Seepage: Menstruation in the Media

It seems you can’t open the bloody paper these days without being confronted with something about those meddlesome menses, doesn’t it? Your browser opens up to a veritable flow of articles about having the painters in, and that time of the month is leaking its way onto your newsfeed.

We here at A Bloody Good Cause are delighted by this! For too long, menstruation has been something to stuff up your sleeve, something to deposit in a special opaque bin. The recent ministorm of new stories and features about menstruation has encouraged us to hope that our dream – that the menstrual taboo may shortly end – might be closer than we had dared to imagine.

A recent article in the Guardian by Chitra Ramaswamy sums up some of the ways periods have been making the press of late. She starts with an interesting look at the way sanitary product advertising uses language focussed around “invisibility” as a selling point, suggesting we (both men and women) are conditioned to think of periods as something to hide. But hide them we shall not! Taking Ramaswamy’s lead, here is a round-up of the ways menstruation has made the headlines recently.

Who needs an Invisibility Cloak when you have socially-conditioned crushing shame?

Who needs an Invisibility Cloak when you have socially-conditioned crushing shame?

  • POLITICS

Here in the UK, there continues to be a “tampon tax” on sanitary products. Sanitary products are classed as a “non-essential luxury item”, which means they are taxable at a rate of 5%. (NB/ In the original version of this blog, I incorrectly stated that sanitary products were taxable at the full VAT rate. The maths done below has been revised accordingly.) (Condoms, razors and of course crocodile meat, are not classed as “luxury items”.) To put this in perspective, a box of 20 regular Tampax Compak tampons (my preferred brand for my compak ladyhole) in Boots costs £2.90. If tampons were not taxed as “luxury items”, I would pay roughly 16p less per box. For some women, that can make a bloody hell of a difference. Thankfully, many others are outraged by this too. Following the recent petition “Stop Taxing Periods”  that kindly asks Mr Chancellor to remove this ridiculous tax, comedians Cariad Lloyd and Jenny Bede created this bloody good parody of Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood video. Its catchy lyrics (such as “make your own moon cup from an ice cream cone”) will hopefully be echoing around the walls of Parliament before long.

Stateside, the American Alan Sugar and would-be Presidential candidate, Donald Trump has, helped to fuel the anti-period-shaming campaign, after he suggested that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her… wherever” whilst asking him some questions he didn’t care to respond to. (You can listen to him make this live on air gaffe here.) Vocally suggesting a woman’s journalistic worth is based on her menstrual cycle has not done Trump any favours, sporing reactions such as Buzzfeed’s 17 Times Donald Trump Just Wasn’t Himself Because Of His Period. 

This croc is not happy with the 17.5% tax on tampons. Not one bit.

This croc is not happy with the 17.5% tax on tampons. Not one bit.

  • SPORT

The public’s favourite young British tennis player (sorry, Andy), Heather Watson, recently went out in the first round of the Australian Open. When asked what went wrong, she frankly declared, “I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things.” I feel your pain, Heath – I can’t understand directions when I’m bleeding and I become even more cumbersome than usual.

Harvard Business School graduate and drummer for M.I.A., Kiran Gandhi, ran this year’s London Marathon whilst on her period. Moreover, she chose to run without any form of sanitary protection and “freebleed” her way to marathon success. (You can read her interview with Cosmopolitan here.) Live fast, die young, bad girls bleed it well.

This year’s haul of Superbowl commercials featured one from sanitary towels brand, Always, whose campaign #LikeAGirl, laughs at the idea that saying someone does something “like a girl” could be an insult. I showed this video to classes of children ranging from 12-15, and was delighted that there was no squeamishness displayed when we talked about periods. Having pads on the mainscreen for the world to see in the context of one of the biggest global sporting events is heartening. Vive la revolution!

Kiran Gandhi and her pals doing really bloody well

Kiran Gandhi and her pals doing really bloody wellinst

  • THE ARTS

Artist Rupi Kaur recently made the news when her Instagram photo of a woman lying in blood-spotted jogging bottoms on a blood-spotted bed was removed from the photo-sharing website because it “doesn’t follow our Community guidelines”. Putting it up again, she wrote this rousing piece: “i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you.” In her next photo, a screenshot of the message from Instagram which talks of keeping the website “safe”, she wrote the caption: “Help keep @instagram safe from periods. Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is showing. We won’t be censored.”   

The Edinburgh Fringe, British comedy’s finest hour, has taken the bloody vag under its wing too, as many female comedians have “reclaimed” period jokes, according to The Independent. Comedian Tiff Stevenson riffs on the “tampon tax” (see above): “If tampons are luxury where’s my Chanel Tampax, where’s my Dolce & Gabbana with wings?”

Rupi Kaur refused to take Instagram's criticism lying down

Rupi Kaur refused to take Instagram’s criticism lying down

  • SOCIAL MEDIA

The #JustATampon selfie campaign from Plan UK used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as its campaigning ground for people to post photos of themselves with their tampons to undermine the sense of secrecy we have guarded them with in the past. Money raised from people donating £3 per selfie will go towards support menstrual health management (MHM) work in the developing world.

And last but not least (at least not according to my Internet history), Buzzfeed is indeed buzzing with pieces about being on the blob (find a full list here and here), my personal favourite being this load of monkey business.

Buzzfeed's

Buzzfeed’s “24 Faces That Perfectly Capture Life On Your Period” – #12 When people don’t take your feelings seriously because “it’s that time of the month.”

With more period pieces seeping into our social consciousness everyday, we hope that soon we’ll see an end to period-shaming and the menstrual taboo. In the meantime, keep our Red Wave campaign in mind, and don’t be embarrassed to bleed! Carry your tampon like you would your phone at home, in the office, in a restaurant.

#redwave

Until next month ,

~ Sophie

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