There is no shame in periods and no need to prolong the discussion about them, writes Lori Anderson
WHEN I was at primary school I had a well-formed Scots cringe by the age of eleven. Whenever the Alice Copper song Only Women Bleed came on the radio in mixed company, I would curl my toes through my regulation school moccasins and wish for the rapture.
In my childish mind, that was Alice’s paean to menstruation and not a woman in an abusive marriage.
This week the would-be presidential comb-over, Donald Trump, took an abusive swipe at all women when he criticised Megyn Kelly, the Fox News presenter for her aggressive interview by dismissively saying: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Wow. There are certain comments so appalling that you are rendered quite speechless. After all, we have it on record that Mr Trump has left puberty rather far behind and is in the process of attempting to become president of a nation with more than 150 million women, all of whom can expect to or will menstruate and have no wish to be governed by a commander-in-chief who is so puerile as to dismiss a strong woman as being at that “time of the month”.
Let’s unpick what he was trying to say. Was he really suggesting that Megyn Kelly’s views or opinions were negated because she is a potentially fertile woman?
Sadly he wouldn’t be the first man to do so, but I do think he may be the first presidential candidate to do so, at least on television. Trump said he doesn’t have time for political correctness, but what about manners, courtesy, basic human decency?
Remember this is a man who joked that if he was younger he’d probably be dating his own daughter.
Now that she is in the family business I wonder if he dismisses her opinions depending on what day of the month she chooses to speak up. I do hope she addressed his neanderthal outlook in private, though I doubt it as I’m pretty sure he has form with such casual misogyny.
“The curse” was made rather public this week what with Donald Trump’s attempt to become a global spokesman for Tampax and the marathon runner Kiran Gandhi who revealed that she had deliberately not worn one while running the London marathon so that the effects became a symbol of the public acceptance of periods.
She wanted to “start a global discussion about periods”. Tick.
She also wanted to highlight the plight of women around the world who don’t have access to sanitary products. Fair point. I also think it is a disgrace that VAT is added on to sanitary products in Britain and so did Norma Major, who once took her husband John to task over the financial imposition of what the government views as a “luxury item”.
Now that the “global discussion” has been started can I please vote that we end it rather sharpish.
I appreciate that by writing this column I’ve wittingly served to extend the chat but how often does one have the opportunity to confess that TV adverts for Bodyform and other such intimate products make me cringe.
I know this will be a hugely unpopular opinion amongst my fellow sex but I’d happily ban them, not because I think they are unsanitary, hardy-har-har, but because I believe in the lost art of privacy and that intimacy is something to be earned.
I’d happily return to the days when a woman’s toilette was her own business and we no longer need to watch on TV as a strange blue liquid is used to demonstrate the absorbent powers of various products. We’re all aware of the need, thank you very much.
Yet we must be aware that this natural function has for eons been used as a weapon against women. Over the centuries and in various parts of the world, menstruating women have been blamed for making cows infertile, stopping dough from rising and beer from fermenting. In Ancient Rome Pliny the Elder pontificated on how each month women could cause crops to fail and blunt the edge of weapons. On a positive note a woman’s blood was, at various times, believed to cure leprosy and was an aphrodisiac but to act on this was dangerous. The French believed that having sex with a woman during her period would result in a monster being born. As The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation explained those born would be: “puny, languid, and moribund, subject to an infinity of fetid maladies, foul and stinking.” Trump would have us believe that our opinions at this time of the month would be equally “puny, languid and moribund”.
It was not until Victorian times that doctors understood that menstruation was linked to ovulation, as previously it had been believed that the blood was there to cool a woman’s natural hysteria. Modern women have Dr Earle Haas to thank for the invention of Tampax which he devised in 1929 by using a plug of cotton assisted by two cardboard tubes.
While I have disdain for those patriarchal and religious societies that continue to banish a woman during menstruation as unclean, I do think here in the west we appreciate that there is no longer any shame in this natural practice and instead it falls upon those buffoons like Donald Trump who believe there is.