Tag Archives: women

Bloody Hell


It’s ‘that time of the month’ for me, and I’ve been going through my regular bunch of issues. This is something I’m sure most women out there can relate to. Not only are periods physically uncomfortable, but they’re loaded down with a whole lot of social crap that just makes the whole process hell.

The experience of menstruation is something that can’t be pinned down. It’s common knowledge that every woman experiences menstruation differently. Some will get PMS, some snack down on piles of chocolate, some get all weepy, others get horny, and still others just want to curl up with a hot water bottle and a large box of naproxen. Menstruation is so loaded up with various stereotypes, you’d think we’d be more open-minded when it comes down to it in real life.

But for something so everyday and talked about, it’s surprising just how screwed up common understanding of what it actually means to experience menstruation is. In fact, I don’t think I’d be taking a risk to wager that menstruation is hands-down the most common ‘invisible condition’ out there.

Starting with the symptoms: they are different for everyone. This goes beyond stereotype. The same woman can experience a drastically fluctuating range of menstruation symptoms over the course of her life. The physical presentation of menstruation is often unpredictable and inexplicable. Health, diet, stress level, daily activity, environment, and a never-ending list of other factors can have surprising and crazy implications when it comes to menstruation. Most women couldn’t tell you which factor has caused which particular change in their experience, or why. Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed, yet suddenly a woman’s periods have become drastically different.

This has happened to me over the past year. When I first started having periods, I didn’t experience a lot of symptoms. I had no noticeable mood changes, cramps were at a minimum, and about twice a year I’d just get really tired and sleep a whole day away. That was it, really. Then suddenly, this past year. Excruciating cramps that don’t go away no matter how much I apply warmth and sleep (and medicine). And a whole range of other, more surprising symptoms too – monthly fatigue, migraines, neck and back pain, and so on. It’s hell, and since I’m fairly active and I’m eating healthier than ever, it’s possibly caused by stress, but how would I know? I’m pretty damn sure I’ve experienced stress before this year. Who hasn’t?

So yeah, that’s the physical shit. Unpredictable and not at all pleasant. But you know what? There’s a hell of a lot of crap every woman goes through because of menstruation that’s got nothing to go with the physical.

I’m pretty sure it would be safe to say that most women keep going with their daily lives despite unpleasant menstruation symptoms, most of the time. I mean really, who has time to take several days off every single month? Not to mention that in the average job, there just isn’t enough paid sick leave to take that time off and still make a living. This is what women do every single month of their lives, starting from first blood and continuing right until the end of menopause, whenever that is. This is where the real problems start.

You see, most women who are working through menstruation aren’t going to mention it. They just want to pretend it’s not happening, because frankly it’s easier to function when you’re not thinking about how much discomfort you’re in. Even the ones who will complain about it mostly just make the passing comment here and there, and otherwise seem completely fine. Women don’t spend too much time thinking about working through menstruation, because it’s just something women have to do. And men who know women who are working through menstruation spend even less time thinking about it, because either they don’t even notice, or in their minds, from what they can see, it just doesn’t seem so bad.

(Although what’s with men and the idea that menstruation is gross and icky and taboo?; although blood is fine, and vaginas are frankly AWESOME)

Anyway, take that whole ‘working through it’ scenario, and then throw in a woman who really feels like she just can’t get through the day while functioning even remotely normally. This woman feels like shit. She knows she’s not going to get anything useful done, and that the best thing she can do is rest. And she knows that in order to get the rest she so sorely needs, she’s going to have to tell someone that she’s not coping. With her period. That thing that comes once a month, that she’s been having for half her life or more.

A woman in this situation isn’t just going to pick up the phone and call in sick. Before she even gets near that phone – maybe even as she picks it up – there is a massive debate going on in her head over just how horrible she feels vs. a range of other issues. For an example, I provide a rough estimation of the debate going on in my own head when I was trying to call in sick yesterday. It went something like this.

1. I feel like crap. Ow.
2. I can’t prove that. It’s just a period. Every woman gets periods. What if they think I’m just being a wimp?
3. They tell me that some women just have bad periods. But why am I one of those women? >_<;
4. Do I call in sick too often? Am I risking my job over my periods?
5. Is someone gonna be all like “I work through my periods, she should just suck it up…”?
6. Or “She takes time off so easily…”?
7. Is it even really that bad? Am I just having some kind of nocebo effect on myself because I don’t want to go to work?
8. What if I do call and it gets better right after?
9. I don’t want them to think I’m letting the team down >_<;
10. Even though it’s totally going to be quiet today and they’ll manage just fine without me…
11. Just call. Pick up the goddamn phone and call.
12. Oh my god they said ok so quickly. They’re totally judging me >_<;

And of course, since stress can have a huge effect on menstruation symptoms, this whole debate is making the cramps damn near unbearable and I don’t know if I’m just having period pain because I’m getting so worked up over having period pain. Yes, catch 22.

Note, in particular, points 4 and 7.

Point four: I am worried about getting fired because of my periods. Being fired for having bad periods would essentially be the same as being fired for having a disability. I’m pretty damn sure it’s not legal. I’m also pretty damn sure that it happens. And I don’t want it to happen to me.

Point seven: The inexplicability of menstruation symptoms is such that I’m even doubting what I feel. I don’t know what’s causing the pain. It honestly could be all in my head. But when it comes down to it… even if it is a product of my own mind, there is absolutely nothing I can do about that. I’m still feeling the same pain no matter what’s causing it, and it sucks that the possibility that it might be all in my mind basically equates, in social terms, to it being no more valid than a figment of my imagination.

