Let’s talk about blood

“We are not statues,” said my college friend H, as she rolled her eyes at my attempt to hide the tampons so any boy in our rooms wouldn’t see them

As a statue, she does not bleed. But as a woman, Clara Campoamor Rodríguez surely dealt with this issue.

We are not supposed to say these things out loud

What our bodies do is taboo. Women’s issues are not taken seriously. The things that define us are mocked or disregarded.

MENSTRUATION MENSTRUATION MENSTRUATION

BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD

MENOPAUSE MENOPAUSE MENOPAUSE

How often do you hear people talking about these things in public? At work? Around men?

And when they are talked about, it’s to dismiss us:

We are on the rag.

It’s that time of the month.

Blood coming out of our whatever.

Hence, our feelings, our declarations, are to be ignored. How can the opinion of a woman who is menstruating be valid?

I suggested a friend refer to Fitbit’s period tracker in a speech she is giving at work

She agreed it was an appalling story, then laughed and said, “I CAN’T TALK ABOUT PERIODS AROUND MEN!”

What is “erectile dysfunction?”

We all know what erectile dysfunction is.

How could we not? Orders of magnitude more money is spent on ED research than on PMS, menopause, etc. etc.

BUT ED IS A SERIOUS HEALTH PROBLEM, TEXAN! IT AFFECTS MEN’S LIVES!! HOW CAN YOU NOT BE MORE SYMPATHTIC?

Oh I don’t know. Because ED doesn’t cause physical pain and the lack of getting laid doesn’t affect a man’s everyday life?

Because women are in debilitating pain from endometriosis? Because women still die in childbirth? Because women’s genitals are LITERALLY CUT OFF?

Excuse me that I can’t muster any sympathy for your huge problem of not being able to get laid. Boo hoo for you.

Remember your first period? And maybe that awful belt and pad your mom gave you because that’s what we had back then?

Those pads were so thick that my jeans wouldn’t fit properly. How did I even carry spares in my purse? Even a pocket – if we actually had them in our clothes – wouldn’t have been big enough.

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

Remember the time in junior high your pad leaked or you got your period early and it showed on your pants and you were so embarrassed you wanted to die?

I stupidly wore white pants to school.

Ooops. White pants should be worn only in the week after the end of a period. Silly me.

That was a fun day at school.

So many pants and underwear ruined or, at the best, stained with blood.

So many times when I had to throw my sheets in the sink before I left for work because the pad wasn’t thick enough. So many times I was relieved that I had a rubber pad under the sheets.

This is just part of our life as women. We bleed, and the tools we have to handle the problem are not sufficient.

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

Remember being worried about throwing away the bloody evidence – that someone might see it in the trash?

Do you wrap it in toilet paper? That seems so wasteful. But what if someone saw it? Saw our blood? Isn’t that shameful? Nobody should know we bleed.

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

“My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white,” 

Even Shakespeare got it. Oh. Wait.

All the blood on our hands! All the menstrual blood on our hands!

Two German men designed a solution to this problem – gloves that we can carry in little pouches in our purses or pockets – the pockets we don’t have or, if we do have them, are not big enough to hold much but I digress.

We carry these gloves. And then put them on when we have to change our bloody products. Because there is no other way to resolve the blood problem and this is certainly the biggest issue facing women these days.

THANK YOU GERMAN MEN FOR SOLVING THIS PROBLEM!

I genuinely may never recover from 3 men deciding women needed pink gloves to remove their tampons (clearly never having bothered to speak to a woman in their entire lives) AND THEN MADE IT TOO BIG FOR PRETTY MUCH EVERY WOMAN’S HAND EVER. I have default male peaked.

Caroline Criado Perez (If you are not subscribing to her newsletter, please start. She is amazing.)

What if this poem about leaking through a tampon had been taught in our high-school English class?

What if any poetry that described our lives had been taught?

If you ever woke in your dress at 4am ever

closed your legs to a man you loved opened

them for one you didn’t moved against

a pillow in the dark stood miserably on a beach

seaweed clinging to your ankles paid

good money for a bad haircut backed away

from a mirror that wanted to kill you bled

into the back seat for lack of a tampon

if you swam across a river under rain sang

using a dildo for a microphone stayed up

to watch the moon eat the sun entire

ripped out the stitches in your heart

because why not if you think nothing &

no one can / listen I love you

joy is coming.

