I am feeling militant this week. Positively militant.
I was amazed to see what an absolute circus the media is making of this female British tennis player, Heather Watson, who when interviewed about why she got knocked out at the Australian Open, confessed that she had had her period and had not been at the top of her game.
This has been discussed on Women’s Hour. It has been splashed all over the newspapers. You would think she said: ‘I didn’t have such a good game because, well, I was actually pod snatched by aliens, and Tralfalmadorians don’t know how to play tennis.’ Mentioning her period, which she only did euphemistically by the way, has been called ‘The last taboo in sport.’
WTF? She’s not a cannibal. She hasn’t had sex with a horse, or a toddler. It’s hardly a taboo.
The articles have led to some delightful people claiming that this is proof that a) women should not be allowed to play sport any more, b) all women are somehow rubbish because they have periods, and should not be allowed to play any sports at all anyway, and we were prepared to ignore it as long as you didn’t talk about it, but now the jig’s up, c) women should put up and shut up because it’s a great honour that men have allowed them to play sport and they can’t expect special treatment and d) We have to stop all this at once because periods are frankly disgusting and nobody wants to know about them.
She didn’t ask for special treatment. She was asked why she got knocked out of a game in which she felt so unwell a medic had to be called onto the court to see to her and then she lost the game. She didn’t demand a re-match. She didn’t say it was unfair. She was merely answering a question that had been put to her.
You know what? Women bleed once every 28 days for 7 days (or more, if they’re really blessed), and they all do it (mostly), and guess what? It’s absolutely fine, because that’s what women were designed to do, biologically speaking, and there’s no point getting squeamish about it. If women want to talk about it, that’s absolutely fine too, because why the hell shouldn’t they talk about something which is such a major part of who they are and the life they lead? If women didn’t bleed, you wouldn’t be here. Get over yourselves, why don’t you?
Women make up just over 50% of the world’s population. Creating a public world where people are unable to acknowledge something that half the population do roughly twelve times a year is insane. Pretending it doesn’t happen is a bit like trying not to acknowledge public transport, or the fact that the sun rises every day.
Sometimes, when women bleed, it really fucking hurts. Not just a little bit. Quite a lot. Along with the fact that you can bleed so much you have to change your bedclothes and your actual clothes several times a day, you can also be prone to fainting, dizzy spells, vomiting, extreme cramping, raging sweats, feeling totally drained and exhausted, migraines, extreme mood swings, bloating, back ache, extreme sensitivity to alcohol, changes in how your taste buds work, your boobs feeling like someone has artificially inflated them and then used them as a punching bag and a whole host of other delightful symptoms. EVERY MONTH.
Sometimes this joyous odyssey starts the week before your period. Sometimes you get strange hangover symptoms after your period. For some people, expecting, having and then getting rid of your period can take up to three weeks out of every month. THREE WEEKS. Sometimes you can be absolutely knocked flat by a period. Other months you don’t even know you’re having it. It can be hard to predict how you’re going to feel and how it’s going to affect you, but affect you it does. But apparently, women are not supposed to mention any of this in case someone finds it troubling, or distasteful.
Frankly, I think women are super heroes for doing anything other than dragging themselves out of bed, drinking gin and eating biscuits when they have a period.
And despite all of these things, most women are able and willing to get on with their every day lives, rarely take sick days, and do everything that men do without making much fuss. But if they want to make a fuss, or even just talk about what they are going through, I think they have bloody well earned the right.
What I am about to say is a bit of a hoary old chestnut, but it is absolutely true, nonetheless. If men had periods, the world would be a very different place indeed. The world of professional sport in particular would be radically changed, I am sure. I am thinking here of the amount of fuss professional footballers make when they are knocked over or hit during a game. The writhing around, the agony, the stretchers and teams of medics, all for a poorly leg. Crikey. If they had to play while they were on their period we would have to build hospitals outside every major football stadium in the country, and waiting times would be eternal.
I am so grateful (not) to the Saudi Arabians who have said that they are going to try to bid to host the next Olympics, but that they can only do that if a neighbouring state is available to host the women sportspeople, because watching sweaty women running around an athletics track in a singlet and nylon shorts is far too arousing for the entire population of Saudi Arabian men, and could lead to the breakdown of society as we know it.
The author of the Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough died yesterday. Her obituary in The Australian, has caused outrage because it starts by saying:
“COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best-selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”
It then goes on to say that she made a mean beef stroganoff.
Phew. That’s alright then.
Let’s just sideline the fact that she studied at Yale university. We won’t worry about the fact that she was a neurophysicist as well as an internationally renowned author. As long as she could cook and her wit made up for her plain looks we can all relax.
FUCK RIGHT OFF.
There is a major ruckus going on this week about the announcement that a new version of Ghostbusters is to be made this summer, and all the major parts in it will be played by women.
Now I am troubled by the remake. Not because it’s got women in it, but because I don’t see the point of remaking films that were fantastic in the first place, but this stuff happens, and nobody batted an eyelid when they chose to remake Spiderman for the seventeenth time. After all, Spiderman was still a man, right?
Ernie Hudson, one of the original cast members has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t think that the new casting is a good idea, and that the only thing that might redeem the film is if the women are funny enough or sexy enough for us to forget that they are not men.
Good point, Ernie. After all, as long as they’re funny or sexy it won’t matter if like poor Colleen, they’re as plain as a pike staff, or that they have vaginas, which as we know are quite worrying.
Heaven forbid that they might be good enough to make this film because they can act.
FUCK THE HOLY FUCK RIGHT FUCKING OFF.
But, don’t worry, because, as one of my white, middle class men friends said to me the other day. ‘I really don’t know what all the fuss is about. I don’t see any discrimination any more. I mean, we live in the modern world now. Right?’
Women should not have to be ‘allowed’ to play sport by men. Women should not have to hide who they are or what they do or how they live just so that you can go about your daily business pretending that you were discovered under a gooseberry bush by the king of the fairies. We should not have to tacitly propagate the myth that every woman’s vagina looks like Barbie’s, all smooth and laminated and trouble free, so that you don’t get upset.
Women should not have to play sport in another country so you don’t get an uncomfortable hard on you don’t know what to do with, or which you might use as an excuse to go and rape someone because, well, you know, women ask for these things, right? Because let’s face it, any woman who isn’t shrouded from head to toe in dust sheets is a come on, even if they are plain, because you know, breasts and vaginas and everything.
Women should not have to justify their place in the public sphere by reminding us that it’s ok that they can do all these things because they can still cook, or clean or look sexy or be funny. Nor should they have to apologise for their talents if they are plain or fat or thin or hairy or smooth or anything, because talents are talents and are not gendered, and women being able to write or read or act or paint or build nuclear reactors is not something we should have to apologise for or justify, or excuse anyway. And if we can do those things, and we can, and sometimes we have our period and want to mention it? So what?
SO FUCKING WHAT?