Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Obvious Child: The Other Taboo

June 18th, 2014 by Holly Grigg-Spall

cervical mucus

 The recently released rom-com ‘Obvious Child’ has been discussed far and wide for its mature, sensitive and funny approach to the topic of abortion and yet I have not seen one comment on the fact that this movie also makes mainstream (and yes, funny) the topic of cervical mucus.

In the opening scene stand-up comedian Donna (played by real-life comedian Jenny Slate) is performing on stage at her local open mic night. She wraps up with a joke about the state of her underwear and how, she describes, her underpants sometimes look like they have “crawled out of a tub of cream cheese.”

She claims that they often embarrass her by looking as such during sexual encounters, something she feels is not sexy.

Of course, by “cream cheese” I immediately assumed Donna meant cervical mucus. Unless she is supposed to have a vaginal infection – which seeing as it is not discussed amongst the other myriad bodily function-centric conversations in the movie, I doubt to be the case – then it’s clear she is detailing her experience of cervical mucus.

Later on that night, when Donna meets and goes home with a guy, has sex and then wakes up in bed with him the following morning, she sees that her underwear is laying next to the guy’s head on the pillow. Not only that, but this is one of those situations she finds embarrassing as the underwear is actually covered in the aforementioned “cream cheese” or cervical mucus. She cringes, retrieves the underwear and hastily puts it back on under the covers.

At this scene we can assume that the presence of visible cervical mucus indicates that the character is in fact fertile at this time during the movie. Even if we didn’t know this movie was about unplanned pregnancy, perhaps we would know now. Apparently Donna is not on hormonal birth control, and she’s not sure if, in their drunkenness, they used a condom properly. So, I speculate, if Donna had known she was fertile and that the “cream cheese” in her underwear was actually one of the handy signs of fertility her body provides, then she may have taken Plan B and not had to worry about an abortion. But, then, of course, we wouldn’t have had the rest of this movie. We would have had a very different movie – a movie someone should also make.

But it goes to show how some body literacy might go a long way in helping women make more informed choices. The abortion sets her back $500 and causes some emotional turmoil. A dose of Plan B is cheaper and easier to obtain, although not without some side effects. Maybe even, we can speculate, if Donna had known she was fertile she might have avoided PIV sex that night.

It’s great to see a movie approach the choice of abortion as though it really were, well, a choice. But isn’t it interesting that in doing so it shows how women can be hampered in their choices by a lack of body literacy?

We often see women in movies discussing their “fertile time” in regards to wanting to get pregnant – and so meeting their husbands to have sex at the optimum time in usually funny, crazy scenarios. Sometimes we have seen women taking their temperature or using ovulation tests and calendars to figure this out. However, I think this might be the first mention of cervical mucus in cinema.

I had the honor of seeing this movie with longtime abortion rights and women’s health activist Carol Downer and getting to discuss it with her after. Carol pioneered the self-help movement and self-examination, adding much to our collective knowledge of our bodies.  

This is what she had to say:

Do You Trust Women?

January 23rd, 2012 by Chris Bobel

Do you see the connections between menstrual health awareness and reproductive justice?

At re: Cycling, we sure do, because being critical of how menstruation is regarded (and managed)—from menarche forward—is one way we loosen the social control of women’s bodies.

My body, my choice, my whole life long.

And that’s exactly what reproductive justice is about—fighting for everyone’s access to affordable, quality reproductive health care of their choosing. That’s a fight to get behind, not the stupid “War on Women” advanced by certain presidential hopefuls (Hello Rick Santorum).

We are excited about this creative campaign organized by The Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign, a coalition of 42 national and local organizations (the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights (BACORR), Catholics for Choice, NARAL-ProChoice California, Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific, and SisterSong/Trust Black Women.

The campaign takes aim at “extremist politicians elected with a mandate to fix the current economic crisis instead chose to divert the public’s attention with policy battles about these private decisions.”

So why are our legislators and presidential candidates hell-bent on denying access to basic health care services –including contraception and abortion?

Really, why do we let them get away with this?

In San Francisco, The Trust Women/ Silver Ribbon campaign is literally taking the message of reproductive justice to the streets by flying banners—colorful, clear and decisive—all over the city. The banners are more than a defensive operation in the battle against women’s autonomy; they seek to end the offensive by reminding us that most Americans are, after all, pro-choice.

The banners read:

  • Her Decision, Her Health
  • U.S. Out of My Uterus
  • Fix the Economy, Support My Autonomy
  • Reproductive Rights are Human Rights
  • San Francisco is Pro-Choice

That’s all very good, you might say, but I don’t live in San Francisco.

During Trust Women Week, January 20-27, the campaign is staging a Virtual March (with  MoveOn)—a time for reproductive justice supporters to express their support online.

So go here and take action.  Let’s end the War on Women.

“Abortion is a matter of survival for women”

January 22nd, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling

It was 37 years ago today that the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, in which the Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

In commemoration of that decision and women’s right to autonomy over personal reproductive decisions, I’m posting some of the newly released video of the late Dr. George Tiller talking about why he performed abortions.


Thank you, Dr. Tiller, for trusting women.


Penelope Trunk: Telling the truth about women’s lives

September 24th, 2009 by Elizabeth Kissling

I adore Penelope Trunk. I may not always agree with her, but I always read her column, and I’m glad she exists. Today, she wrote about the backlash she received for this recent tweet:

Twitter _ Penelope Trunk_ I_m in a board meeting. Ha ...-2

She is a little stunned that there was such an uproar about her tweet: other bloggers wrote posts about the “disgustingness” of it all, and 70 people stopped following her on Twitter (at this moment, she has more than 18,000 followers, so it’s not a huge uproar). She writes,

Most miscarriages happen at work. Twenty-five percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Seventy-five percent of women who are of child-bearing age are working. Most miscarriages run their course over weeks. Even if you are someone who wanted the baby and are devastated by the loss, you’re not going to sit in bed for weeks. You are going to pick up your life and get back to it, which includes going back to work.

This means that there are thousands of miscarriages in progress, at work, on any given day. That we don’t acknowledge this is absurd. That it is such a common occurrence and no one thinks it’s okay to talk about is terrible for women.

Throughout history, the way women have gained control of the female experience is to talk about what is happening, and what it’s like. We see that women’s lives are more enjoyable, more full, and women are more able to summon resilience when women talk openly about their lives. [Emphasis mine]

I practically stood up and cheered. This is exactly why we started our little blog (I say ‘little’ because I know we don’t have 18,000 followers). We want to talk openly about women’s lives, and invite others to join the conversation. Although there are many times it is inconvenient, messy, sometimes even painful, menstruation, like miscarriage, is part of (most) women’s lives.

And like miscarriage, menstruation happens at work, too. From the factory floor to the board room, women are bleeding on the job. And sometimes, women need or want to talk about it. Maybe to seek support. Maybe to request a bathroom break to change her pad or tampon. Maybe to lie down for an hour until the cramps subside. Maybe just to know she’s normal. What’s “disgusting” isn’t the menstruating or the miscarrying, or even the talking about it, but the shaming of women for doing so. (Read the whole thing – the quote above is just an excerpt.)

And one more thing: Penelope Trunk is absolutely right – it is fucked up to have to wait three weeks for an abortion.

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.