What does it really mean to be #LikeAGirl?

Advertising, Communication, Disposable menstrual products, Girls

As published June 2014, Marie Claire, US edition

Always™ and its corporate owner, Procter & Gamble, have been receiving a lot of praise around the interwebs these days for their #LikeAGirl campaign, launched June 26, 2014, with a video produced by Lauren Greenfield. The video has been viewed 37 million times and counting. Last week, HuffPo actually called it “a game changer in feminist movement”, which I suppose reveals how little Huffington Post knows about feminist movements, more than anything else.

But before you applaud the efforts of Always to raise girls’ self-esteem, remember that they’re also the people who bring you these ads. Because that stench of girl never goes away, and you can’t spend all day in the shower, use Always.

Menstruation — It’s Not Like Anything Else

Communication, Menstruation

I got a bit snippy with a new reader in our comments recently. I didn’t mean to, and I sure hope I didn’t drive anyone away from re:Cycling.

But after 20 years of studying, writing, talking, and reading menstruation research, I’ve grown weary of certain predictable responses when people learn the subject of my work. Chris Bobel sometimes talks about the “You study WHAT?!?” reaction, but that’s not the one that triggers my snark response.

Photo by K Connors

What grates my cheese is when someone listens respectfully for a moment or two to the elevator speech version of my latest article or talk, and then says something like, “Well, why should people talk more about menstruation? It’s not like I go around talking about my bowel movements all the time. It’s a natural function, too, it’s just private, yadda yadda, end of discussion. Period.”

No. Not end of discussion.

I’m so, so tired of this comparison. It’s not about ‘they’re both natural and they’re both private’. Menstruation is shamed and vilified because women do it. I turn, once again, to Simone de Beauvoir: “the blood, indeed, does not make woman impure; it is rather a sign of her impurity” (p. 169). That is to say, menstruation does not make woman the Other; it is because she is Other that menstruation is a curse.

Just as the penis derives its privileged evaluation from the social context, so it is the social context that makes menstruation a curse. The one symbolizes manhood, the other femininity; and it is because femininity signifies alterity and inferiority that its manifestation is met with shame. (1952, p. 354)

 

httpv://youtu.be/JAzqGuZfo00 One only need take a quick look around to see differential treatment of body functions. Are manufacturers of toilet paper trying to sell you TP based on how shameful it is to poop? Consider those dirty-ass bears in Charmin ads telling you to “enjoy the go”– a marked contrast from femcare ads.

Is the average time from onset of pain in bowel diseases to diagnosis eleven years because people think pain with bowel movements is normal or because physicians and/or family members think you’re exaggerating how much it hurts? Compare documented endometriosis research.

Plus, people do talk about bowel movements. All the time. They talk about how particular foods affect their digestion. They excuse themselves from meetings and social gatherings to use the bathroom, sometimes saying why in euphemistic terms, sometimes in coarse and graphic language. The older they get, the more they do it.

This is not merely about what’s ‘natural’ or ‘private’. It’s about women, and about who counts and what matters. Women count, and menstruation matters.

All Wrapped Up

Communication, Disposable menstrual products, Menstruation

Guest Post by Saniya Ghanoui

Photo by Jennifer Gaillard // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I always felt that airline travel involves building many short-lasting friendships where people bond over delayed flights, weather problems and luggage issues. Recently I was traveling and had to make a connection in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. I was using the restroom and I could hear the lady in the stall next to me change her sanitary napkin. She dropped the plastic wrapping from the new pad and it floated into my stall. Without hesitation, I picked up the wrapper and disposed of it. We both exited our stalls around the same time and as we approached the sinks she turned to me and said quickly but firmly, “Thank you so much for doing that.” I was a bit taken aback but responded “Oh, no problem,” we washed our hands and we bid each other farewell as we left the restroom.

The reason I was taken aback was because I felt she had nothing to thank me for. I simply picked up a piece of wrapping and threw it away. However, the serious tone of her voice told me that she was grateful for what I did. Perhaps it saved her what she deemed the embarrassment of picking it up herself? Or maybe she was just thanking me for a kind gesture. It wasn’t as if I gave her something (like a pad or tampon) that she could thank me for and the act in no way inconvenienced me. I wonder if she would have felt inclined to thank me if she had dropped a candy wrapper or tissue instead.

While there has always been this overall social need to conceal the period, it seems lately that there has been a surge in the desire to conceal menstrual products. Procter and Gamble has a site, Being Girl, that gives the Dos and Don’ts of tampon usage, including practicing at home to “see how quiet you can be when making a quick change.” And silence is one aspect that P&G tends to advertise, especially with its Tampax Pearl product. The wrapper becomes a selling point for Tampax Pearl because of its quiet and easy-to-open tabs that allow for utmost discretion.

I’m sure most re:Cycling readers have seen the U by Kotex line of menstrual products. This line is aimed at a younger crowd, the website has a section for tweens, and takes the idea of concealing in a different direction. Instead of making the products discreet and quiet the company advertises “hot new colors and wrappers.” However, changing the color or design of a tampon wrapper is still missing the point and is just as damaging as advertising products with quiet wrappers. The period is still being hidden. If a woman drops a bright green tampon wrapper on the floor is she now going to be less embarrassed because of the color? It doesn’t matter if the wrapper is white, pastel or a bright color, she shouldn’t be embarrassed at all. That is what needs to change — the embarrassment factor women have about their periods, not the colors of the products used.

You’re Taking WHAT Class???

