understand, and there is no way a guy is ever going to fully understand periods without having one himself.

    This article has some very interesting ideas, but also some very hippyish, old-fashioned ones.

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  18. Whatever people think about the article I would urge them to think about the mooncup.
    Having periods generates an incredibly amount of biological waste easily avoided by using a mooncup. They safer for you with no risk of TSS and they don’t absorb the bodies natural juices you need to flush out bacterias. Thy’re great for travelling as you don’t have to plan ahead, cheaper AND you can sleep in it without wearing underwear and heaving to deal with a ‘heavy’ pad in the morning.
    Check it out at http://www.mooncup.co.uk

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  19. Sorry, theusualboutofmoroniccommentatorsIsee, but foecal matter is waste just as menstrual blood is, or are you claiming that excreted menstrual blood has a function? Obviously poop has a purpose, just as menstrual blood does, but not after it’s excreted.

    And this point: “they won’t even show period blood on advertisements for sanitary products- INSANE.” is really quite absurd. People don’t like seeing blood, is that *really* insane?

    It’s not like men don’t accept that women have periods but there are some things you just don’t want to see. Again, the poop analogy. If you are to accept “everything” about someone, does that mean you have to take interest in their poop, or their farts for instance? Men accept that women have periods, or at least do if they understand fundamental biology. But does it really have to be something we bring out in public?

    Showing a tampon, visibly, before going to the bathroom is almost on a par with saying “excuse me while I go have a poo”. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem if someone said that, pooing is completely natural. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s “INSANE” if someone is a little grossed out by that.

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  20. maybe you should just make me a sandwich..

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  21. I think we should raise beeriod awareness.

    The berriod is: “A debilitating affliction following a major night of revelry on the sauce, characterised by feelings of depression and melancholy. These symptoms often accompanied by guilt, listlessness, inertia and hot liquid shitting.”

    (in context)

    “I’m so miserable, I got absolutely cunted at that wedding and am now experiencing a horrendous Beeriod”

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  22. I’m gonna make love to you woman
    gonna lay you down by the fire
    and caress your womanly body
    make ya moan and perspire

    Gonna get those juices flowin’
    we’re makin’ love gravy, love gravy,
    lovelovelovelovelove GRAVIH
    love, luh…

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  23. I don’t trust something that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die

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  24. I enjoyed this well written article. Sensitive LAD.

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  25. 20 May ’10 at 2:53 pm

    Incredibly uncomfortable read...

    Even as a girl, reading this just made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. There’s things that don’t need to be discussed. It’s not a case of male-domination or oppression of femininity. It’s not a case of feeling repressed about something that should be discussed. It’s a bodily function like going for a poop – although it serves a purpose, and life wouldn’t function without it, it’s not really something I want to share with the world, and neither SHOULD it be.

    The whole thing screams overboard neofeminism to me, and is a prime example of why the role of women’s officer is pretty much a joke. If the main purpose of the role is to educate the world in this kind of ‘equality’, i.e. menstruatal pride, I really don’t want a part in that, and feel almost ashamed of the way ‘women’s interests’ and prioritys are portrayed in the uni.

    But, well, that’s just me (and, I assume, a substantial portion of other female students)

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  26. This is a FANTASTICALLY-AMAZINGLY-BRILLIANTLY well written article, very consistent and good content.

    I think Nouse needs more articles like this, less student crap [NOTE: less Edward James Foy and student politics crap dealing with who won which mundane student election], more widespread articles like this that are more academic(ish). Nouse should be more like a academic university journal, rather than the Sun.

    After going to a prestigious girls secondary school… I feel that womens issues are engraved in my existence… serioussslyyy guys. And I love things like this. Periods should definitely not been seen as ‘eughhh’.

    Once again, congrats, great article!

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  27. I think that we should claim back the student university newspaper, look at Harvard and NYU journals for inspiration. York doesn’t need to write mediocre journalism ALL the time…

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  28. 20 May ’10 at 3:25 pm

    Person who knows what they're talking about

    “Nouse should be more like a academic university journal, rather than the Sun.”

    No – it – shouldn’t.

    Nouse exists to enable students to gain experience of journalism to aid in their development and equip them with skills and experience to put on their CVs – as well as to hold YUSU and the University to account.

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  29. 20 May ’10 at 3:38 pm

    If you're offering

    “look at Harvard and NYU journals for inspiration”

    I’m sure if you’re offering the members of Nouse a full time paid job producing a student publication, like those produced by the full time paid staff at most American Universities, I’m sure they’d be more than interested.

