How would the world look like if men had periods? Well… we sketch two possible scenarios. From the most obvious one (menstruation would be something to be really, really proud of) to the scariest version: the world would stop turning, because half of the population would be sick for at least 25% of their reproductive years. As in: one week every month.
1 The period champion
Yes, menstruating is quite an achievement. You have to bleed for five to seven days (and not die) and perform at the same time. So, how would the world look like if men had periods? Well… Feminist Gloria Steinem wrote a brilliant essay about this matter already in the seventies: If men could menstruate. Obviously: the world would be a very different place if men had periods. Men-struating would be a matter of prestige: the heavier, the better. Men would brag about their monthly bleeding and show off the size of their menstrual products. Tampon adverts would be fronted by celebrities as periods wouldn’t be taboo anymore. Instead, we’d celebrate them and have the Periolympics. Yes, a competition where men measure who can menstruate the most.
WaterAid based their #ifmenhadperiods campaign (2015) on this idea. Their funny videos about menstruating men in the office, on the football field and in the bathroom have a serious underlying message: raising awareness about menstrual shame and highlight that 1.25 billion women around the world do not have access to a toilet during their periods. However, they’re also recommended if you just want to have a good laugh. Same goes for another must see video; What If Men Menstruated, by Reel Grrls; finalist in the Crankyfest 2014 film festival. In this animated video, soldiers, wrestlers and other courageous men share the secret behind their extreme braveness: their menstrual cycle.
2 The period victim
Yes, menstruation can hurt. And that’s why most videos in the category ‘menstruating men’ show men with… mood swings and cramps. King in the cramp category must be the Dutch Peter de Vroed, founder of Men-struatie and an event that’s called the menstrual challenge. Dozens of Dutch celebrities already experienced ‘menstrual cramps’ with his little cramp-simulating machine, among them some famous TV-hosts and popular vloggers, like Hanwe. Mission according to De Vroed: pointing out that the menstrual cycle does affect women’s daily routines and that it’s okay to slow down during menstruation. Of course De Vroed offers options and solutions to companies and schools.
The thing is: most men* don’t have a uterus. So although a cramp-simulating machine can give an impression of what cramps can feel like, it doesn’t include the dozens of other menstrual complaints that can occur at the same time, such as bloating, sweating, fatigue and experiencing all sorts off mood swings. So what do men really know about menstruating? What happens exactly during a period, for example? Which products are available to absorb the menstrual flow and how to use them? What causes period pain? You probably think these are simple questions.
For most men – espacially the men in the BuzzFeed video Men Attempted To Explain How Periods Work – all this is pretty difficult stuff. Like the video title says: they TRY to explain it. Although it mostly leads to new questions. ‘How much blood is lost during a period? I hope it’s just a few drops?! What? Really? How many times a day does that happen? What, it just keeps coming out? Oh, Hell No!’ The outcome from another experiment – Gay Men Explain Tampons – is even worse. ‘So this goes into your vagina?’
BuzzFeed also asked a few men to draw what they think period pain feels like. They did this with great confidence, we must say. ‘I have three sisters, and a mum, and a girlfriend. And I had a female dog growing up. So I know what I’m doing.’ Although the subject was depicted in different ways (a fist squeezing your uterus, a machine gun shooting bullets of pain), the guys all had one thing in common: they used the colour red for their sketches. A lot.
Binge eating, screaming and shouting at the people you love, struggles with products, crying your heart out for no reason or during movies like Titanic: it’s a theme in dozens and dozens of (sponsored) videos, vlogs and new generation commercials. Not nagging, just bragging: but al the moaning men in those video’s give a great impression of what the world would look like, if men had periods. Something to think about: most off the video’s – and also most tampon and pad commercials – are created by non-menstruating men. Oh wait, there’s a parody about that too, by commedy group Hammerkatz.
* Some men do have a uterus. And therefore they menstruate. Take The Period Prince Cass Bliss, creator of Toni the Tampon. In a music video he explains the challenges of an average trans man, menstruating in a public bathroom. #Bleedingwhiletrans. That’s double brave.