To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall, Kim Addonizio

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

Remember when you had cramps so bad you fainted on the bathroom floor?

I had cramps.

I thought they were normal.

But I did ask my doctor about them and she said she could put me on birth control pills.

I couldn’t take BCP! I was a high school girl! I was a Good Girl! Birth control pills were for Girls Who Were Having Sex and I didn’t believe in pre-marital sex.

I did not get the BCP.

I was in pain, bent over on the toilet, with bad diarrhea.

A few years later, I got ibuprofen, which was prescription only at the time. I think I took 800 mg at a time.

But I had to take it before I had the cramps for it to work.

I didn’t always have cramps. Some months yes, some no.

I didn’t want to waste my precious prescription-only ibuprofen on a month where I didn’t have cramps.

I was in pain, lying in bed with my knees to my chest, feeling the pain pass through me in waves, waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in, waiting for the waves to get further apart, which meant that the end of the pain was within view.

Then I got Anaprox, which I just this minute learned is Naproxen, which is also now an OTC drug.

I was starting grad school and getting an individual health insurance policy. The only way I could get the policy was if they excluded diseases of the reproductive organs – which was the only part of my body that gave me problems.

They said – holy smoke I cannot believe this – that if my cramps were that bad that I needed anaprox, WHICH IS NAPROXEN, there must be something really wrong with me.

When I finally started taking BCP, my cramps stopped.

I was so angry that nobody had tried to explain to me that BCP were not just about preventing pregnancy – that they regulated hormones and helped prevent pain.

I was also angry because it took me years to get the right BCP. Among other things, I had pills that gave me the mask of pregnancy, which is big dark blotches on the face. Total strangers would ask what was on my forehead.

When I finally got the right RX for the BCP, I was moving into menopause.

Wow. I never thought about it before, but yeah, that’s the timing.

And I wanted to keep taking them to prevent hot flashes, but my doctor – a new doctor – read my chart and said, “ARE YOU NUTS? YOU’RE A MIGRAINEUR YOU CAN’T TAKE BCP YOU COULD HAVE A STROKE AND DIE!”

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

What if there were a way to integrate tracking our periods with other health indicators?

You all know that Fitbit didn’t add a period tracker until 2018, right? And apparently, the company was a bit apprehensive about it.

Fitbit’s new smartwatch Versa isn’t being overtly marketed at women; doing that might alienate its male customers, who currently make up more than half of Fitbit’s user base

Just wondering if any genius at Fitbit might have seen the connection between men making up more than half of Fitbit’s user base and the fact that there had not been a period tracker.

When I said something to a male co-worker, a 61 year old, highly educated, very smart man married to a nurse – when I said something to him about the Fitbit as an example of bad product design because of a lack of diversity on the design team (I was working for an engineering company where in my office of 250 people, there were 17 women), he answered, “But isn’t a period every 28 days?”

Why would he even think that?

Whey would he think that a period comes every 28 days?

Maybe because that’s the only thing he ever learned about menstruation? That’s what he was told in his class in 6th grade when the boys and girls were separated for a few days of sex education?

And maybe a nod to menstruation in 10th grade biology?

Perhaps things have changed.

Perhaps kids these days are taught that periods do not come every 28 days – that the timing can vary. Perhaps they are taught that cramps do not have to be endured – that there are drugs and treatments to keep us from being in pain.

Maybe now, prescription painkillers for cramps doesn’t mean that you can’t get health insurance that covers diseases of the reproductive organs?

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

Remember buying menstrual supplies, or, How much extra money do I have to spend to keep the clerk at Walgreen’s from seeing what I’m buying?

Remember when we cared what the clerk we had never met and would never see again thought about what we bought?

Remember when we would furtively stack M&Ms, diet Dr Pepper, a bottle of Suave Strawberry Essence shampoo (or maybe “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific!”), and a few greeting cards on top of the Tampax?

It’s not like it even worked! The clerk eventually got to the bottom of the basket.

And the clerk did not care.

There are so many things that Mr T did and does right, but another indicator was the time I ran out of pads and didn’t want to leave the house and he went to the store for me.

And called me from the store to tell me the options and make sure he got the right one.

I asked if he minded getting menstrual supplies and he was puzzled.

“I bought them for my stepdaughters,” he answered. He didn’t understand why it was an issue or why any man would be bothered.

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

Remember trying to hide the pads you carried to the ladies’ at work?

