In the latest episode of Vag Magazine (a production of the Upright Citizens Brigade), Fennel shares her strategy for managing menstruation.
“We’ve had some complaints from our cleaning feminists.”
Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research
iOvulation is an application that calculates the time of ovulation and generates your personal fertility calendar. Simply enter the length of your menstrual cycle and the date of your last period, and iOvulation will calculate your fertile days.
The web site suggests it useful both for trying to conceive and for trying to prevent conception. However, I wouldn’t recommend the latter, as its algorithm appears to predict ovulation based on dates of menstruation: “The ovulation dates are calculated based on normal menstruation calculation logic for women having regular periods.”
In other words, it perpetuates what Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement and Reproductive Health and Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body, labeled the two biggest myths about menstruation in this interview with Scarleteen: (1) the idea that ovulation occurs on Day 14, and (2) A normal menstrual cycle is 28 days.
Also of interest is how squeamish the creators appear to be about sex and reproduction: the web site refers to “unprotected i*********e” and notes that the probability of conception is calculated “based on your ovulation time and other factors such as lifespan of the egg and s***m”. (For those of you unaccustomed to the practice of concealing obscenity with asterisks, that’s “intercourse” and “sperm”.)
As someone who studies and teaches sociolinguistics and writes about menstruation, I’ve seen a lot of euphemistic language over the years. But marking intercourse and sperm as unfit for print is a first.
Elizabeth Kissling’s March 16 post on the launch of the U by Kotex campaign and the comments that followed touched on the implications of the “new” Kotex products and their accompanying empowerment crusade. Comments ranged from how the new tampon applicators resemble glow sticks to how, with the new “menstruation optional” pills and implants, tampon and pad manufacturers are grasping any marketing ploy to keep girls menstruating and buying their products. Indeed, “empowering” women about their menstrual cycle and encouraging women to “celebrate their bodies” is a smart marketing move by Kotex in the face of the menstrual suppression option. The following comment from Giovanna Chesler’s on Kissling’s March 16 post sums up my own opinion about the “radical new product”.:
“Might I add that when I heard that Kotex was bringing a new, radical product to market, I assumed it would be a menstrual cup. What’s new about painting a tampon applicator? Still plastic. Still disposable. Shows how naive I am. Kotex selling menstrual cups… that would be the day!”
Let us not forget, these products still have the same pesticide-infused cotton and the same one-time-use, land fill-bound plastic applicators and wrappers.
At first, Kotex had successfully baited me with their empowerment rhetoric (although I do not buy their products), because YES I want the shame and embarrassment that surrounds the menstrual cycle to be banished, and YES I want “vagina” to be taken off of the list of “dirty words”, and YES I think tampon and pad commercials are ridiculous. Thus, the Kotex marketing campaign is remarkably cleaver, since it speaks, at least on some level, to those of us who want what is on the “U by Kotex Declaration of real Talk” pledge, which is as follows:
- Celebrate my body and my period as natural, normal, and important
- Respect my vagina, and know that ‘vagina’ is not a dirty word
- Challenge society to think differently about what it means to be a woman
- Talk openly and without embarrassment about periods and vaginal care with my friends and family
- Take good care of myself and encourage my girlfriends to do the same
If you think this is a progressive step in the direction of menstrual activism, visit the U by Kotex website, where you will find a woman to show you, with the aid of a vulva pillow, how to insert a tampon. She mercifully doesn’t make any reference to freshness or boys; instead, she just gives you straight-forward tampon instructions using candid language and anatomy books (although the images she uses are depictions and not actual human genitalia). Also, the U by Kotex site makes the connection that women who are not ashamed about their periods are more likely to have a positive self-image. My own research has shown me that the more educated a woman is about the logistics of her menstrual cycle, the more likely she is to be assertive about safe sex practices and actually enjoy sex more. She is also less likely to fall for age-old myths like “you can’t get pregnant on your period”.
