Yesterday I got my period. The running, the environment, my changing body… for whatever reason I am only getting it once every five or six weeks these days, but it is still annoyingly incapacitating. Yesterday was actually better than most experiences. I was able to move. I even went to school. However, by the time I got back home I was exhausted, with a lower back-plate (this is how I have affectionately started calling that ache that makes your lower back feel like a single steel plate rather than a flexible, supple conglomeration of collaborative muscles), and I immediately went to sleep for four hours. I skipped making dinner, skipped doing homework and just slept. It was relieving, or would have been if I didn’t have that insistant guilt that a period is not a valid excuse to bow out of your obligations.
Appropriately, at the same time that I was going through this monthly ordeal some acquaintances of mine were discussing their experiences with their periods while camping at a festival. I sometimes like to imagine what it must be like to go to the bathroom as a man at burning man. It seems so very simple. Sitting down is not really required, except occasionally, and that can usually be regulated to times when the potties have just been cleaned. (I say usually, but I have seen the mess of shit in the potties in the middle of the night that betray the fact that substance-filled people have issues controlling their bowels, and apparently issues sitting down. I assume this goes for men and women). Adding yet another thing that men don’t have to deal with there is the period. Think about this for a second. Women have to figure out some way to deal with the blood flow… this means pads, tampons, or cups, generally. Sometimes it means stopping the flow altogether with hormones. Pads ruin a lot of costuming choices for women, and they can be uncomfortable. Tampons can’t be thrown into the porto-potties, and so they require consideration to their disposal. Burn them? How do you keep them from smelling in the desert heat until you reach a fire that you can discretely add them to? How do you walk from the pottie to your tent with a large, blood-soaked tampon? What about questions of hygiene. Fingers being inserted places. It IS an ordeal. These are just things that men don’t have to consider. Part of me wants to throw a tantrum because it just isn’t fair.
But I wont.
It’s fine, I suppose. After all, the men aren’t the ones that are bleeding.
What really gets me is that women are expected to act as if this completely inconvenient, sometimes altogether painful event doesn’t happen every month. We are expected to show up at school and at work. We are expected to cook and clean, all as if we are feeling perfectly normal. Of course, we can take a “sick” day, but I am NOT sick when I am on my period. I am going through a natural process that needs more attention and energy than other things in my life. That is not being sick. I consider it being normal. Then, if we are in public spaces, we are expected to be discrete about it. No one can know, especially men, because, “That’s disgusting!” We pass tampons to each other on the sly, under the table, asking for them in hushed, embarrassed whispers. We transport our used items in black bags so that they are not offensive to others. (And to ourselves?) We are having, “Monthly troubles,” or “women’s sickness.” We are not shedding the inside of our uterus in slightly disturbing amounts of blood. Of course we aren’t!
This morning I woke up and I pulled out my cup. I have a lot more blood this week, and as the cup popped out of me the blood made a bit of a splash. I quickly cleaned it up and sanitized the area, but not before looking at the colors, and being filled with a bit of wonder towards the human body. I don’t usually consider myself a traditional feminist. I am not usually into the worshipping of the “goddess body,” but I will say that something needs to change in the way that women relate to the world, to men, and to each other, and that it begins with something as simple as the recognition, and consideration of the period. It begins by normalizing the flow, rather than casting it into the space of embarrassment and disease. From there… well, there are many things that I can refuse to be sanitary about.