‘If men could menstruate, they would of course show off about how long and how much’. Author, activist and feminist Gloria Steinem wrote in 1978 a hilarious essay about a world in which certain roles were reversed: If Men Could Menstruate.
So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event: men would brag about how long and how much.
Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day.
To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of such commercial brands as Paul Newman Tampons, Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads, John Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields- ‘For Those Light Bachelor Days.’
Statistical surveys would show that men did better in sports and won more Olympic medals during their periods.
Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (‘men-struation’) as proof that only men could serve God and country in combat (‘You have to give blood to take blood’), occupy high political office (‘Can women be properly fierce without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?’), be priests, ministers, God Himself (‘He gave this blood for our sins’), or rabbis (‘Without a monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean’).
Male liberals and radicals, however, would insist that women are equal, just different; and that any woman could join their ranks if only she were willing to recognize the primacy of menstrual rights (‘Everything else is a single issue’) or self-inflict a major wound every month (‘You must give blood for the revolution’).
Street guys would invent slang (‘He’s a three-pad man’) and ‘give fives’ on the corner with some exchenge like, ‘Man you lookin’ good!’
‘Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!’
TV shows would treat the subject openly. (Happy Days: Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still The Fonz, though he has missed two periods in a row. Hill Street Blues: The whole precinct hits the same cycle.) So would newspapers. (Summer Shark Scare Threatens Menstruating Men. Judge Cites Monthlies In Pardoning Rapist.) And so would movies. (Newman and Redford in Blood Brothers!)
Men would convince women that sex was more pleasurable at ‘that time of the month.’ Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself, though all they needed was a good menstruating man.
Medical schools would limit women’s entry (‘they might faint at the sight of blood’).
Of course, intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguements. Without the biological gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets, how could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics– or the ability to measure anything at all? In philosophy and religion, how could women compensate for being disconnected from the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death and resurrection every month?
Menopause would be celebrated as a positive event, the symbol that men had accumulated enough years of cyclical wisdom to need no more.
Liberal males in every field would try to be kind. The fact that ‘these people’ have no gift for measuring life, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.
Please visit gloriasteinem.com
More historical quotes?
Or check out some personal submissions:
A very public menstrual leak, by Sarah Sahagian
Dear Period, by Yayeri van Baarsen
Period changes and chemotherapy, by Cruz Santana
The not so divine secrets of the Bullwinkle Sisterhood, by Mary Novaria
A time for celebration, by Robyn Jones
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