Why Are Period Jokes Okay But Period Talk Not?

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*Image courtesy Simon Howden on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was in college, a guy leaned in and asked me,

“Why was there blood on the dance floor?”

These were the late 90s, Micheal Jackson was still alive, already white and not yet branded a pedophile. I shrugged. I had not understood the song anyway.

“Because Susie had her period!”

he guffawed as the boys around him erupted laughing. I frowned. I still don’t get it. The song and the joke.

If the idiot had any sense, he’d know that Susie would know to wear a tampon or a sanitary pad during her period. Even if by some miracle, she forgot to wear panties (no woman does that outside of porn films), the blood would not gush out of her and land on the floor in a  puddle. It would cake around her groin, with a trickle or two lining the insides of her thighs. I very much doubt it would even get as far as her knee before it congealed and dried up. It’s menstrual blood after all, not red wine. But how would he know? He was a man. What did he know about menstruation, after all?

I once had an argument with a friend over this. He thought joking about things made it possible for people to not take them so seriously. I see where that might make sense in some things. But not here. Most men are terribly uncomfortable with the notion of menstruation. This discomfort is indulged by a society that makes it okay to not talk about it and silences girls and women about a natural, bodily process. Making a joke of it, especially in an information-deprived environment actually propagates wrong notions. It also increases the shame factor that keeps the silent zone in place.

I think the heavy silence that lies around menstruation is dangerous. It gives men (and women) all kinds of wrong notions. I know men who think that having sex with a menstruating woman will kill her. I know women who use iPill as a regular contraceptive and I fear that one day they will bleed to death. (iPill is an emergency contraceptive that basically induces the period. Having a period more often than normal is not normal or good for the body.) I know men and women who think that painkillers can ‘solve’ the period. And I know men and women who think that contraceptives will ruin a woman’s child-bearing capacity.

Periods suck. They’re awful. I hate having them. Why should I not be allowed to rant about them? Why must I not be able to expect sympathy for strong nausea, blinding headaches, backache, stomach cramps and aching joints (on account of weakness due to blood loss, the doctor says)? Everyone gets sympathy when they face any one of these, don’t they? Why, when I have to have all of these together am I not accorded the same, just because it’s on account of my period? Never mind getting a day off to rest. The only people who will grant me that will also treat me as an untouchable, not allow me to pass by places of worship and create a huge hullabaloo if I reach for a bottle of pickles. Yes, this happens, even in 2014 Mumbai. It happens to me.

You know what talking about the above gets me? PMS jokes (which are period jokes in douchebag clothing, pun entirely unintended). I think PMS jokes are even more offensive. They don’t just spread ignorance like period jokes do. They also actively propogate demeaning women for natural body functions. They reaffirm the idea of women as shrieking banshees incapable of logic, sense or responsibility.

I have no problem with humour. But humour is only really funny when everyone (and not just the the person who makes the joke) gets that it is not serious. In the Susie joke, I think a lot of my classmates actually believed that a woman dancing during her period might leave puddles of blood behind on the floor. Think about what their attitudes would be towards the women in their life undertaking physical exertion during their periods?

So yes, we need to be able to talk about periods. What about period jokes? I’ll say they are okay the day it is permissible to sit around talking about menstruation as normally as we discuss Arnab Goswami and the next Salman Khan movie.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Update: I challenge every man reading this post, to go through this list. It’s creatively designed as a humour/horror quiz but is closer to the truth than most factual articles I’ve read. Go on, I dare you to read it through to the end.

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About IdeaSmith

IdeaSmith is the digital doppelganger of Ramya Pandyan (intrepid train-traveller and frequent spouter of post-midnight rhymes and rants). As IdeaSmith she battles obscurity and slays boredom with her stories about men, books, digitalia and Mumbai. She performs live and also blogs, tweets, Instagrams, Facebooks, +G’s, Youtubes and Goodreads all as IdeaSmith. Ramya is a blogger, digital storyteller and spoken word performer. She also runs a forum for aspiring writers called Alphabet Sambar. Tweet-bomb her at @ideasmithy.

Posted on March 19, 2014, in Being Woman, Health, Hormone hangover, Seriously speaking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Very well written Madam.
    Being a guy, I apologise for that clown who made that joke ( which I agree wasn’t even funny. It reminded me of the cliche melody/chocolatey tag ad.)
    Yes, I agree with you that this pseudo taboo should be taken off. Talk about your period/your side effects. I listen to my female friends telling about it. I empathise and also offer to help by probably getting a painkiller if it helps.

    Understanding women is something we men should start doing. I do. I encourage my male friends to do so. Hope the others follow suit…

    Lovely piece of work. Do keep writing. Will follow your blog.

    • @P.P.: Hi, I was on your blog just now! Thank you for reading and for your support. It makes for an encouraging change from men who want women like me to shut up and be Barbie dolls/cooks.

  2. This is a good one by IdeaSmith – she does not mince words on social attitudes is refreshing. As a male, I cannot really relate to this – I would be stupid to say something like “I understand” – no I cannot, its biologically impossible.

    But what I can understand and possibly do something about are silly jokes, wrong information about menstruation and overall a paternalistic attittude towards women, us men show.

    Such clowns (borrowing from another comment up here ) can be told off and hopefully educated with more men like me telling them off – and not supporting their stereotypes by guffawing at the next male chauvinistic joke.

    • @Aditya Kane: Thank you for commenting! A lot of these men don’t take a woman protesting, seriously. But they might pay heed to another man’s words.

  3. Men who are fitness professionals are comfortable talking about periods because they hear questions about them all the time. This goes for swimming instructors too(those usually trained by international professionals).Questions like can i workout when i have my periods?can i swim when i have my periods?

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