Something has been baffling me lately — what the hell is everyone’s problem with menstruation? Most of the people in my life are, and have almost always been women. I have two daughters, two stepdaughters and a female partner. There’s women at work, women at all the stores — they’re everywhere nowadays.
And yet, any open talk about the shitty thing most of them go through every month gets the Candyman treatment. Even a mention of the word “period” at my friend’s workplace will prompt desperate pleas of “TMI!” Really?
One of my friends has an ex who made up some stupid story about once catching his dick in his fly as an explanation as to why he was skittish about periods. Makes no sense. Guys — it’s just blood. Well, some tissue as well. But it’s from the uterus. It’s not from the dirty-filthy no-no place. That’s just the way out. Penis blood does not equal period blood.
And, as you might imagine, periods suck. There’s hormones, cramps, discomfort, inconvenience and low energy due to a drop in iron. So be nice. Stop being a pill about it. Stop making it so damn taboo and thereby making our ladies feel even more uncomfortable. It’s not leprosy.
And this week I noticed something else. Try Googling clots. Let’s say you’re a woman who wants to know if the stuff that just came out of you is normal or not — you go online to look at images. But the universe doesn’t want you to see period blood, so what you get is images of pads sprinkled with things like red feathers, roses, glitter and rhinestones. I swear to God. Glitter.
Bottom line, this is a stigma like any other, and that’s unacceptable. Some places are better than others. Spain, for example, offers paid menstrual leave. Meantime, here in North America, like in the U.K., periods end up leading to missed days at work because employees feel unsupported in the workplace. Screw that.
I decided to go hunting for songs specifically about periods, or at least songs that at least sound like they could be. And then, fashion a nice playlist for your workplace or wherever to help cure all these snowflakes of their ridiculous hang-ups and get rid of this stupid non-disclosure culture.
Who better to start things off than Dolly Parton? Back in 1994 she penned PMS Blues, a slightly jokey cautionary tale — but it does have this meaningful line: “I don’t even like myself, but it’s something I can’t help.” Dolly’s song deals more with PMS depression than it does with period stigma. But it’s all part of the same problem.
We can skip over stupid jokes like U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday, Bad Blood by Taylor Swift, Love Lies Bleeding by Elton John or Alice Cooper’s Only Women Bleed, and get right into the emotion of the real issue with a song like Ani DiFranco’s Blood In The Boardroom. Here Ani writes about how periods can really highlight the gender disparities of many workplaces.
“And we bleed to renew life
Every time it’s cut down
I got my vertebrae all stacked up
As high as they go
I but I still feel myself sliding
From the earth that I know
So I excuse myself and leave the room
Say my period came early
But it’s not a minute too soon.”
Riot grrrl group Heavens To Betsy also have a doozie of a reclamation song: My Red Self, which seems to accurately communicate the frustration of an unsupportive patriarchy.
“Is this the rag
You use to humiliate me
Cuz i was born
I was born a girl
Is this the period
For you to understand
So you make me hide
The truth from you
So you make me hide
My red self from you.”
Can you imagine how many songs would be written about this if men got periods? Or how it would totally transform social media into wall-to-wall mancold whining? But let’s lighten things up a bit. Pun intended. There are plenty of period songs which celebrate menstruation, even ironically, rather than aiming to point out the negative stigmas. Prime example, Tacocat’s Crimson Wave:
One more terse one. When PJ Harvey showed up in the early ’90s, my friends and I were instant fans. Personally I couldn’t get enough of Rid Of Me and the demos. But on Polly Jean’s debut Dry, you’ll find a fitting track called Happy And Bleeding:
“This fruit was bruised
Dropped off and blue
Out of season, happy I’m bleeding
Too early and it’s late, too.”
Oh, and here’s the best of them all. And it ain’t on Spotify, so you get this right before your Period Flow playlist:
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.