The BODY POLICE just wrote us another ticket.
Sweating through our workout clothes, is a big NO NO, that is, if the sweat shows up (whisper…blush…giggle…) down there. The “solution” to the non-problem du jour is U By Kotex’s Sports Liners. Thank you, Kotex, for reminding me that I am, in fact, a functioning, healthy human. Here’s the commercial. (Prepare your rage).
In response, Australian Humorist Sammy J sent the BODY POLICE back to the station with: “The Crotch Song” He performed the jaunty tune on the new Australian weekly comedy series Wednesday Night Fever, which he hosts. Then, like good satire often does, it went viral.
Apparently underestimating our hunger for a good solid FemCare smackdown, Sammy J humbly posted to his Facebook page on July 25th: “I awoke to discover my song about crotch sweat has gone viral overnight, clocking up over 30,000 views. Power to the sisterhood!” Well, Sammy J, your fandom is growing. Video views on YouTube alone are at nearly 48K and climbing.
I love the sassy critique of the product, of course, but I especially appreciate the way Sammy J redirects our attention away from the intractable ‘to use or not to use’ debate that quickly devolves into missing the point much bigger than any particular individual’s consumer choice. Instead, he exhorts every woman to steer clear of men (let’s expand that to ANYONE) “ who would make you feel as bad as panty liner companies.”
Here’s the full lyrics here. Every delicious word.
The Crotch Song by Sammy J
I saw a new ad for a new product aimed at women New panty liners to eliminate crotch sweat. And though I don’t have degree in feminism I feel their message is a little hard to get
Cause the assumption seems to be that sweating when you exercise is a major turn off so it’s best to keep sweating in disguise
But that does not address the fact that any guy who judges you for sweating when you exercise is probably a cock-head.
So if we apply the logic they’re using to sell it. And your crotch is sweaty so you buy a 30-pack
Well then there’s a stronger chance you’ll end up with a douche-bag, and that’s a few years of your life you won’t get back.
In-fact when you think it through Any guy who talks to you despite your sweaty crotch has already past a very basic test It means he’s not brain dead. It means he understands the cause or link between exercise and perspiration.
So take him to the formal
The website says and this is word for word I’m quoting “It’s time we all stop being shy about vaginas”
And then you click the product tab they’re promoting guilt, shame and embarrassment to sell their panty-liners.
So young girls if you’re listening and your crotch is feeling sweaty. You can chose to use a liner. Do whatever sets you free
But as you make your way through life avoid dating the assholes who would make you feel as bad as panty liner companies.
“I can’t tell you how glad I am that you exist.” —Gloria Steinem on the SMCR.
A few weeks ago the SMCR presented its first Making Menstruation Matter Award to Gloria Steinem at its biennial conference at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. The full video of the ceremony and her remarks will be posted shortly, but Ms. Steinem’s opening statement, quoted above, set the stage for her talk, as she went on to pay a warm tribute to the Society by stating, “Thank you for making it OK to talk about menstruation.”
The entire gathering lived up to the tone and quality of the opening celebration as future posts and video links will demonstrate.
With apologies to the Harpers Index, we present you with a snapshot of the upcoming 20th Biennial Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference held at Manhattan Marymount College, June 6-8, 2013.
Number of presenters on the program: 125
Number of these that are students: 32
Activists, artists, and clinicians: 32
That are Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist pioneer: 1
Number of Google hits for her iconic essay “If Men Could Menstruate”: 8,980
For the words “Kim Kardashian Pregnancy Weight Gain”: 22, 2000
Number of countries represented by all presenters: 12
Other than the U.S: 11
Number of presentations that are research projects: 60
Performance Pieces: 2
Poetry Slams: 1
Number of scholarship requests made by conference attendees: 39
In 2011: 6
Number of presentations focused on MENOPAUSE: 13
On MENARCHE: 17
Number of presentation abstracts that mention the words LIBERATE, FREEDOM, JUSTICE or CHALLENGE: 18
That mention the words SHAME, SUFFER and PAIN: 15
Red Riding Hood: 1
The film Carrie: 1
Gender, Men, Women, and/or Girls, : 133
Number of Days Before the Conference: 24
Days left until you can register: 24 (you can register on site)
Years you will have to wait for the next SMCR conference : 2
Join Us! Be Counted!
