Monday, February 4, 2008

On painful periods and sucking it up...

I just came across an interesting post at The Curvature, on the pros and cons (but especially the pros) of the suppression of menstruation through the continuous use of birth control.

It also addresses the so-called debate about the "end" of menstruation and the myth that our monthly bleeding is a grand, spiritual, reassuring experience of female-bonding - or some hippie bullshit like that.

But what struck me the most was this comment to that post, which I thought accurately summed up the issues that most women encounter when it comes to their periods.

Before I went on continuous BCPs sometime around the late 90’s or early 00’s, my periods were consistantly so shitty that I had to take major painkillers and whatnot. Of course, in my case, it was because I have Endometriosis, and Superbad Periods are a symptom/result.

When I first started getting my period, I thought it was a tremendous pain in the ass (or uterus, as the case may be) and mentioned this to my mother. “This is annoying. At what point do you get used to this?” I asked. “I’ll let you know,” she said. “I never have.”

Frankly, the kumbaya/Have A Happy Period/women in tampax commercials prancing around in white pants approach to menstruation has always felt quite alienating to me, rather than being a source of bonding and camraderie, because it just made me feel like my superbad periods were all the more freakish.

I certainly wouldn’t want to deny a period to anyone who wants one, but at the same time, I think being a woman is about more than just whether or not you get a period every month and/or think it’s fun.

Menstruation is not exactly a spotted owl. It’s not like it’s being endangered by continuous birth control pills and must therefore be protected.

Another thing I appreciated about this comment is that it mentions endometriosis. Although it is a chronic condition that plagues approximately one woman out of ten and can ultimately cause infertility, endometriosis is rarely acknowledged or even spoken of.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that girls and women are conditioned to readily accept the idea that periods are supposed to be extremely painful and uncomfortable, or that sex is not that enjoyable after all, or simply that we really have nothing to complain of.

But why, in those modern times of wondrous medical advances, should women suffer debilitating symptoms every month? Why should women accept that their reproductive system should disturb their activities and dictate their schedule?

In my humble opinion, we should not. As a matter of fact, we women should, as a class of human beings, vindicate our right to not to be treated as cattle when it comes to our health.

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