ASPASIA ON the politics of periods
MY MOTHER IS a thoroughly practical person. When puberty threatened my happy childhood, she bought me two books. Everything a Girl Needs to Know, replete with handy diagrams, and Judy Blume’s seminal text on the subject, Are You There God?
It’s Me, Margaret. My mother knew the power of Judy Blume – after all, Fudge and Superfudge got me through the acquisition of a younger brother with perfect equanimity. All I can remember of the fateful day my period arrived is that I was strangely relieved that I did not have to deal with the weird antiquated belts and straps and terrible super-sized pads that plagued Margaret and God. Technology had moved on and it was all relatively neat and tidy.
My mother forestalled the implications of puberty, namely hot, unbridled, mad teenage sex (yeah, right) with a clear injunction to consult with her when I was ready to engage in said hot, unbridled, mad teenage sex. She would then promptly book an appointment at the gynae so I could go on the pill and avoid the spectre of teenage pregnancy. The injunction had the requisite effect. I avoided all teenage sex, of the hot, unbridled, mad variety and all the other fumbling, deeply embarrassing, numbercrunching, base-chasing types for a very, very long time. Who wants to go to the gynae with their mother for the pill? The shame of it would be too excruciating. Smart woman.
Full disclosure. I no longer have my period. One of the best parts of pregnancy (I did, you will be pleased to note, eventually get round to having sex) was the sudden cessation of all the terrible, miserable, gruesome things associated with the monthly visitor. I was ecstatic. Not for long. Because then I was bloated, bilious and very ready to expel the squatter in my belly. But what I did not count on was the sudden haemorrhage after pushing that small baby out. Can we ever get away from the blood, goddammit? I was leaking blood rather excessively. So in order to prevent a full-on fatal emptying of the entire store of my haemoglobin, the emergency obstetrics professor performed a hysterectomy. And then I got a lifetime of no periods. Just like that, no monthly curse, no inadvertent leakages, no no lter . (Actually, I still have ovaries so scrap that.)
Still, reading about the sudden onset of the #PeriodProblems hashtag made me feel a little pang of jealousy. Yes, ladies. You heard me. Jealousy. I was really proud and moved by this particular instance of hashtag activism and I cannot really join the party. #PeriodProblems serves its purpose beautifully. It unites us even in our misery. When poet Rupi Kaur posted a series of images recording her personal travails with the big P on Instagram that got her instantly banned, I thought, well done, sister. There is a lot of shame attached to our monthly menses. It’s obviously the net result of years of institutionalised weirdness around female bodily functions. So it is totally OK to be a sexpot in a bikini pouting on all fours (I am speaking to you, Kim K) but not OK to be posting a photo of the awful leakage problem? Rupi Kaur did something honest and good for all of us. Not least for the fact that it is that awful leakage problem and the lack of funds to buy all those neat and tidy solutions keeps hundreds of thousands of poor girls around the world out of school #justsaying. So when Instagram put Rupi s photo up again and the world’s women started hashtagging their periods, they managed to take back a lot of power.
The power of the period. Because despite all its horrible, mind-altering, uterus-churning, chocolate-bingeing, tweet-deserving qualities, it is the singular de ning moment that transitions you from girl to woman. Like it or not. And the good news is that if the hashtag is not enough to get all the bother off your chest, now you can speak directly to God. His twitter handle is @TweetOfGod and he is very responsive – as per this: ‘Your prayer has a current wait time of 400 million years. We apologise for the inconvenience.’