Strange ad copy for an actor without children. But it’s celebrity flashback Monday! Brenda Vaccaro is one of a small number of celebrities who appeared in femcare advertising after she was famous. (Others include tennis star Serena Williams and gymnast Cathy Rigby and Mary Lou Retton.) Cheryl Tiegs, Susan Dey, and Cybill Shepherd all appeared in print ads before they became famous models and actors.
Guest Post by Saniya Ghanoui, New York University
Perhaps the most well-known song that addresses menstruation is Ani DiFranco’s “Blood in the Boardroom,” a nearly four-minute narrative about a woman getting her period while sitting in a male-dominated business meeting. The song is from DiFranco’s 1993 album, Puddle Dive, and contains lines identifying women who “bleed to renew life every time it’s cut down” and “right now it’s the only power that I possess.” As such, the song connects the period to an occurrence that bonds women from different classes/social standings; recognizes the period as a source of pride and, as bluntly stated in the song, power; points out the period’s use as a tool of protest; and states the union between life and bleeding. The song is a rich text (and I recommend following along with the lyrics if you’ve never heard the song before) with an even richer music video.
The video is a multi-dimensional piece that opens with a satirical address of typical tampon and pad commercials. A blonde wig-wearing DiFranco sits next to a window, sipping coffee, as she admires the beautiful sunny day. A voice-over starts by saying there are days when women need a “little extra protection,” and ends with a nod to products “introducing the ultimate in feminine protection.” As the last line is said, DiFranco turns to the camera, a small “cat caught the canary” smile on her face, and flicks open a switchblade knife. A play on the meaning of “protection,” the violent image of the knife is contrasted with the soft color palate of the frame and indicates that DiFranco is ultimately the one in power and is capable of her own protection.
The video then proceeds to jump between several quick shots of DiFranco in different locations before coming back to her, by the window, as she “stabs” the camera with the knife, and the song lyrics commence. The act of stabbing (and an aggressive one at that) indicates revulsion of the societal norms regarding the idea of protection from the period. Later in the video, DiFranco removes the wig illustrating the shedding of her faux exterior (an act of defiance) and thus the façade. The rest of the video consists of images of DiFranco performing onstage, shots of DiFranco outside skyscrapers (giving the impression that she is literally and metaphorically outside the male-dominated business world), DiFranco playing with an infant, and two sequences that are, in my opinion, the most distinguished visual sequences of the video: firstly, DiFranco wears a tight white dress and blood “spills” on her from the bottom up while in another image DiFranco rolls in blood on the ground, and, secondly, a collection of words that quickly flash on the screen at various points throughout the song.
The use of blood in the video is notable thanks to DiFranco’s interaction with it: she rolls around on the floor in it, she rubs it on her body, and she is coated in it (while in a white dress). The latter shots turn DiFranco into a used tampon: her tight white dress becomes saturated in red, her white headband turn red, and her face and hair are streaked with the blood. In nearly all of the blood shots, DiFranco seems to enjoy her interaction with it (I would go so far as to argue that, in certain shots, she seems eroticized by it). As she rolls around in it or rubs it on her body, she takes such delight and joviality in the act that she is, thus, embracing part of her existence as a healthy woman.
