Janet Lee’s argument, echoed by Gloria Steinem, is that menarche has been framed in a way that makes girls feel disconnected from and ashamed of their bodies. In our patriarchal system, the authors argue, a woman’s first period represents her transition into a sexual object and to be set apart from men as the Other. I argue that women feel unclean on their period not solely because of these reasons, but possibly also because it is a strange and slightly gross phenomenon.
Blood anywhere is gross to me, but unexpected and uncontrollable blood is even more unnerving. I do not hide that I am on my period because of shame, but I also don’t like to talk about it because the thought of all of the blood causes me, and I am sure others, to lose my appetite. Besides the blood, there’s also bloating, mood swings, and increased irritability that I enjoy each month. If men were to have periods as Steinem proposes, they may reframe bleeding, but it would be hard to reframe the bloat and the tears.
However, the one unexplainable thing that supports the authors’ argument is women’s shame in purchasing tampons and sanitary pads. Some of my friends are reluctant to purchase these things if they are at the store with their fathers, or feel uncomfortable if their fathers purchase tampons for them. There are four women in my family, so my father has gotten pretty used to tampons, but it’s still awkward for me to discuss with him. I feel that this uncomfortability could be because menarche shows fertility and sexuality, as Lee proposes, but also may be because a period is something that, as I said before, is gross, and I cannot share with my father.