Thursday, July 23, 2015

Missing: Menstrual Cycle's In Books

Some of you are probably cringing or shaking your head or something from the title of this post but it's a topic I've been thinking for a long time about writing so now I'm talking about it. So, there. 


On a regular basis, for one week a month, this is what happens to me: 
It's starts like this:
When PMSing (premenstrual syndrome usually kicks in 1-2 weeks before your period): 
 "Oh, here it comes. I can do this! I GOT THIS!"
And then BAM all of a sudden I'm all: 
And then we're back to: 
But also: 
What everyone should do during this time: 
Only to realize that I have to do this again NEXT month  

What is this catastrophe I'm describing? The menstrual cycle (or more commonly know as "period")! And you're probably wondering WHY I'm talking about this here on a mainly book blog but my friends, there is a reason for this post. I've been noticing for a while that books don't mention their female leads or characters having their periods and this baffles me! Most women get their periods (unless they're on birth control, exercise heavily on a regular basis, and a lot of other reasons--so no, I'm not trying to exclude anyone from this topic) go through a wide range of emotions during this time. The gifs above are mainly for me and my emotions but others might be able to relate. But something we've all got in common? We all get our periods! 

So why don't the women of fiction go through the same? I can understand if people don't mention it for whatever reason, but really? Why don't people talk about this topic or have their characters experience such a natural things? Periods, believe it or not, play a large part in the lives of females. Having pain killers and sanitary products on hand was always a concern of mine. I've even passed out from the extreme pain so I have to be super careful. 

Women have to worry about their cycles so that they can make sure they don't have unwanted pregnancies or plan to get pregnant. I worry about the pain and how it's going to hinder my ability to do certain tasks and I hate that more fictional women don't go through the same process. Even if they're on birth control, it still affects them to some degree. For me, it hinders my ability to concentrate or do anything but snuggle up in bed with a hot beverage and Netflix. The pain is really bad for me and pain killers don't really do all that much. Some women on birth control can have their cycles be controlled (hence the name) but that's not a route I want to take (for personal reasons I won't be discussing here). 

Honestly, I want the stigmas surrounding periods to end in all genres of books. If you're writing a contemporary or fantasy or something else, your female character(s) will should have a period (unless they won't for some person so that's different--and it's not like EVERY girl in books will have a reason to NOT get her period). But I'm going to talk about 3 stigmas surrounding periods that come to mind that could be why it's not talked about more: 

Stigma 1: Ew....this is a gross topic! No one wants to talk about it 

Maybe I'm wrong--I totally could be--but I've never seen anyone talk about periods and the lack of before in the book blogging. I once read a blog post about a prominent YouTube beauty guru who verbally (writtenly?) reiterated how "gross" or "uncomfortable" it was to talk about periods and sanitary products and such things surrounding this topic. Even now, talking about periods in front of men or younger people isn't a "good" thing. It's deemed inappropriate and people shy away from talking about it. 

Even though this affects millions and millions of females around the world, no one wants to talk about it because it's a "gross" topic. Talking about periods illicits negative stereotypes (one of which I will talk about below) or brings about discussions about other topics that people don't want to discuss. It's all just disheartening and I wish it wasn't. 

Having a menstrual cycle is a very normal thing that can be a part of a females life from age 10 to their late 40s so why is it deemed dirty or gross? Why do people cringe or shudder when the word "period" or "menstrual cycle" is brought up or when a woman isn't in a good mood. And speaking of moods, things brings me to my next stigma: 

Stigma 2: Women who get angry, upset, sad, etc. are b****** on their periods

If you're unhappy, you're on your period. If you're mad, you're on your period. Sad? Period. If you'e any other emotion bedsides happy, people assume you're on your period. Because women on periods are always, always b******! And this, my friends, is a stigma I hate. I loathe it. Abhor it. Get the picture? (HA you probably think I'm on my period now because I'm so snarky.)

Anyways, this stigma silences women who want to talk about this freely and that's not okay. Furthermore, it also shames women when they're going through something natural and makes them sound as if they're some disease no one wants to catch. Society wants women to always be the happy-go-lucky, don't-have-any-thought-opinions-feelings-that-might-make-you-feel-otherwise person that being on their period is the default. Some women I know have to fight hard to not have any change of emotions when their hormones are all over the place that they exhaust themselves from trying so hard. And why do they try so hard? Because for some women, having thoughts or opinions that call out issues or go against the norm can lead to lots of hate and instills fear in them. 

This idea that women on their periods should be shamed or hated or are hurtful or think differently is sad, demeaning, and dangerous. It's never okay to call out a women's feelings of anger, sadness, etc. as a product of being on her period. Yes, some women's emotions can be everywhere but that doesn't make them any less of a person. So lets end this stigma shall we?

**All of the gifs are used to describe MY emotions. I am in no way, shape or form attempting to reinforce this stigma!**

Stigma 3: Wait? Women's health is important? Why? 

Unless you live deep, deep, deep under a rock , you know all of the policing that happens in women's health. Old, white men try to determine what women can and can't do with their bodies all of the time and pass legislation that is more harmful than helpful. And I believe that this is one of the reasons people don't talk about periods (or write about them): women's health isn't given as much importance as it should be. Why should women be given sanitary products at affordable prices? Why should they decide what happens to their bodies? Why should they decide anything about their bodies? Why why why why why?

The answer is simply: half of this world has to deal with these problems. Half of this world needs sanitary products and the ability to reclaim their bodies as theirs. While this stigma can talk about many, many (it's sad just how many issues there are too) issues, I want to focus on periods. For example, in many part of the world, periods are deemed to be disgusting and shameful things that should be hidden from the world. In some countries, women are forbidden to go outside when on their periods and this is extremely sad. If their emotions are too volatile, abuse can be used against them to silence it. 

As another example, one closer to home, after Hurricane Katrina there was not an organization for women's health and the one organization that attempted to help women would only give a few sanitary products for an entire week. Yep, read that again if you don't believe me. Rosianna Halse Rojas made an excellent video that tackled taxing tampons (mostly about the UK but good none the less) and the inequality that comes with helping women. Women's health is important to talk about and when we begin to discuss it more, this can remove the stigma surrounding periods. 

In the end, I think it's important for fictional women in books to have periods. I wish more books talked about how having a period can affect that girl's life. For example, Kristin Cashore's FIRE is an excellent example of this! Fire is shown to be having her period and how this effects her and the world around her. So I don't spoil anything, that's all I will say but I remember reading and loving the fact that Fire had to go through having her period.

Adult books, on occasion, can be good at discussing their periods but it's not as prevalent as I'd like it to be. While I am always (ALWAYS) up for more diversity in books, I think it's also fair to ask for realistic things as well. Periods happen whether you like it or not so why don't more authors write about it? Why don't girls in high school forget a pad and have to ask their friend? Or are in so much pain that they can't save the world? It's so frustrating and annoying and ridiculous that something like this is basically non-exisent from books (and media and entertainment but those are topics for another day!)

What do you all think? Do you agree or disagree or have some other thought? Have I not read enough books to make this assumption? Do you know any books that mention periods? Lemme know please! 

Gifs: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6 | 7 | 8 |

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree! Like you said, I think the main reason why authors don't mention periods in their books is because they think they might alienate their audience (*scoffs* *rolls eyes*), but it would really make their characters more realistic. The only period reference I can think of is one scene from Throne of Glass, and I didn't have a problem with it at all!

    Annie @ Indoor Sojourner