Activism, Communication, Menstruation

Guest Post by Alexandra Epstein – Marymount Manhattan College.

how school helped me come out of the menstrual closet

Finally, the time had come where I was choosing my classes for my senior year of college. I had finished my required courses to complete my social work minor, and with only a few required courses left until I complete my psychology major, I had lots of room to choose electives! What to take though? Maybe an art class? Or what about a science class? As I scrolled though my options online, something caught my eye. “The Social Construction and Images of Menstruation”. Honestly, anything to do with the social construction of anything is good in my book, so without even thinking much about it, I registered.

Day one in class, it hit me; I was in a class completely focused on the idea of how menstruation is viewed by society. I was a bit taken aback. As a woman, I had grown up “dealing” with my period, but I had never actually thought about it, or what it meant to me as a woman. Now, I can’t stop. I can’t stop thinking about it, I can’t stop talking about it, I can’t stop reading about it. The idea of the social construction behind menstruation has not left my head since I entered that classroom on the first day of the semester.

Not only has this class opened my mind to a whole new concept, but it has made me more comfortable to openly talk about menstruation and everything that goes along with it. It wasn’t even two months ago that I was so uncomfortable with the concept of the period. I wouldn’t talk about it often with my friends, I would hide my tampons in bags within bags so no one would know that I was on my period, and I thought of my period as a burden and huge inconvenience. Within the past month I have grown to love my period. It is something I am proud to be able to experience. I have become very open with conversation regarding menstruation. I have asked all of my female friends about their first experience with their periods, and all of my male friends if they know how to use a tampon. I love the responses I get. Some people embrace the chance to talk about something we as humans don’t normally talk about. However, most people I talk to become so uncomfortable with the fact that I’m talking about such a taboo topic. They ask me why I choose this class, or why my school even offers such a rare subject to study. What they are most shocked by is the fact that my professor is a male. “A guy teaches that class? Isn’t that awkward?” “No!” I reply, “Its brilliant and insightful and I am in love with it.” Too many people are uncomfortable with this topic. I am making it my mission to take the awkwardness out of menstrual conversations.

TMI – Too Much (Menstrual) Information

Communication, Humor, Independent Film

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNCMk1bJZzA

Guest Post by Michael Yazujian, Marymount Manhattan College

I found this sketch the other day when I was on www.ucbcomedy.com. It is by a sketch duo called Klepper and Grey, who are originally from Chicago, but now live in NYC. It is very similar to the “Her First Period” sketch by the Frantics (posted at re:Cycling August 5, 2011), in that things that are considered socially unacceptable to be shared are being shared in such a friendly tone; the main difference is that in this sketch the information is being shared knowingly. Both sketches make you wonder how do subjects get to a point when they are considered rude or unacceptable to discuss, even though they are so common among so many people. Things like menstruation, sex, and bowel movements are all normal bodily experiences, but they certainly don’t make appropriate dinner party conversation, or topics to share casually with an acquaintance on the street.

I’d be interested to hear comments from others about what they think the increased public display of formerly private matters means, especially when it comes to the conventional menstrual taboos.

Dads, Daughters, and Menarche

Communication, Menarche, Newspapers

httpv://youtu.be/wbmnUGhD42A

Oh, Mr. Dad! Is that the best you can do?

Mr. Dad is a syndicated parenting advice column in my local paper, and the September 26 edition featured a query from a dad worried that his 11-year-old daughter may begin menstruating while her mom is deployed overseas (she just left, and she’ll be gone for a year).

Mr. Dad’s first bit of advice is for the squeamish father to find an adult woman to talk to his daughter about puberty:

Your first assignment is to find an adult woman to run point. This could be a relative, friend, or even one of the female spouses whose husband is deployed with your wife’s unit. She’ll be able to walk your daughter through the basics and give you a list of supplies you’ll want to have on hand.

To his credit, Mr. Dad doesn’t let Nervous Dad off the hook, and does advise that he learn about female puberty “just in case things don’t go exactly according to plan”. But I’d rather see more dads embrace the possibility that they may well be the one their daughter turns to at menarche, like this dad.

Heck, they could even up being the helpful, available next-door neighbor in a time of need, like ol’ Hank Hill, in this video clip.

Marked for Life

anatomy, Art, Celebrities, Communication, Humor, Language, Menstruation

CarewNorwegian athlete John Carew just revealed his new tattoo, which features wings and the phrase ‘Ma Vie, Mes Régles’. Apparently Mr. Carew believed that reads “My Life, My Rules”, but with an acute accent (é) instead of a grave accent (è), the actual translation is either ‘My Life, My Period’ or ‘My Life, My Menstruation’.

That’s frankly awesome.


Respecting the Maori Menstrual Taboo

Communication, Objects, Religion/Spirituality

Female visitors to Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand) are faced with a difficult moral dilemma regarding the taonga Maori collection included in an upcoming tour.

An invitation for regional museum staff to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa’s collections included the condition that “wahine who are either hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating]” were unable to attend.

Te Papa spokeswoman Jane Keig said the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs surrounding the taonga Maori collection included in the tour.

“There are items within that collection that have been used in sacred rituals. That rule is in place with consideration for both the safety of the taonga and the women,” Keig said.

She said there was a belief that each taonga had its own wairua, or spirit, inside it.

“Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects.”

The policy does not apply to the entire exhibit, but to a “behind-the-scenes” tour offered November 5. Visitors’ reproductive status will not be verified in any way, but women are expected to be honest about it and obey the request.