Culture

Newsweek Goes to War against ‘Period Shaming’

(Cunaplus/Dreamstime)

If you don’t enjoy talking about periods, you’re oppressing women.

Or at least that’s the message the feminist-outrage machine is turning out this week, culminating in a screed against “period shaming,” published in Newsweek last Monday.

The April 28 cover story by Abigail Jones featured a single tampon on a red backdrop, under giant, white letters informing readers, “There Will Be Blood,” and instructing them to “get over it.” The manifesto is part of a larger movement arguing that American women face unnecessary hardship thanks to a puritanical, patriarchal “taboo” around menstruation.

The argument has one, fatal weakness, however: There is little hard evidence that Americans are actually more sensitive about discussing periods than about any other bodily function.

To get around this, the feminists pushing the position appropriate the suffering of girls in developing countries where there are taboos around menstruation — taboos that prevent women and girls from living healthy, normal lives. Newsweek’s piece rests heavily on stories from foreign communities where girls lack easy access to material comforts and aids and also to knowledge about how to best care for themselves during menstruation. (Jones quotes the World Health Organization’s Chandra Mouli, who says that “most girls learn about their periods the day their periods start”; in India, 70 percent of girls had not heard about menstruation before getting their periods — for cultural reasons, they don’t learn about it from their mothers.) From this, the magazine concludes that similar taboos exist in modern-day America. Thus, for the sake of feminist outrage, is the commonsense observation that “some people are uncomfortable talking about periods” turned into an insinuation that American women are shunned, shamed, or forced to drop out of school at puberty because they have periods.

#share#The case for an American period stigma is mostly anecdotal. Among the examples provided are that the social-media site Instagram twice took down a photograph of a woman who had bled through her sweatpants and onto her sheets, restoring the picture only when the account owner cried “sexism” (this was presented as proof that women are seen as sex objects instead of human beings); and that, last year, a start-up selling underwear for “people who have periods” had a hard time getting their ads placed in the New York City subways after the advertising contractor for the Metro Transit Authority took issue with the imagery. In the latter case, ads that featured an image of a bisected grapefruit designed to look like female genitalia were restored after the online feminist community cried foul. Now the ads feature women standing, spinning, and sitting in underwear with slogans such as “period-proof underwear that protects you from leaks and sometimes the patriarchy.”

So far, if there has been a disgusted backlash from the “patriarchy” about the images, it’s been quiet — and ineffective, because the ads are still up.

#related#Jones claims that if society really cared about women, we’d have high-tech tampons in every bathroom by now, pointing out that tampon design hasn’t improved substantially in decades. Feminist YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen was quoted in the article as saying, “If this isn’t a reflection of how women’s bodies are viewed, I don’t know what is! . . . How could something this important not change over 40 to 50 years?” (If you’d like to understand just how faulty this logic is, consider how many substantial changes we’ve made to seatbelts since the 1960s.)

But let’s pretend for a moment that most of American society does view periods as dirty or shameful: Has this disdain substantially impacted the lives of American women in the past two generations?

While Newsweek breathlessly told of women hiding their tampons in their sleeves as they walk to the bathroom and of ad agencies using blue liquid to “sanitize” the experience of having a period, if these experiences are what pass for “oppression” these days, it’s safe to say American women are getting along just fine.

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