What on earth was free-bleeding? That was my initial reaction when for the first time I heard of the growing movement of women who had abandoned tampons, pads, and other material potentially harmful to their lady parts, all in a determined effort to “tame” their monthly flow. I am always taken aback when confronted by more proof of how little we know about our bodies, and the related myths, often perpetuated by women themselves. At first sign of the smallest change in our body functions we run off to Google. Or we ask friends and compare notes.
Even less do we understand the differences in other women’s bodies. We know we’re not all the same, yes, but have not the smallest clue of the massive scope of these variances. Case in point: how many ladies know and understand the difference between the vagina and the vulva (internal, and external)? If there was any understanding in that regard, then for sure there would be little to no shaming over the size and shape, and otherwise beautifully unique appearances and capabilities of what may well be the most misunderstood area of the female anatomy.
During a recent conversation with a male friend I couldn’t help but marvel about the male perception of vaginas and periods. On the recalled occasion he had relayed to me a message from his male roommate that I should desist from disposing of personal items in their shared precious washroom. Of course there was no other place save the kitchen, unless I was expected to place the offending item in my bag and take it home with me. Confusion does not begin to describe what I felt, so of course I questioned my friend. He explained simply that his roommate had brought what I had done to his attention. I asked about the specifics of the interaction: it turned out two grown men had stood over a waste-disposal bin speculating over what they imagined was a sanitary napkin among the trash.
“I told him it wasn’t,” my friend assured me, “that it was probably one of those face wipes you use to take off your makeup.”
“And so what if it had been a sanitary napkin?” I fumed. “What do you expect? I’m a woman and things happen . . .”
“Well, I guess he felt he had to say something,” said my friend under his breath.
At that point I walked away to reevaluate the situation. I was, after all, in someone else’s space. I had thrown away trash, not of the period variety. The mere thought that it might have been had turned out to be reason enough for two adult men to convene an emergency meeting. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I recalled a conversation with a girlfriend who lived in joint dwelling with roommates she didn’t know particularly well. They shared a bathroom and complained frequently about how the other woman would toss her used pads into the bin, altogether ignoring the “roll, wrap, and place” rule.
But with my earlier-mentioned male friend that wasn’t the issue here. There was no bloody item casually disposed of, just an imagined affront to their manhood. How was it possible that in 2017 men still didn’t understand, and were even disgusted at the thought that a woman would dare to have a period, and dispose of a pad, tampon, or whatever it was in their bathroom? While we’re at it, I’m forced to question the way we women have been conditioned to use euphemisms to make ourselves, but particularly men, more comfortable with the fact that all women bleed every month. Why did those two private investigators not consider a period a normal bodily function, and why had their reaction been so, well, juvenile?
You can bet money that I bombarded my friend with all several questions, until he waved his white flag and admitted that I’d made my point. If you didn’t understand free-bleeding before, then perhaps today you do. Maybe today will be the day you stand up for other women being shamed by men just because they’re women. Sister, maybe today will be the day that you stand up for yourself!