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  30. A well-written, articulate article that I feel sufficiently outlines what I agree to be an issue! Demystifying periods by increasing the amount of information given to guys and girls would have a positive effect on young people.

    Of course no one likes the idea of monthly pain and bleeding, but it is a natural and necessary part of the human-cycle and I think if advertising campaigns were less prudish then it would encourage people to speak more openly and honestly about periods. This is the main message I got from the article and i’m glad that such a debatable subject has been written about. Less moaning about student politics the better!

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  31. Very well researched article and a good point put acros; worthy of a new scientist opinion article. Just a shame that the troll population of York have jumped so gracefully onto the metaphor of rubbing faeces over themselves. All of these attacks on one line of the article does miss out the point the article conveys;the importance of understanding the menstrual cycle of women.

    If you truly find the issue of periods so discomforting then it may be simpler in the future if you were to avoid reading the article on them? it’s not as if the title of the article was misleading.

    also Max Rouffier, poop that leaves your body never served a function whilst inside it, that’s why it’s excreted whereas period blood once did so it isn’t a valid comparison. still, enjoy your straw man argument.

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  32. 20 May ’10 at 4:12 pm

    Point of Information @MCM

    Without Prejudice: Faecal Matter is the colour it is because a propotion of it is dead red blood cells, which did serve a (pretty essential) purpose.

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  33. Ever seen that episode of Teachers where they try come up with as many film titles that allude to menstruation.

    Crimson Tide

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  34. @ Person who knows what they’re talking about says:
    May 20, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    “Nouse should be more like a academic university journal, rather than the Sun.”

    No – it – shouldn’t.

    Nouse exists to enable students to gain experience of journalism to aid in their development and equip them with skills and experience to put on their CVs – as well as to hold YUSU and the University to account.

    MY RESPONSE:

    How is this mutually exclusive to writing well written and referenced articles? That aim can and still will be achieved if more articles are written like this one, not in terms of the content, but in terms of the style. All articles do not have to be written with student twang about going to Ziggys, and bumping into a duck…….Just like those who wrote nonsense comments under the Hornets article belittling their success in the competition, you are so quick to disregard NEW ideas…. I simply said that Nouse articles CAN and SHOULD be better written. I guess you are still thinking that the world is flat… when I am telling you that there is a possibility that it’s round…

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  35. @If you’re offering

    “look at Harvard and NYU journals for inspiration”

    I’m sure if you’re offering the members of Nouse a full time paid job producing a student publication, like those produced by the full time paid staff at most American Universities, I’m sure they’d be more than interested.

    MY RESPONSE: Janey Stephenson wasn’t paid to write this article, she just wrote on a topic that she felt passionate about, rather than writing any nonsense….. just a thought… money isn’t always the motivator… but it’s always the excuse.

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  36. Both Janey’s articles so far have been feministic drivvle.

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  37. “Very well researched article and a good point put acros; worthy of a new scientist opinion article.”

    Yes, I hear that New Scientist’s editorial board has grown tired of serious scientific debates and has now taken an active interest in middle-class neofeminism.

    On a more serious tone, there are so many issues that the Womens’ Committee could try to raise awareness of. To name but a few: sexual assault, violence against women, womens’ rights in third world countries, women and religion (particularly Islam), objectification, discrimination in the workplace etc.

    Considering the range and seriousness of the issues that affect women today, this quasi-mystical celebration of bodily fluids is just embarrassing. It is no wonder that most people consider this new type of feminism to be irrelevant.

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  38. ‘This isn’t feminism gone mad’ – actually, yes it is. Loving our periods is not going to empower us; you don’t need to cherish menstruation to be a strong and confident woman.
    ‘Deemed as a bloody nuisance’ – because actually, yes they are. They give you cramps, bloody your knickers, mess up your sex life (unless you put a towel down).
    You say it’s ‘absurd’ that sanitary towel companies don’t use blood like liquid – well they don’t use poo-like substance to advertise nappies. It’s because people just don’t want to see bodily waste. End of.
    Our dislike of menstruation is because we simply ‘don’t know enough about it’ – Erm, nope. I think any woman would agree we’re actually pretty clued up on periods; we know what they’re for and why they happen, we know how to deal with them and we know what stage they signify in our cycle. Perhaps barring your first period, no one experiences menstrual blood and thinks ‘Ooh, wonder why that’s happened?’
    ‘Periods are unfamiliar and mysterious’ – Oops, wrong again. Pretty familiar considering they come once a month every month for normal women.
    Periods are a sign of ‘fertility’ – Are they? Or can you still have periods if you’re infertile? Perhaps more research needed here.
    Whilst out for a meal it would be much easier to just ‘take out the tampon’ – MENTALIST.
    Relating to the above point ‘are women ashamed of their fertility?’ – Er, no not really; I’d be more ashamed of the foul smelling tampon I’d just removed from my vagina making a bit of bloody mess at the table.
    ‘Are we, as humans, really that emotionally distanced from our bodies?’ – No. We just don’t like periods. Simples.