Mixed with these images of blood are words that flash across the screen creating interesting connections between the lyrics of the song and the words shown. For example, when the word “tampon” is mentioned in the song the word “Plug” is shown on the screen—linking the slang phrase “plug it up” with the menstrual apparatus. In addition, when DiFranco sings about money, what she deems the “instruments of death,” the word “Instruments” flashes on the screen and then all the letters disappear save for the “men” in “Instruments.” She connects the negative notions associated with financial power to men and death and, on the opposite end, women’s ability to make life (the power of the period) should be celebrated.
The text that appears on screen occurs in the following order (all text is in white with a black background unless otherwise noted):
Bored, Bored, Curl, Corporate (turns to Corpse), BLEED (in red font), Love, Life, Period. (punctuation included), Woman, Plug, Menstruate, Puddle (on left side of the screen) turns to Dive (on right), Instruments turns into Men (the letters in Instruments disappear leaving the word men), Life (white background with black writing), Breath (white background with black writing), Board, Bored, Corporate (turns into Corpse), Blood (on the left) turns into Stain (on the right)
As you can see, DiFranco makes numerous hefty statements including the connection between the corporate world and death (Corporate to Corpse)—a sequence that is used twice in the video. Or the play on the homophone of board/bored that is, again, a jab at the corporate world.
The video contains such visually striking images that reaffirm DiFranco’s theme of power in life, and the end of the video is no exception. However, instead of blood or text she concludes in a simple manner: a young child joyfully plays with DiFranco’s guitar as she smiles in amusement.
In 1978, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem penned a brilliant satire first appearing in Ms magazine and later in her collected essays Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. In it, she blew the lid off how gender ideology (read: sexism) shapes how we “do” menstruation.
Nearly 40 years old, this piece STILL hums. Have you read it?
Where tongue meets cheek, Steinem was able to break the menstrual taboo of concealment in under 1000 words. Her bold thought experiment stimulated a conversation that we will keep having until something big shifts in the menstrual discourse.
Until then, Steinem wryly asks:
So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?
Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.
Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day.
To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free.
Nearly 40 years out, this prose should be nothing more than a quaint artifact of how things USED TO BE. It should be as relevant today as powder blue leisure suits, wide belts and platform shoes. But the gendered root of the menstrual taboo endures.
Because “If Men Could Menstruate”, near and dear to menstrual cycle advocates old and new, and emblematic of Steinen’s long career of speaking up for women and girls, the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research is pleased to announce that Ms. Gloria Steinem has been chosen as the first recipient of the newly established Making Menstruation Matter award. This award recognizes a journalist, activist, artist, public figure or organization that has meaningfully contributed to the public understanding of menstrual cycle-related issues. The intention of the award is to honor and encourage thoughtful dialogue about the menstrual cycle beyond the academy.
Timing is everything.
At the same time that “If Men Could Menstruate” was published, The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research was forming. Now more than 3 decades later, it seems most appropriate to honor the courage Gloria Steinem has shown throughout her career in articulating and calling attention to women’s realities and imagine something better. To quote Peggy Stubbs, SMCR president:
The intersection of her lifetime achievements and our Society’s interests, is no doubt, an example of how far-reaching Ms. Steinem’s work has extended. For our part, we want to let her know that her work has and continues to energize ours. And we know there are others who, like us, have been and are similarly inspired by Ms. Steinem to continue to work in their own ways to enhance the quality of girls’ and women’s lives.
SMCR will present the award to Steinem during the 20th biennial conference, to be held in NYC, June 6-8 2013. Details on attending the conference and the award ceremony are available here.
Join us to honor Gloria Steinem and hear her remarks about a piece that is timeless, but shouldn’t be.
Big news this week: Sinead O’Connor announces she is excited to be reaching menopause and looks forward to her first hot flash. News stories in the Daily Mail and a celebrity gossip magazine called Female First characterize her as ready to “embrace” this new life stage, unafraid of aging or bodily changes. They also make sure to tell us in the same breath that most other women dread this life stage. It is almost as if the reason that this is news is that it is absolutely amazing that a woman can feel positively about menopause. Comments on this article reaffirm the fact that this is absolutely amazing and that most women hate it, with one person even suggesting that menopause is “God’s revenge on women for being the superior race.”