So, while there are some definite upsides to the Kotex campaign, (as Kissling put it, “it’s way better than ‘have a happy period”), there are some shortcomings that were not addressed in the earlier blog posts and subsequent comments. While Kotex may be taking several steps in the right direction, it does not take long to figure out who Kotex is marketing to once you visit their U by Kotex website. There, you can read answers to frequently-asked menstrual questions from more than 14 women who are part of Kotex’s “Real Answers Team”. You can interact with other girls by commenting on the posts by these women who fill the role of the “mom”, the “health expert”, the “peer”. The U by Kotex website also has an “Advocacy Panel” of three women who are dedicated to women’s issues and women’s rights. However, of the women from both the Advocacy Panel and The Real Answers Team (18 women total), NOT A SINGLE WOMAN IS A WOMAN OF COLOR, save for Mai Nguyen, the last woman featured in the “peer” column of the Real Answers Team (interestingly, she is also the only woman who appears embarrassed, with her modest, downward gaze). What sort of message is this sending to women of color who wish to be “empowered”?
Back in 2000, when my Menstrual Monday journey began, an ever-reasonable friend had pointed out it took 13 years for Julia Ward Howe to establish Mother’s Day. Being a holidaymaker, and more on the creative side than reasonable, I poo-poo’d my friend’s caution. Seriously – Julia Ward Howe didn’t have the Internet! Thirteen years is two centuries in Internet time!
Eleven Menstrual Mondays later, I humbly look forward to the year 2012, and raising a glass (of tomato juice) to Julia Ward Howe, unmoved by any doomsday scenarios erroneously attributed to the Mayan calendar. Holidaymaking is just not as easy as it looks!
On the other hand, Menstrual Monday parties are rather easy to throw. Here’s all you need to do:
If you like working with fabric, check out Have a Hester at MOLT, and learn about scarlet letters and flow-dyeing. Right now I’m enamored of red shop rags – I add glitter glue, and use them to package MOLTwheels – the mini-frisbees in the photo. See what ideas you and your guests can come up with.
I notice I’ve mentioned a couple of things that require spending money – the most intriguing question to me this Menstrual Monday is: Where is the intersection of feminism, menstruation, and entrepreneurship? I’m wondering: How can there be a transformation in attitudes toward the red stuff, without a corresponding transformation in where women’s green stuff (money) is being spent?
Strawberries and spinach: Food for thought, indeed.
Andy Kurovets, the designer who brought us those lovely maxi-pad shelves is displaying a new item: The G-spot computer mouse. When you find the secret spot, the computer automatically goes to your favorite thing online, whether it’s your email application or your favorite feminist blog (that would be us, right?).
No. Just no. As Melissa at Geek Feminism says, this could reinforce some wrong ideas.
[via Geek Feminism]
Word on the street is that Apple is introducing their first tablet computer today. With their usual flourish, they’ve named it . . . wait for it . . . the iPad.
Are you there, God? It’s me, Marketing.
Don’t make fun. The iPad is the technology of the future. Period.
Can I get a scented iPad for when my data feels not-so-fresh?
Edited again to add: The Week has an interesting comparison of historical femcare slogans and Apple slogans – more similar than one might expect.
[Video via Lunapads]
Since I am both far too old to follow Katy Perry on Twitter and too completely uninterested in celebrities’ personal lives to read The Huffington Post (WTF? Didn’t HP used to be a political blog?), a friend had to tip me off to the big news that Katy Perry is menstruating and presumably not pregnant.
The image at right is of one of Ms. Perry’s Twitter messages from Wednesday, which reads, “ur gonna make me cry, maybe that’s my period tho. THAT’S RIGHT I’M BLEEDING. Face. Better luck next month peepz”.
As far as I’m concerned, Katy Perry can tweet about her period until the cows come home – hell, that’s what Twitter is for. And in general, the more open acknowledgment that Menstruation Exists, the better for all menstruators. But the comments on the Huffington Post article provide another fascinating study in communication about menstruation. I don’t have enough Sanity Watchers points to read all six pages (and still accumulating) of comments, but I did scan a couple of pages. Most of the comments are along the lines of “TMI” and “It’s gross to discuss that kind of stuff.” One Perry fan posted this remark: “Katy, get pregnant fast so that you can talk about that instead of this.”
Apparently it’s acceptable to talk about the contents of one’s uterus only when it’s full.
[via my buddy genehack]
There are a number of web sites and mobile applications for tracking one’s cycle (such as MyMonthlyCycles.com) and for tracking PMS – either one’s own or someone else’s, as frequent guest contributor David Linton pointed out a few months ago. Is anyone surprised that there is also an app to remind you to take your birth control pill every day?
