Men should learn to talk about periods, periodmenstruation and men
14 May 2018
Periods. A topic that is often up for debate, be it in regards to contraception, hygiene products, or just their very existence. For both women and men, periods seem to be a point of contention, embarrassment and - all too often for women - shame.
If I’m being completely honest with you, up until the last year or so I too felt embarrassed to even talk about periods. Even forming the word was sometimes too much to bear, forcing me to opt for safer euphemisms like ‘’ladies day’. Thankfully, the internet is full of body positive women (and men) who don’t shy away from talking about periods, their importance, and just how normal they actually are.
In my search for enlightenment on the subject of “Aunt Flo”, I stumbled upon a plethora of interesting articles, novels, podcasts, videos, and forum chats. I devoured the positivity, gorging on it like a starving child. It also, however, led me to dark places – uneducated places – where I began to realise that some men knew next to nothing about periods.
I’m sure many of you have heard of the teenage “Menist” by now who claimed that he thought women should just ‘hold in’ their period blood. This poor idiot thought that women bled from the bladder and could hold it in as they would urine. It’s easy to get mad at this teenager for being so ignorant, and for saying something so utterly damaging and humiliating for not only him but women. But let’s consider this for a moment. This boy presumably has parents, he almost certainly goes to school, watches movies, and engages with popular culture, so why, oh why, does he still think that women bleed from the bladder? During sexual education classes, why aren’t boys taught about periods?
“But men don’t get periods!!” is the usual response that’s pulled out.
This excuse is so outdated it makes me roll my eyes. Yes, men don’t get periods, but the women in their lives do. And no, I don’t just mean their partners, but their mothers, sisters, friends, and teachers. It is something that half the population of the world goes through and yet it is deemed somewhat acceptable for the other half to be completely ignorant of its necessity and functions.
The only thing that men seemingly “know” about periods is that they make women “unreasonable” and “bitchy”. At the ripe old age of twenty-six, I no longer tolerate this nonsense. As a teenager my emotions were constantly called into question, devalued and ignored due to the fact that I had two ovaries and a uterus.
It’s very important that both men and women realise that the reason that a woman might not be so happy is because her uterus is around four times the size it should be and her hormones are going rampant, and that this is no reason to write off what a woman is feeling or saying as the inane burblings of someone going through “that time of the month.” Oh and spoiler alert – sometimes a woman is just plain mad, or sad – in no part due to her being on her period and in every part due to her simply being a human being. This anger or sadness can be justifiable or unjustifiable just like that of a man.
Thankfully, I have an understanding partner who still doesn’t know all there is to know about periods but goes and buys me pads and tampons, and heats up my microwavable beanie to shove on my uterus when I’m in pain. Thankfully he doesn’t recoil in a blushing mess whenever the word period comes up, or there’s blood on the towel after I shower.
Sadly, not all women are so lucky and this is a huge problem. Neither men nor women should feel alienated over something so natural as the menstrual cycle. Periods are the result of an unfertilised egg, which could have become a child. When you think of it scientifically, it’s actually pretty amazing. It’s amazing how a woman’s body changes from day to day over the month, preparing for birth and then starting the cycle again.
This article is a testament to how far my own feelings on periods have come as I’ve gotten older and my attitude has matured. At the end of the day, periods are the reason we are all alive, and without them the human race would either die out or be forced to procreate through futuristic, science fiction level means.
So let’s educate men and de-stigmatize periods. Let’s invite men into the classroom when we teach kids about menstruation instead of shooing them off to engage in some decidedly “masculine” activity as an alternative to learning. Let’s try to encourage frank, enlightening discussion about the subject online as well. By doing this, we might just pave a safer and more understanding future for not only the next generation of women, but men too.
Artwork: Olga Perelman for YEOJA Magazine