I find plenty of women telling me they are happy to reach this life stage. Sure, the symptoms suck sometimes (maybe even for years). But, this doesn’t mean they dread all of the changes in their bodies or that they hate their bodily changes. And it doesn’t mean they dread aging. I think Sinead O’Connor is probably more representative of the ways in which many women are thinking about menopause than not. Or at the very least there is a sizable portion of the female population who feels like O’Connor as they reach this life stage. To characterize menopause as normally terrible and O’Connor as “outlandish,” “eclectic” and “quirky” in the same breath as telling us that she is excited about menopause just reifies negative cultural discourse on this reproductive transition. This does nothing positive for women.
What IS positive, though, is that we are even hearing about Sinead O’Connor’s take on menopause. And I argue that she is not as weird in her views on menopause as she seems.
It was Etta, Christina, Los Angeles. Was that menstrual blood or a melting spray-on tan running down Christina Aguilera’s legs during her performance at Etta James’ memorial service last Saturday? The verdict is still out. Regardless, word on the internet is that Aguilera’s bodily event, and not her heartfelt performance of James’ hit song At Last, stole the show.
When will we realize that bodies are sometimes uncontrollable? Think about all the ways our bodies demonstrate this, and often in public. Our noses run, our throats need clearing, we sweat when we’re nervous, burp after we eat, pass gas without meaning to, leak milk when we breastfeed, throw up when we have the flu, lose our balance, bump into walls, break out in acne, and yes, evil of all evils, maybe even menstruate.
Yet cultural norms suggest that we can, or should, control our bodies in all moments and that we can have the bodies we desire if we work hard enough. But when we really think about it, who can believe this is true?
Seriously, bodies are uncontrollable. They are leaky. They react to the things we do to them and inevitably carry on natural, physiological processes – like digestion and menstruation — even when we want to pretend that they don’t.
And we can be vicious in our response when real life drives this lesson home. Visit YouTube, celebrity news columns and even mainstream news sites and you can read about Aguilera’s outstanding performance at James’ memorial service, only to find out about the “disgrace” she caused while singing. The incident is being called Aguilera’s most recent “mishap”, a “wardrobe malfunction,” or a “disgusting accident,” depending on which article you’re reading.
I find it interesting that almost all commenters on this story imply that Aguilera should have been able to control her body. Says who? What makes Aguilera so different than any of the rest of us who have been unable to control our bodies in public at times? Despite what cultural norms tell us, bodies are sometimes uncontrollable. The very event – Etta James’ memorial service – reminds us that bodies are at times in control of themselves, even telling us when life is done. The idea that we can completely control natural processes is ridiculous. We can try to control our bodies as much as we want, but sometimes they just do what they want, when they want.
I also find it fascinating that Aguilera’s publicists (and plenty of commenters on this story) are so intent on discounting the idea that Aguilera might have started her period. To them, a dripping spray tan is the “better” story. Really? So, a natural process that almost all women experience for a good portion of their lives is more “embarrassing” and “gross” than spraying oneself with a fake tan?
Commenters on this story seem appeased by the possibility that Aguilera was simply trying to beautify (tan) herself, indicating to me that the natural (menstruation) has now become unnatural and the unnatural (fake tans) is the new natural. It is now more acceptable (“natural”) to fake a culturally condoned physical appearance than to menstruate? This seems a bit backwards. Why is evidence of a fake tan better than evidence of menstruation? Why has the unnatural become natural and more acceptable here?
Finally, the shaming of the individual (here, Aguilera) is so blatantly obvious that I am reminded of how distanced most of us are from our own bodies but how, simultaneously, we are so ready to gaze on others’ bodies to critique them for being just that, bodies!