    I agree we need periods, they’re essential to our health and understanding of our body… But that’s the whole point; they’re to do with OUR body, a pretty private part of our body, and that’s probably why women don’t go shouting about their periods from the rooftops. They’re part of our body but that doesn’t mean to say we have to cherish them… we’re not belittling ourselves as women by admitting we don’t like them. A well written article on an unnecessary subject adopting a ridiculous standpoint.

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  39. ugh. this isnt a feminist rant article, and it’s less a celebration of periods, more urging a society to accept them? e.g. kotex advert being banned?
    by the way, that advert is quite funny, well worth a youtubing. :)

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  40. 20 May ’10 at 8:59 pm

    Thomas Martin

    In response to Anna, I know many women who (as well as being comfortable enough to talk about their periods) have said their tampons absolutely do not smell ‘foul’. Of course, you’re entitled to your opinion, but using the ‘our’ preposition seems a bit presumptuous – I know lots of women who are fortunate enough not to experience much pain whilst on their periods.
    I also think you may have misread Janey in terms of what she said about taking out her tampon at the dinner table. I understood it that she was saying when a woman needs to change a tampon, she should be able to just take a sealed tampon out of her bag and take it to the bathroom to change. There shouldn’t be any stigma surrounding this issue – a woman shouldn’t have to hide a tampon in her bag when she takes it to the loo!

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  41. 20 May ’10 at 9:12 pm

    ClosetedFeminist69

    Anna- your definition of ‘normal’ is somewhat distressing. Your periods smell ‘foul’ I suggest that you seek medical advice and fast! Bloody knickers? I know tampons are expensive but maybe take your own advice and change your tampons more often. Or invest in a mooncup.

    “I’d be more ashamed of the foul smelling tampon I’d just removed from my vagina making a bit of bloody mess at the table.” I think Janey meant a tampon in a packet. Not presenting your loved ones over the dinner table with a bloodied piece of cotton.

    Poo is natural yes, I don’t believe Janey ever made any claims otherwise. Maybe if more articles were published like Janey’s concerning poo we’d have less cases of bowel cancer in the UK. I believe the government is running a campaign along those lines currently. http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/bowel/
    By talking about poo you are completely distracting from the message of the article.

    Personally I enjoy the odd swim the the red river. I suggest you take a dip yourself.

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  42. “a woman shouldn’t have to hide a tampon in her bag when she takes it to the loo!”

    Firstly, she doesn’t have to hide it. She chooses to. Presumably for the same reason that she wouldn’t want to announce that she’s going for a poo. She most likely thinks it’s a private issue, and she really shouldn’t have to change her mind just because you want her to conform to your personal worldview (which you are perfectly free to apply in your own life).

    This is simply a non-issue. Women in many countries are actually getting convicted for getting raped, countless others are forced to hide every square inch of their bodies; and you are complaining about the fact that some women CHOOSE to hide their tampons while they are going to the loo! Seriously, get a grip. And start a campaign on a serious issue (there is no shortage of those), instead of belittling and embarrassing the feminist movement.

    “Maybe if more articles were published like Janey’s concerning poo we’d have less cases of bowel cancer in the UK.”

    No.

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  43. 20 May ’10 at 11:14 pm

    Feeling feminist

    ““Maybe if more articles were published like Janey’s concerning poo we’d have less cases of bowel cancer in the UK.”

    No.”

    Well you’re right, we wouldn’t have fewer cases of it, but we’d probably have earlier diagnosis of it and therefore fewer deaths from it.

    Anna, as other’s have said, tampons shouldn’t really smell “foul” you might want that checked out.