Of course, if you’re going to take oral contraceptives, taking it consistently is important. With a short half-life and low dosage in many of today’s pills, ideally they should be taken at the same time each day for maximum effectiveness. (This also may reduce breakthrough bleeding.) Research indicates that the average birth control pill user misses three pills each month, which changes the failure rate from 0.3% to 8%.
The commonly used Dialpak® dispenser, introduced in 1965, was designed to make it easy to remember to take the pill every day, long before iPhones or internet access. Legend has it that it was invented by a fellow who frequently argued with his wife over whether or not she had taken her pill. The Dialpak® is iconic in American culture; it has made the birth control pill the only prescription drug identifiable at a distance simply by its container. It is even evoked in the perfectly circular swimming pool and costumed synchronized swimmers of the NuvaRing® advertisement frequently seen on American television.
These ads (“Break Away from the Pack”) promote NuvaRing® for those who can’t be arsed to take a pill every day, rather than any claims of its effectiveness as birth control. (Needless to say, the ads neglect to mention that the ring can be accidentally expelled surprisingly easily. That’s got to impact its effectiveness rate.)
Physicians refer to failure to take one’s medication as “non compliance”, as though patients – especially female patients – are deliberately defiant rather than forgetful. But wouldn’t a real rebel be more likely to reject hormonal contraception completely in favor of Fertility Awareness and/or barrier methods? And she’d employ reusable menstrual products, too.
[via Holly Grigg-Spall]
Ariel of Cephaloblog is giving away five copies of Cathy Leamy’s “totally cute, funny and informative comic on eco-friendly solutions for that time of the month“. To win, you just need to add a comment to her blog post (first link above) explaining why you’re making the switch (or have already switched) to reusable menstrual products. She’ll select and post the winners on January 24.
You’ll also be helping with science: Ariel intends to post the top ten reasons given by age range, so we can see why women of all ages support reusable options during their periods.
I don’t want to horn in on re:Cycling readers’ chance to win, so I just zipped over to Metrokitty’s site and shelled out $2 for a copy.
Some ecards, creators of absolutely genius electronic postcards, have introduced a special series of HPV WTF cards to commemorate National Cervical Health Month. (I’ll bet you didn’t even know it was National Cervical Health Month!)
Send them to people you care about who have a cervix.
[via Feminist Campus]
*(I really did type “cosmetetical”. Readers under the age of 40 and/or outside the U.S. can find the origin of the term here.)
Here’s where exploitation and menstrual activism crash into each other. While activists have been diligently working to reduce the “Ewww” factor so that women are not treated with disgust when (and because!) they menstruate, commercial interests have been just as diligently striving to find new ways to cash in on the period.
One of the newest gambits is found at an online beauty products site called M.S. Apothecary promoting a service that been around for a few years, C’ELLE®. C’ELLE® offers to cryogenically freeze the stem cells found in menstrual blood for future use. Originally the pitch for C’ELLE® focused mostly on the potential of stem cells to yield material that can be used to treat diseases, once medical science discovers a way to use them. Meanwhile, the material is judiciously stored away in one’s “portfolio.” The initial cost is described as a “special introductory rate for new clients” of $499, although the price hasn’t changed in more than a year. Following the first year there is a yearly storage charge of $99 that is subject to later increases.
The connection between a menstrual blood collection service and a beauty store comes in the way the service is described in the link that is posted on the M.S. Apothecary site:
Begin your beauty from the inside out. C’ELLE®, a revolutionary service that empowers women to take charge of their future health and beauty, allows for the collection and preservation of their precious stem cells. With C’ELLE’s® exclusive process and step-by-step instructions, any woman experiencing menstruation can easily and painlessly gather her own stem cells in the comfort of her own home. In the future, these cells may be the basis of medical treatments for threatening diseases, personalized cosmeceuticals and regenerative medical procedures, providing the potential for living a longer, healthier life.
It remains to be seen if menstruation will eventually come to be seen widely as a source of beauty “from the inside out,” but this is not the first time that menses and fashion have been linked. In the early 1990’s the sketch comedy series In Living Color ran several skits featuring menstruation. The fashion statement depicted in this one might be compatible with the pitch for menstrual blood collection.
*I really did type “cosmetetical”. Readers under the age of 40 and/or outside the U.S. can find the origin of the term here.