This Slate article, “Do We Really Have to Be Proud of Our Periods?” is intriguing to me on so many different levels. Coming off the heels of the viral Hello Flo commercial, the article questions if periods could and should be a source of pride for women. Furthermore, it properly points out that not all women menstruate (and not all those who menstruate may identify as women), so the period is not some “mysterious feminine energy” that defines women as real women or not. At the same time, the words “pride” and “power” are often used as forms of activism: girl power, body pride, and think of all the pride parades there are (not just gay pride parades, but all the others celebrating the different nationalities). I, humorously, defer to the late comedian George Carlin and his discussion how pride should be reserved for something one accomplishes or achieves on his or her own. (His bit on pride starts about a minute into the video.) I did not decide one day to be female, so is it so wrong to say that I’m happy I menstruate but that I’m not necessarily proud that I do?
But can the cycle be used as a form of power? This is where the commentary in the article, I think, misses the point. As previous bloggers have discussed in the past, menstruation is often stigmatized precisely because (mostly) women do it. At the end of the Slate article, the mention of bowel movements is brought up again since it, too, is a natural function. No, perhaps it isn’t a feminist act when a little girl—or any girl, for that matter—takes a poop. Perhaps it is more an act of a child thinking she has accomplished something that she should be prideful about. But menstruation is a different story. It is a feminist act for a woman to mention that she is menstruating because it isn’t talked about. From watching television, it seems to me that a good portion of toilet paper advertising is about comfort and enjoying using the bathroom. When have you seen menstrual ads that mention you could, potentially, (oh the horror), enjoy having a period? Discussing the menstrual cycle is about power. Power against the shame. Power against the patriarchal construction of the period. Power of the period.