    Personally, having gone through a period in my life when I had no periods at all, I like having them. Perhaps I feel differently about my period if they were very painful, thankfully mine aren’t. However, I think though that there is a profound difference between not particularly looking forward to something and being ashamed or it and unable to talk about it.

    Also, as had been said the mooncup is good for you and good for the environment, take a look: http://www.mooncup.co.uk

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  44. Come on people, no more menstruation jokes please, PERIOD

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  45. On numerous occasions I’ve heard people announce they are ‘going for a shit’, I’ve never once heard anyone suggest they are going to change a tampon or wash a mooncup. For example, and to reference the current debate on sociology utilizing the TV show ‘The Wire’, watch ‘The Royal Family’ and look at how Jim Royal is relatively free to discuss his bowel activities.

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  46. Yes, because Jim Royle (Note spelling) is commonly held up as an example of good manners and social graces. Likewise, I’m pretty sure that anyone saying ‘I’m going for a shit’ is likely drunk or in extremely male company.

    As for ‘Alarmingly, in an American FDA survey on menstruation, out of the 1470 women asked, a third said that given the chance, they would choose never to have a period again. Are we, as humans, really that emotionally distanced from our bodies?’, can I just say that I would gladly give up breathing, defecating, excreting, sleeping, and probably even eating if I could do so without dying? Removing bodily functions that make demands upon us without losing the ability to live would be great. I don’t think it means that we’re emotionally distant from our bodies, as I think that that’s a meaningless sentence to anyone who’s not a dirty hippy.

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  47. This article is excellent.

    Some of the comments that have been made are pathetic, but it’s to be expected I suppose. We shouldn’t be ashamed of something so vital to our bodies; I didn’t have a period for three years because of an eating disorder and in that time I felt unfeminine and unwell. I had no idea of the long-term damage I was doing to my body. I thought periods were an unnecessary evil. I mean, they aren’t exactly convenient, particularly when some women suffer excruciating pain. But having a period lets me know that my body is in working order. Secondary Amenorrhea (an absence of periods after you’ve started puberty) can cause a loss of bone density, infertility, hot flashes, mood changes, depression, and vaginal dryness; who wants that? I think Janey just wants women to understand their bodies, and to learn why we have periods, and why having a regular menstrual cycle is so important. And it would be great if men could jump on the ‘I want to understand’ bandwagon because it means they can support their girlfriends. Many girls don’t think twice about skipping their periods, and this isn’t a good thing. If not having our periods didn’t put our bodies in danger then I’d be all for saying I wish I never had them. But the fact is, I’ve never been happier to have a regular cycle, because I know that I’m not malnourished, not pregnant and that my body is ticking along nicely. “A period is an important messenger to a woman; if she’s stressed, anxious or ill, her period will be heavier, physically forcing her to take time out” – if this is true, then it’s a great way for women to tackle underlying problems, don’t you think?

    I enjoyed reading this article and I look forward to attending the talk tomorrow.

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  48. Red Dawn

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  49. Hello, I am male and after reading the comments I feel obliged to but my own threepence into the discussion.

    Female menstruation is a remaining taboo in society, lingering on from post-Renaissance prudishness and the cardboard boxing of sexuality into different areas, and then slapping a label on them to confirm whether its ok to talk about it or not.

    This must stop. How can we progress in society if we still have these silly taboos? If every time the word “period” is mentioned the woman goes red and the men in the room turn around to blush and fidget. All too often I hear the phrase “it shouldn’t be allowed” when one of those oh-so-scandalous adverts come on. Why? Menstruation is as natural as breathing for women and yet we have to treat it like its something dark, something offensive, something we should never talk about.

    Education on the matter is poor. Boys aren’t taught about it at all (apart from the brief “girls get hormonal” chat from the local nurse). This is a disgrace in my opinion – in a modern world where sex is finally growing out of taboo, then this topic should also come into the light.

    Wouldn’t it be so much easier for a woman to deal with her cycle if we all weren’t afraid of mentioning the p-word?

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  50. @ Adam:

    THANK YOU.

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  51. I’ll never trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesnt die.