So yeah. In conclusion. Periods suck. That can’t be helped much, as far as the physical is concerned. But socially? There is no excuse for men judging women, and women judging other women, and women judging themselves, over something as basic and human and common as the menstruation cycle. Menstruation happens. It’s messy, and uncomfortable, and probably noone actually likes it. But as a society, we really, really need to just get over it.


Not a member of the Girls’ Club


I think it’s time to introduce a new word.


This one’s for everyone currently calling themselves a feminist who is sick to death of people trying to put them in the girls’ club with the crazed femi-nazis and leftover bra-burners from the 60s.

This will be a thing.

I have several friends – male and female – calling themselves feminists. What they really champion, however, is social equality. To them – and to me – combating ‘womens issues’ is an important path to a better world, one in which being a man or a woman is less important than just being a person. In which people can succeed or fail based solely on their own abilities and ambition. And in which freedom of self-expression is not treated as some kind of threat to ‘normal’ society.

I have other friends who believe in the exact same thing – and yet clash with me often due to the negative stigma pasted all over the concept of feminism. No matter how many times I explain that my ideals are basically the same as theirs, as soon as I mention the word ‘feminist’, suddenly it’s as though I just said all men are arseholes and major companies should be fulfilling an enforced quota of female employees in the top job positions – just from the qualification of being female.

To be completely candid, there are times when I do get bitter about the way people treat women, just because they’re women. Walking for ten minutes along a busy road never fails to make me furious. I’m sure most women know what I’m talking about – and anyone who’s confused can check out “My Fault I’m Female”* to bring themselves up to speed. The way women are treated is a problem – but the moment a women points that out (or, gasp, gets angry about it), they’re labelled a paranoid bitch feminist. Like if someone is a feminist they must be imagining there’s a problem. Nothing wrong with our society, nuh-uh.

So it’s time for a new word, free from all the negative connotations built up after years of angry women getting angrier because they’re not being heard. It’s time to realise that women’s rights affect everyone – not just those ‘unfortunate’ enough to have been born with a vagina. The stigmatisation and disparaging of all things feminine affects men just as much as women. Human nature isn’t as black and white as we’d often like to believe – and it certainly shouldn’t be decided and assigned depending on what parts we are born with.

And if you’re calling yourself a feminist – or, alternately, refusing to call youself a feminist – because you believe that the world could be a better place if we no longer had to fight for women’s human right to be treated equal AS A PERSON… then it just might be time to consider defecting from the wounded cause with the irreperably damaged reputation and starting anew – fresh and untainted.

* http://myfaultimfemale.wordpress.com/


Feel free to air your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below

High heels are not a choice


High heels. They’re uncomfortable – often painful – difficult to walk in, and incredibly damaging to a surprising extent of the body. Every girl knows this. But there are very few girls out there who will not reach for a pair of heels when they want to dress up.

On my commute home from work every day, I will inevitably see at least one lady tottering in her ridiculous shoes while a row of men in business attire occupy all seats available in the train carriage. “I’ve worked hard all day, I’m tired,” I imagine they’re thinking. “Why should I stand just because some girl decided to wear stupid shoes?”

But is the choice to wear uncomfortable shoes really entirely up to a woman’s own volition? High heels are so pervasive in modern society that the wearing of them is less a fashion option than a dogma which leaves women feeling like they have little other choice. When people think of an attractive, well-dressed woman, they don’t usually imagine her wearing comfy footwear. And this is a bias that women are immediately hit with upon entering a shoe shop. Overwhelmingly, the most decorative, feminine-looking footwear is equipped with a high heel. Anything that isn’t is deliberately designed to be plain, often dowdy – as though women who want to be functional must therefore have rejected any aspirations to beauty.

But, I hear you say, what about ballet flats? Certainly, the recent explosion in the popularity of ballet flats may seem to be an indication that women are increasingly rejecting the heel in favour of more functional footwear. Ballet flats are often intricately decorated, undeniably feminine, and don’t twist and strain the body as high heels do. An improvement, I will admit. Woman-kind has stood up in flat shoes and said “I don’t have to be dowdy to be casual!”. But this is honestly as far as the ballet flat goes. Flat they may certainly be, but functional they are not. The majority of ballet flats have soles so thin as to fail to provide any support for the foot.

Furthermore, the social stigma around flat shoes is such that even highly decorated ballet flats are rarely considered appropriate to replace high heeled shoes for special occasions. They may have replaced the dowdy casual shoe, but they have failed to replace the torturous high heel as an option for formal wear. A woman who wants to look like she has made an effort will inevitably find herself reaching for those heels – no matter how well her fancy, feminine ballet flats might match her dress, they invariably give others the impression that she is ‘dressing down’, and therefore not wearing appropriate attire for the occasion.

Just as heels are still considered the appropriate option for formal wear, they are also considered the most appropriate option for a woman who wants to look sexy – to impress a date, or increase her own self-confidence, perhaps. It is said that high heels visibly define the shape of a woman’s legs and buttocks – and thus increase their sex appeal. In my experience women who look amazing in heels actually look equally amazing without them, but as a society we are determined not to recognise that many women are gorgeous and sexy even without ridiculous footwear.

Of course, there are plenty of women who reject the social pressure to wear high heeled shoes, for various reasons – myself included. But there are still an overwhelming number of women who seem to feel that the social benefits of wearing high heels far outweigh any physical disadvantages. I’m not proposing we burn all high heeled shoes, but I do believe that, as a society, we need to reject the dogma of ‘beauty is pain’. Rather than women putting all of their focus into resigning themselves to suffering through this situation, we need to focus on creating more ways to combine beauty and functionality – and to hold firm to make these functional alternatives socially valid options for any situation.


How do you feel about footwear options for women? If you have any theories, opinions, or stories you’d like to share, please use the comments section below.