The human reproductive system is perhaps the most obvious definer of gender difference. As open as I am to concepts of identity – if you are born with the reproductive parts that are designed to grow babies, then it comes with such intense and fiercely contested meaning of self that sometimes I wish it was possible to be a single cell organism and hand over my survival to mitosis.
I’m mindful that male/female biology is also not quite so binary and that there is a vast array of inter-gender/intersex people out there but if you born with some combination of female reproductive anatomy – if not the whole lot – then chances are egg production and fertilisation feature in your life somewhere.
Sexuality also aside, we seem to place women’s reproductive functioning in polarity. On the one hand we celebrate at an almost evangelistic level – pregnancy and the bringing of children into the world, but the timing of ‘when’ children should occur varies greatly between cultures and generations. Women also seem to be quite comfortable talking about the process of conception and ‘when this occurred’…in unnecessary detail at times. But we don’t want to talk about what happens ‘in-between’ not being pregnant. Ovulation happens! and the ‘uncomfortable’ truth is menstruation happens fairly frequently. Girls have to deal with this, it’s not really much of a choice, it’s pure physiology and it is kind of amazing if you bother to investigate the complex processes involved.
In this modern era there are products such as tampons and pads to assist women in the hidden world of ‘temporal haemocratic fluid management.’ Advertising has tip toed around this rather awkwardly, because of the unintentional contradictions this represents for marketing. There have been some interesting attempts with varying degrees of reference to the actual realities.
My favourites include:
* Blue dye (language is no barrier to understanding this)
* Men relating to sanitary products
* Women feeling really happy energetic
* The reality check – wins the ‘cup’
I did find myself laughing at the most recent addition:
It gets to the social aspects that often get missed in trying to address the practical. If you have experienced periods, you will have noticed the ‘shame’ element that seems to go with figuring out how best to ‘Keep Calm and Conceal Ovulation’. That is reality – period’s don’t just happen in the bathroom at home! Some have called it ‘degrading’ and ‘filth.’
I can understand after generations…centuries in fact of hiding and demonising (quite literally historically) menstruation we don’t know how shake off the anachronistic meaning we have constructed around it. I like the idea that we can laugh at ourselves, rather than relying on making men out to be clumsy and uninformed when in my experience they are far from this.
It would also be helpful if we could allow a bit more of a buffer with the discomfort and inconvenience of this cycle. The assumption that its over and done with in a few days has got to go. I don’t know about others but quite frankly it starts more like a week before follicular rupturing (way more exciting than saying ‘releasing egg’ don’t you think?) the actual ‘evacuation of ovulation’ (bleeding bit), and the ‘hangers on’. That’s about 3 weeks! Not 3 days!
It would also be nice to drop the idea that tampons and pads are luxury items with the associated luxury tax that is put on them – try bleeding on a budget. I find it a bit of a necessity not to bleed everywhere at work. It would be an easy protest to do over a month, especially if we all wore white. Men could join us in solidarity with hot water bottles and chocolate.
Now I think that deserves a standing ovulation.