It’s My Period and I’ll Have a Party If I Want To

Girls, Internet, Language, Menarche, Menstruation

Today’s post was created using the web tool Storify, and may take an extra moment to load in some browsers. If the page fails to load, please use your refresh/reload button

[View the story “Period Parties” on Storify]

Dads, Daughters, and Menarche

Communication, Menarche, Newspapers


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.

Golly! Molly is growing up.

Film, Girls, Menarche

Molly Grows Up _ screenshotPreparing for class discussions this week about sex education policy in the U.S. found me flipping through the Prelinger Archives, where I found this gem: Molly Grows Up. It’s a menstrual education film apparently intended for girls in about the sixth grade, made in 1953. Along with a basic explanation of the physiology of menstruation and puberty, the school nurse assures the girls that no one can tell when they are menstruating. But then she offers them this advice visible in this screen shot — and recommends the girls wear their best dresses and take extra care with “hygiene”.

You can view the film here.

The Red Scare: Blood Rituals

Girls, magazines, Menarche

Red Scare illustration from Whore! MagazineAnyone else seen the premier issue of Whore! Magazine (Fast, Feminist, and Feminine) yet? My copy arrived yesterday and while I haven’t read the whole thing yet, I’m enjoying the quality of the writing and the production values.

I’m also pleased to see a positive story about menstruation in a magazine, in Tracy Merlau’s essay, “The Red Scare”. It’s short, sentimental essay about adolescence and menarche, and the sadness of the nearly complete absence of any public recognition, let alone celebration, of menarche for girls in the U.S.


Early Menarche: A New Theory

Menarche, New Research
Photo by Splorp // CC 2.0

Photo by Splorp // CC 2.0

It’s well-documented that girls today reach menarche earlier than previous generations. A century ago, it was common to experience one’s first period at 16 or 17; today, that’s regarded as so late that medical examinations are often conducted to reassure parents and girls that their development is normal. The typical North American girl sees her first period at age 12, give or take a few months.

Many explanations have been posited for this phenomenon; personally, I’ve long suspected that a primary cause is endocrine disruptors that are the hormones used in raising beef and dairy cattle as well as chicken in this country. Also, girls today typically achieve the minimal body fat necessary to menstruate at younger ages, due to improved health and nutrition. Now a new study suggests that it is not merely consumption of meat that lowers the age of menarche, but the high content of zinc and iron in a meat-rich diet.

Oddly, the lead researcher is quoted in the news story as saying, “These results add to the evidence that it is healthiest to avoid diets containing very high amounts of meat,” but also that there is no need for young girls to cut their meat intake. (I haven’t yet been able to locate a copy of the actual study.)

Menarche at the Movies

Film, Independent Film, Media, Menarche, Studio Film

Only Yesterday DVD cover/movie posterI’m not an expert in Japanese anime films, but I am pretty knowledgeable about the representation of menstruation and menarche in films in the English-speaking world, especially the U.S. So I was surprised to read in this review/story about the Isao Takahata film, Only Yesterday, that the reason the film won’t be distributed on DVD in the U.S. because there is a menarche scene.

The reason Only Yesterday has not been released on DVD in the United States, and never will be in the near future, is because it includes references to menstruation. Disney has a distribution deal with Studio Ghibli, but decided it could not release the film because of this. And Studio Ghibli included a clause in their contract which stated the scene could not be altered. Removing this scene would have been detrimental to the film, also foolish. This is I’m sure a fundamental part of growing up for females, and the point of its insertion is that the ’82 Taeko is changing just as she was changing in 1966. She must learn to accept these changes, not reject them, and it is an issue she faces at both periods in her life. (no pun intended)

Menarche has been used in other films to communicate the same kinds of messages; as I argued in Capitalizing on the Curse, that was part of the purpose of Vada’s menarche in My Girl. This is a turning point in the film, in which Vada realizes that she is a girl, will develop into a woman, and must abandon her childhood pastimes – including her friendship with Thomas J.

Menarche scenes occur in other films as well, with similar plot functions, but usually the actual bleeding takes places off-camera, as in My Girl. (A Walk on the Moon is a notable exception.) I can’t tell from the review how explicit menstruation is in Only Yesterday, but given the description of the rest of the film, it’s hard to believe it justifies blocking U.S. release of the movie.