Saturday, 15 August 2015

Bleeding Uncool

The other day I got out of the bath and promptly bled everywhere. I was fricking furious; there's nothing fun about trying to stem the blood running down your legs and stop it from soaking into the bath mat. After I'd cleaned up myself and the surrounding area and climbed down, moodwise, to rueful, I began to think about an essay I read a few years ago by Iris Marion Young.

Her book, On Female Body Experience, is a brilliant collection of essays. In it is Menstrual Meditations, which takes both a theoretical and practical/lived look at the experience of menstruation. It's packed full of interesting things, but it was the idea around the uncontrollable nature of menstrual flow that popped into my brain and sent me back to the book to ferret it out. Young writes:

'The expectation that girls and women control their bodies to conceal this process seems especially unjust because this excretion is not controllable. There is nothing a woman can do to stall or temporarily stop the flow...'

Periods are a messy business, and if you have heavy or super heavy days there can be times when it is literally impossible to contain the flow. Because it's not just slightly gloopy blood that is dispelled; clumps of lining can come out too and there's not a tampon in the world that can deal with that - I speak from personal experience.

I do feel the injustice of trying to keep my out of control bleeding hidden. For years I've spent one week of every month worrying about the bedsheets and the mattress and the towels and the sofa and the cushion I sit on the dining room chair. But that worry is nothing compared to the anxiety caused by the fear of bleeding visibly onto your clothes. I wear a lot of black.

Young goes on to point out the further injustice that alongside the requirement to keep menstruation under wraps, our institutions and workplaces are often ill-equipped places for us to be able to perform the necessary acts to keep our bleeding a secret. During my time working in retail (not my current employer, I hasten to add), I have been in the situation of being the only person on the shopfloor and faced with the choice of either leaving the floor completely unattended or dripping blood on the carpet. Fun times.

As is most likely obvious by now, I'm not at all interested in keeping quiet about periods. I don't think they should be a secret. I have an idea that more openness will eventually mean more acceptance and more necessary allowances made. And that would be bleeding cool.


  1. The Young quote you use reminds me of the many memes and photos (photoshoped or not) I have seen around the internet that associate period stains with the word "FAIL", as if the stain is the fault of the bleeder. Add to that the fact that many institutions, as you say, insist on ignoring the existence of periods, and you have a perfect way to keep women in their place: internalized shame. This makes me very angry.
    Loving the new blog :-)

    1. It makes me so angry too, and I think we're damn right to feel that fury.
      I'm very happy you're reading and enjoying the blog, and thank you for commenting :))

  2. Also difficult when you're in a classroom and not allowed to leave your class unsupervised - but need to take immediate action :(

    1. Gawd, I hadn't even thought about how impossible that would be. That makes me want to rage at the stupidity of a system that ignores/hides the fact that women bleed.