Women and their bodies are shamed in very specific ways. Plenty of feminist researchers have written about menstrual shaming and menstrual taboos. Others have written about the power of Western beauty norms. We know that women are told they are dirty, evil, ugly, untrustworthy, irrational, etc., when they are menstruating, and must hide any evidence of menstruation. At the same time, we know that women are held to unattainable beauty standards and are critiqued for not meeting these standards. Aguilera was doomed to be derided for this bodily event. Regardless of what it was running down her legs, she is at fault for not being able to control her body. Which brings me back to my original point and question:
Tina Fey, true to her reputation for being feisty and transgressive, tells two amusing menstrual tales in her recent bestselling book, Bossypants.
The first is, appropriately for a “tell all” memoire, about her menarche. The story, familiar to thousands of other women, relates how her mother gave her a “first period” kit from the Modess company that contained two pamphlets, “Growing Up and Liking it” and “How Shall I Tell My Daughter,” and pretty much left her on her own. Fey’s humor derives largely from exaggeration and in this case she compares the Modess box stashed in her closet to a Freddy Krueger nightmare figure lurking in the dark: “Modessssss is coming for you.”
She goes on to describe the moment of the period’s arrival when she was ten years old and performing in a choral concert. She claims that her surprise was not so much that she got her period but that the fluid wasn’t blue as she’d been lead to expect from TV ads.
The second, and more interesting, story is about how as a writer for the long-running TV series, Saturday Night Live, she managed to get the Kotex Classic sketch on the air. Fey refers to it as “my proudest moment as one of the head writers of SNL.” (The anecdote was also published in the March 14, 2011 New Yorker.) The ad parody has become an SNL classic in itself and an indispensible inclusion in any discussion of the history of menstrual references on television.
The Kotex sketch is a send-up of the trend at the time for nostalgia sales pitches such as the Coke Classis campaign. Written by Paula Pell, it features women proudly flaunting their Kotex belts and bulging sanitary napkins, even in a swimming pool and while wearing low cut, tight evening wear. A man in the ad comments approvingly, “Them girls are Old School!”
Fey describes how the men at the studio who had to approve the scripts balked at selecting it. Their resistance was eventually overcome once the women explained the exact nature of the unfamiliar menstrual technology and how it was worn. As Fey puts it, “They didn’t know what a maxi pad belt was. It was the moment I realized that there was no ‘institutional sexism’ at that place. Sometimes they just literally didn’t know what we were talking about.”
Beyond the fascinating behind-the –scenes access that Tina Fey’s book provides to the working of an influential TV show – and lots of other settings as well – she has also offered a glimpse of the menstrual social gap, the chasm of ignorance that separates women and men when it comes to understanding even the most rudimentary details of menstrual management. In this case she was able to educate the men and succeed in producing a memorable – and perhaps even liberating! – piece of TV comedy.
Guest Post by Jaime Hough
Tyra Banks wrote a young adult fantsy novel. And it’s a NYT bestseller. The book, titled Modelland, is about the journey of one awkward-looking girl who is whisked away to a magical boarding school which trains girls to become supermodels with superpowers, known as Intoxibellas. It’s kind of like Harry Potter, if Harry Potter revolved around modeling and was a battle between conventional and unconventional beauty rather than good and evil.
But I’m probably making it sound bad and it’s not, really. Modelland is the story of Tookie de la Crème,1 a girl unnoticed by her classmates and mostly ignored by her family, whose life is turned upside down when she is recruited for Modelland. The reader follows Tookie to and through her first year at Modelland as she, along dozens of other girls, trains for the chance to become one of seven Intoxibellas, supermodels with superpowers, in her graduating class. At Modelland Tookie makes her first real friends while becoming embroiled in a mystery involving the school’s headmistress, known as the BellaDonna, and the world’s mysteriously missing foremost supermodel, Ci~L.2
I read Modelland because I was curious and because I have long been fascinated by the public persona of Tyra Banks. What can I say? We all have our guilty pleasures. Most of Modelland is, for the most part, what you would expect, especially if you’re familiar with Tyra’s moneymaker, America’s Next Top Model. However, I was completely surprised by the fact that Banks chose to use menstruation as a key plot device to develop Tookie’s character. Below are excerpts from the book dealing with menstruation and my brief analysis of how these menstrual moments [MMs] function in the novel and could potentially function for the intended reader.
