In season five of Mad Men Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) shares an intimate moment with her mother after discovering she has her first period.
Back in the good old-bad old days of being fully immersed in social networking, I became known for my propensity to talk about periods: mine, my friends’, my family members’, other people’s, periods on television, periods and advertising, periods, periods, PERIODS.
The reason for such menses-mad tweeting was, in part, because I think the continued taboo about menstruation is one of the most depressing aspects of our allegedly enlightened society.
These days, I don’t have a public Twitter account, but more compellingly for my sense of self/sense of humour, nor do I have a period. I went on Yaz a few years back and my formerly impressive uterine tidal wave has gradually been replaced with a sad, occasional smear.
Does that mean I’m no longer compelled to talk about periods 24/7? No, in fact, I’m still as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore - so here are a few reasons to be mad about periods.
It’s always that time of the month at my place.
The GST Is Still Applied To Sanitary Products
The Howard government introduced the GST on July 1st, 2000, and included in the items that would carry the new tax were pads and tampons - “non-essential” products, according to the stellar minds at Howard HQ. Flash forward to 2012, and pads and tampons are still being taxed as a non-essential item. (There is no GST on frangers, in case you were wondering.) I harangued both the Howard and Rudd governments about this nonsense tax and received witless replies from both; I haven’t bothered contacting the Gillard government because I assume the response will be the same. But when a supermarket chain uses removing the “period tax” as an advertising angle - and even that was four years ago - that was also shrugged off by the government, you know something’s still rotten in the state of tampons. Anyone for a bleed-in at Parliament House?
‘Applicator Tampons Vs Non-Applicator Tampons’ Is Still A Thing
This ridiculous non-issue, designed mostly to set women against each other, gets wheeled out with tiresome regularity. Its bloated corpse is reanimated one of two ways: via a bogus “concern for the environment” angle, which is also a non-issue in Australia since the majority of applicator tampons available use biodegradable recycled cardboard applicators), or in a haughty “applicators are weird and for women who are afraid of their bodies” fashion. Years later I am still fuming about Gabrielle chiding Alex in the Secret Life Of Us pilot episode (yes, my rage runs deep), “What, afraid you might have to touch yourself?” when Alex passed her a Tampax. For the last time, everybody together now: PERSONAL. PREFERENCE. It’s your vagina, you choose what you put in or around it. Pads? Tampons? Mooncups? Reusable pads? Sea sponges? No problem! After over a decade of menstruation, I just decided that applicator tampons tended to unwrap in my handbag less often, and were better equipped to soak up my monster periods. Your mileage may vary. THE END.
People Are Still Scared Of Periods
In the second-last episode of Mad Men’s latest season, two things happened: Lane Pryce committed suicide, and Sally Draper got her first period. I’ll give you a gift-wrapped box of maxi-pads if you can guess which image - blood-stained underpants, or Lane’s corpse - was a cause for more outrage amongst the American viewing public. Yes, Sally’s menarche whipped up a storm of debate: it was “gross”, it was “unnecessary”, it was “horrible”, and it was, according to New York Post writer Linda Stasi, “inappropriate and gratuitous” and likely to “excite child sexual predators”. Come on down, Linda, and receive your Helen Lovejoy trophy for “Excellence” In Outrageous Hyperbole. Menstruation is still a taboo topic when it comes to film and television, save for some tentative steps like No Strings Attached’s “period mix CD” sequence, or - less tentatively, and more awesomely - Cherie Currie getting her period within the first few minutes of The Runaways.
Pads And Tampons Advertising Is Still Scared Of Periods
This might be the worst/most hilarious one of all. An industry that creates products that have the sole purpose of being soaked with menstrual blood seems to be utterly incapable of referring to its products purpose. We all lost our minds when [U] by Kotex’s “beaver” ad ran a few years back, because it euphemistically dared to suggest that pads exist in a vague proximity to [whisper voice] your vagina. We may no longer have to suffer through the dreaded blue water, but to my knowledge, the only companies that use the term “period” are American brand Always - whose “Have a happy period” tagline caused much consternation from those who are never happy about anything - and locally, Coles supermarkets, who last time I checked included the revolutionary phrase “during your period” on the packaging for their home-branded pads. (If that’s no longer the case, well, at least, for one brief shining moment...)
“Feminine Hygiene” Is A Month-Long Affair
This one doesn’t even relate to periods themselves, rather, the “pantyliner” industry, which has spent the better part of a decade telling women that their undies need to be “protected” from the almighty shame of “discharge”. (As the Gruen Transfer’s focus on “padvertising” noted, you could argue that liners were created purely to allow feminine hygiene companies to sell their wares all month, rather than just for one week.) This ad for Carefree’s “ActiFresh” liners caused some fuss given it actually used the word “vagina”; the offending sentence in full being, “Even that bit of discharge in between our periods is our body working to keep the vagina healthy” - so here’s a little piece of plastic to prevent the horror of discharge hitting the cotton gusset in your undies that is perfectly designed to be washed after you wear them, GOD.
That’s just a tiny sampling. Look, we’re all grown-ups here: isn’t it time we stopped treating a natural bodily function as though it was something that body-horror genius David Cronenberg had dreamed up? Yeah, it can be a pain in the arse (literally), but we need to band together to end the ridiculous menstrual taboo once and for all. It’s the 21st century FFS.
So the next time you see someone online say that periods are “gross”, or the next time a dude tries to tell you to stop talking about your period “all the time” on Twitter, feel free to give them a massive eye-roll from me, since I’m not around to do it anymore. Or, draw them a smily face with your period, it’s up to you.