Was it serendipity or irony? I was sitting, having a wee break at work on Wednesday, scrolling through the news of the day whilst in the grips of one of those "back ache, thigh ache, aaaaaallmost bent double from discomfort but you deal with it because you're at work and you're a professional and you've got used to working through the pain even when you don't have any Panadol" period pains, when I happened upon that little turd of a opinion piece written by some Grey Power mover and shaker called Tom O'Conner and published in the Waikato Times:
And I don't really mean 'happened upon' because, well, it spread like wildfire. You've read it. You already know that "Tom" refers to "himself" as "brave" for having the balls to speak up about men's experience of women's period pain; you know that he says things like this, "the sweet and gentle creature who promised to be a loving, lifelong companion has a personality crisis every 28 days or so and nothing in their world is right or fair" and "that gorgeous and playful kitten he fell in love with becomes a smouldering, dangerous tigress for about a week and then things return to whatever passes for normal."
But to give him credit he does say this: "To be fair, for many women their periods can be a painful, debilitating and very distressing time." Thank you Tom. Thank you so, so much for measuring the sum total of your life-long, in depth, intimate experience with periods and conceding to give us all permission to feel the pain that so frequently happens when the lining of our uterus's shed and come out of our vaginas every month. I'm glad that you've taken stock of your wealth of first hand knowledge. It's very helpful. And thank you for suggesting that we go back to the times of making our own sanitary products. Good advice, Tom. I hope you're following your own sage logic and are at home as we speak, hard at work butchering your own mutton and pork, chopping firewood and growing your "own fruit trees". Yeeeeah, I think I'd feel comfortable betting a year's wages that you're not. And finally, thank you Tom for fighting that good fight to claw back a woman's right to autonomy over her life and body.
So yes, I think fury is the only word to describe my feelings at reading this. It was a fury that started in my churning, aching belly and moved through my already sweaty and uncomfortable body, before ending in my clenched jaw and fists. The only thing that made it better was Michel A'Court's excellent response - Here let me help. Start by imagining your penis was bleeding.
And luckily, while I was stuck in the mire of Tom O'Conner's eternal stench, some colleagues reminded me of a few simple remedies to alleviate such unpleasantness. It's good for what ailes ya:
2) The Auckland Writers Fest! They have some wonderful programming and in light of the above I am most pumped to see Difficult Women: Roxane Gay and Women and Power, the latter featuring a panel discussion with Gay, Michele A'Court and Mpho Tutu van Furth (Desmond Tutu's daughter).
3) This was a colleague-recommended listen - an NPR podcast "Girls & sex" and the importance of talking to young women about pleasure featuring an interview with writer Peggy Orenstein whose latest book "Girls And Sex" has just come out:
"It looks at how pop culture and pornography affect the sexual expectations that girls put on themselves and that boys project on them. "Girls And Sex" opens with the author's confession that a few years ago, when she realized her daughter was heading towards adolescence, it put her in a bit of a panic because she'd heard so much about how girls were treated in the so called hook-up culture.
So Peggy Orenstein began interviewing girls about their attitudes, expectations and early experiences with a full range of physical intimacy."
It's just so cool when, yah know, people, like, actually talk to the people they're talking about. And like, ask them questions about the stuff they experience and stuff. What a world.
4) The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. I haven't read this but was recommended it during my O'Conner induced stupor. As the New York Times review says, it's partly a "yea-saying tale about how this comic book character, created in 1941, remade American feminism and had her roots in the ideas and activism of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood," part biography of WW's creator who was apparently a polyamorist, invented the lie-detector test, was himself a serial liar and a bondage enthusiast. Intriguing...
5) "Everything except the wings around my face is red: the colour of blood, which defines us."
(Just to round things off on a menstrual note)
Last night I watched the first episode of the Handmaid's Tale. So far it is a brilliant, brilliant adaptation of the book. Chilling and terrifying and prophetic. Like the book, it does a wonderful job of making the impossible seem not only possible, but dangerously close - the slow but steady erosion of women's rights, the gradual but relentless progression of the religious right. The show's release is truly uncanny. If you haven't watched it/read it, then you must, and if you haven't listened to Atwood's interview on Radio NZ then equally, you must.
However, it was baffling (and disappointing) to read the recent cast interview from a Tribecca film festival during which ALL of those present cast claimed that The Handmaid's Tale is not a feminist story. One said, “any story that’s just a powerful woman owning herself in any way is automatically deemed ‘feminist,’ ” and said that the show is “just a story about a woman,” not “feminist propaganda.” I mean, "feminist propaganda"? Coming from the current North American political and social context, I found this hard to stomach. If I was to distill the book's narrative I just don't think I would arrive at "it's just the story of a woman." As an antidote I read Alexandra Schwartz's piece in The New Yorker Yes, "The Handmaid's Tale" is feminist.
And now to end on a song that has BEEN.ON.REPEAT recently....lately I've been a little fed up...