MM1: Not Yet A Woman
Menstrual Moment One comes near the beginning of the book when Tookie has just come home from her day at school and the readers are being introduced to her dysfunctional family. In particular, we’ve just met Tookie’s younger, dumb blonde little sister, Myrracle.
“Don’t laugh at me!” Myrracle said, frustrated. “I’m on my periodical right now! It makes me forgetful!”
“It’s period, not periodical!” Tookie growled.
Myrracle smirked. “How do you know? You haven’t even gotten yours yet!”
Tookie turned away, her face flooded with heat. Myrracle never resisted the urge to reminder her that she had gotten her period already, even though she was two years younger.3
In Menstrual Moment Two Tookie has just spent her first night at Modelland and is about to start her first day of classes. We follow her as she prepares for class.
Disoriented, Tookie stumbled into the large, sterile-looking community bathroom. As she did, a dull pain shot through her legs, hips, and stomach. She doubled over, feeling as though she was about to vomit. Perfect, she though. I’m sick on the first day of school. . .All at once , every single girl in the bathroom doubled over in pain, gripping her stomach and back just as Tookie had. . .Tookie shut her eyes, wincing again with another pain. “Piper, my back and tummy are killing me!” she whispered.
Piper shrugged. “Join the club, Tookie. Every new Bella started menstruating at the exact same time this morning.”
“You’ve never heard of menstrual synchrony, or the dormitory effect?” Piper asked. “Menstrual synchrony is a theory that suggest that the menstruation cycles of women who cohabitate-think army barracks, female penitentiaries, convents, and university dormitories—synchronize over time. It usually takes months for the alignment to occur but her at Modelland, it seems to have happened in twenty-four hours.”
“But I’ve never gotten my period before this,” Tookie whispered.
“Well, Tookie, looks like you’re a woman now,” Piper said.
Tookie was about to protest—there was no way she was any more womanly today than she had been the day before—but all of a sudden, she felt that perhaps something in her had changed. Those abdominal pains made so much sense, after all. And that certainly made them more bearable—for once, she felt normal, like everyone else.4
No, I don’t mean all those drugs aimed at relieving the “symptoms” associated with the hormonal shifts that sometimes trigger a variety of physical or mood changes nor even the expenses that accompany joining a Red Hat Society (somebody’s making a little change on that flashy head wear!).
Rather, it’s the way Gennifer Flowers has packaged herself following her brief brush with fame as a participant in one of President Bill Clinton’s sex scandals. A recent NY Times op-ed piece by Gail Collins (December 7, 2011) informs us that Flowers is now working as an entertainer and motivational speaker and that one of her favorite topics is “The ‘M’ Years . . . Surviving Menopause Mania!” And, indeed, a visit to the Gennifer Flowers web site reveals that her talk “is a humorously-presented speech about the experiences of menopause while giving very current and important medically documented information to women on how to get through these ‘M’ years with the greatest of ease and dignity.”
Unfortunately, the site does not explain just what makes menopause (we presume she means perimenopause) worthy of being called “Mania!” – with an exclamation, no less – nor what makes it so daunting that one needs advice on how to “survive” nor why she feels it’s necessary to be coy with that use of “M” as some sort of code. But perhaps it’s those unknowns that make one want to pay the fee and invite her to one’s event.
The site also includes a lot of glamorous photos and some teasing references to her other favorite topic, “Surviving Sex, Power and Propaganda.” There’s that notion of surviving again. But surviving sex? There’s something touchingly sad about that.