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  52. Male dominated societies can only be established when men, as a group, lay claim to female fertility – when masculinity is seen as primogenerative rather than the obvious association between femininity and creation. All exclusively female bodily functions are a source of anxiety for males because they are things that ONLY females can do. To compensate men created a long list (now disproved) of activities and acts that women could not do: can’t drive, can’t own property, can’t vote, can’t enjoy sex, can’t pass on last names to children, can’t represent the Divine as clergy, can’t decide about matters of one’s own fertility, can’t do math, can’t… can’t… can’t. The fear and loathing surrounding female reproductive and sexual power is not exclusive to males. Women and girls internalize these messages, as old as the Bible, that our bodies are repositories of evil, that we are being punished for the primordial sin of seeking knowledge, that we should be ashamed and more importantly we should shame each other.

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  53. Talk of improving education on the subject is something needed for both sexes and I’m glad Janey has mentioned it as have other commentators.

    In particular for women, if they had more then half an hour chat on the subject, may be more equipped to improve how they feel on their period then feeling at the mercy of cramps. I went to the talk by Alexandra mentioned above and found the mentioning of massaging techniques and yoga as possible relievers a useful way to approach this subject.

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  54. To all the boys who are comparing menstruation to excretion, there is a pretty simple reason why the analogy doesn’t work. If you’re in a relationship and are female there is at least one other person who is probably slightly interested in when you have a period – so they can be nice and sympathetic, but also because it’s pretty directly related to how you will feel about sex. Being able to talk about periods as a couple is a sign that you are in a warm and grown up relationship, where both of you are involved in making decisions about sex and contraception. Unless you’re into rather more fruity kinds of sexual activity, you can’t really say the same about taking a shit.

    For what it’s worth, I thought Janey’s article was well-written and raised some interesting points. Anything that gets people talking about an issue as suppressed in our society as periods is great, even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything. To the person who said these aren’t appropriate attitudes for a women’s officer to have – I think it’s more admirable for a women’s officer to have opinions that you can tell she’s really thought about and researched. If you need a women’s officer to robotically repeat advice about contraception every time she opens her mouth to remember to take your pill or put a condom on, let me just suggest that you might not be responsible enough to be having sex.

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  55. Period Pains? You should try being marginally offside in Fifa

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  56. @ ‘incredibly uncomfortable read …’

    “The whole thing screams overboard neofeminism to me, and is a prime example of why the role of women’s officer is pretty much a joke. If the main purpose of the role is to educate the world in this kind of ‘equality’, i.e. menstruatal pride, I really don’t want a part in that, and feel almost ashamed of the way ‘women’s interests’ and prioritys are portrayed in the uni.”

    I didn’t get a sense of ‘overboard neofeminism’ with this article at all personally. Janey set out to explain (as far as I can see) that periods are a necessary part of the female cycle, and rather than continuing to see them as something embarrassing, or ‘uncomfortable’ to read about, we should perhaps as a society put some effort into de-mystifying the whole process.

    The article raised some good points, be it the prudish nature of many advertising campaigns, or the fact that most of what we’re set up to understand about the whole menstruation process takes place in a PSHE class aged 10. To me it had a very interesting perspective on the whole notion of how having a period has become something embarrassing or impolite, rather than something that is natural, necessary and has been going on since the beginning of time. I don’t see how concern over either of those things is ‘feminist drivvle’.

    As for your comments about the role of women’s officer, have you actually read about the other campaigns they’re running, or have you based your statements just on one particular article about a topic you find ‘uncomfortable’? A lot of Janey and Charlotte’s election points inspired a lot of girls that I knew to vote for them who would have been very apathetic about the position otherwise.

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  57. What gets me is that women suppress their cycles to spite their periods – but periods are as good or as bad as you make them.

    In the vast majority of cases women can completely prevent negatives of menstruation such as cramps, PMS, acne, bloating – but more often than not women don’t because they lack the understanding about their bodies and menstrual cycles to be able to do this.

    Seeing menstruation as a negative, while sitting suffering through their periods, refusing to learn anything about them which in turn leads them to even more inconvenience and discomfort, women also don’t know how to appreciate or even see the many positives.

    Women also don’t understand the bleeding they get on hormonal birth control isn’t menstruation, yet women and their doctors constantly refer to using the pill as a method of ‘regulating periods’.

    Suppression limits ability to care for sexual health, covers up underlying problems, has side effects and potential long-term risks. Women don’t understand the difference between bleeding and menstruation, and so don’t see why it’s such a problem when doctors misinform them, or understand it’s effect on their bodies as a whole.

    It’s a vicious circle. Very sad.

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  58. I’m quite glad men do not have to go through this. Respect to the ladies out there, we should cut them some slack sometimes! Understanding Lad.

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