At my old job, in the Before Times, I kept a box of pads at my desk.

When I needed one, I took it out of the box and tucked it into my pocket.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

NO I DIDN’T PUT IT INTO MY POCKET! WOMEN’S CLOTHES RARELY HAVE POCKETS!

Nope, I tucked it under my sleeve the way little old ladies tuck in their hankies or I rolled it into my hand and then casually walked to the bathroom.

I did not have the guts to let the men I worked with see what I was carrying.

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

Remember being caught in public without a tampon?

I can’t even tell you how many times I searched desperately for a dime or a quarter so I could buy a tampon – only to find that the machine was empty.

I can’t even count the times I sighed as I rolled up a wad of toilet paper and stuck it in my underwear.

The only good thing about this kind of drama is that there is solidarity among women.

I was in the ladies’ room at the Field Museum in Chicago, along with a dozen other women. The machine was – of course it was – empty. As the woman tried to retrieve her quarter, every single one of us in the room with her opened our purses and started digging.

We will give you your tampon.

We will share our abundance.

We will not force you to resort to wadded-up toilet paper. (Which, for any men reading, does not really do the trick. It’s not absorbent enough and it doesn’t have hard edges, so the blood goes onto your underwear and your pants anyhow. It’s just not as much blood.)

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

What if a positive pregnancy test wasn’t considered a bro joke?

Mailchimp wanted to be funny.

…the [MailChimp] team was brainstorming ideas for a 404 page. On the web, a 404 error means “page not found,” so a 404 page is where you’re redirected if you try to click a broken link. They usually say something like, “The page you are looking for does not exist.” But at the time, the team was really focused on developing a funny, unique for MailChimp. So they decided to call it an “oops” moment. Pretty soon, someone had designed a page showing a pregnancy test with a positive sign. Everyone thought it was hilarious.

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech, Sara Wachter-Boettcher

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

What if you weren’t afraid to mention hot flashes because you are worried people will think you are too old for your job but DAMN IT IS HOT IN HERE?

We do not have a satisfactory solution for hot flashes, a condition that can affect HALF OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION.

HALF OF US.

Half of us who are miserable and don’t know if this is going to last the rest of our lives and who can’t take certain drugs to stop the flashes because if you get migraines, you can’t take HRT so oh well I guess you’re screwed.

Yeah, there is another drug that migraineurs can take – the hot flash part was discovered by accident during research on another issue – but guess what?

That drug has the side effect of flushing.

Which is a fancy way of saying hot flashes.

The drug that I am taking to prevent hot flashes is giving me hot flashes.

But according to the pharmaceutical industry, my problem is not serious enough for research.

(Fortunately, we have solved the ED problem.)

8 thoughts on “Let’s talk about blood

  1. You forgot to mention the times when you’re already sitting in a public restroom and call out over the partition, “Does anyone have a tampon they can give me?” Usually, there are several offers! But, at least we have solved the ED problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a teenager I had cramps so bad that I would spend the day vomiting. Eventually a doctor told me to take four advil every four hours so that I could function. But no one would put me on birth control pills because that would cause me to have wild sex with every boy I knew. Much better to miss school once a month.

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  3. Decades and decades ago, when I was in elementary school, we broke into boy-groups and girl-groups and “learned” (separately, of course) about menstruation (as I recall, Modess was the maker of the film). A few days later, one of my friends mentioned that she had been absent on the day we saw the film about you-know-what, and I remember the weird blush of shame I felt when she actually said that word out loud, where BOYS might hear her, and when I inadvertently said “What?!?!?” she said it AGAIN. I have still not got over it. Also, I remember in the seventies scrubbing out the stain on a friend’s skirt while she stood with her back to the rest-room sink, and thinking nothing of it – so there, German designers! Growth (and rebellion against our hideous upbringing) IS possible!

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    1. Oh, oh, oh – and the time my mom refused to walk back through the parking lot to pick up an entire huge box of sanitary napkins (what a weird name that is!) that had fallen off the shopping cart on our way to the car. She just abandoned it, perish the cost. Death before dishonor.

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  4. I’ve told you before how glad I am that you have turned your red hot focus to these topics and so assume that right now I’m telling you again:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OMG this is such a great column. I would also add that similarly women are frowned upon for urinating, defecating, vomiting, farting and burping – all things men do and talk about with great glee.

    Liked by 1 person

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