“Manstruation” and the Abject Object

Manstruation
Defined for me by a young Australian man (via the magic of talkback radio) as ‘just having a really shitty week’. As the conversation between the radio host and the gentleman in question unfolded, I learned that he and his friend had coined the term for their own usage after having an unusually and arbitrarily crap week. Generally speaking, the dialogue addressed the appropriate treatment of the symptoms: consumption of ice-cream, intense couch-time, copious amount of sympathy and a dash of self-pity.

I have to admit I was charmed. From a semantic perspective, the transfer of meaning (from ‘menstruation’, obviously) seemed to center around a sense of vulnerability as a reaction to extraneous circumstances. Basically, feeling like shit because the universe dicked you.
I enjoy the idea that these young guys perceived monthly bouts of emotional fuckery as both something beyond the control of their lady compatriots, and something they could share in. It made me feel a little better than I usually do about Boys And The Periods, which is pretty fucking terrible.

Cloth Menstrual Pads, now in Space Cadet!

I read something once when researching a paper about menstrual fluid being constructed socially as the most abject of all the body fluids. It provided many examples of how bleeding ladies are ostracised in certain cultural and religious practices (and a few where they were revered or sanctified) and argued fairly convincingly that western culture tends to group ‘dirty’ fluids (faeces, urine, menstrual blood) in opposition to ‘clean’ fluids (semen, non-menstrual blood).
The main contention of this author was that menstrual blood was abjectified, partly because of its ties to childbirth (and the Original Sin etc) and partly because, well, it comes from the va jay jay.

I would love to say that I don’t agree with the above, but the truth is that I tire of the squickiness surrounding periods. Luckily for me, I have always found myself in relationship where my partner’s reaction has been at worst ‘I am a little unsure of how this operates, but I believe I should fetch you a hot water bottle?’ and at best ‘I’ll just put down a towel’.
Outside of my personal relationships however, I frequently perceive a weirdness towards, even a fear of menstrual blood, And not just from dudes.
It makes me sad to hear fellow ladies who are ‘like, so totally grossed out’ by the fact that they bleed from the vagina. I mean, it’s not like I want to sweeten my tea with the stuff, but it’s just blood, right?

Unless you’re in the business of advertising feminine hygiene products, in which case, it is actually a thin blue liquid.
I don’t know how it works in other countries, but here in Australia, menstrual blood is apparently too indelicate a visual for the general public, so things like magic-anti-leakage-troughs and what not are demonstrated with what I would guess to be Listerine.

As a result, we’ve all heard one or more stories about a young girl who has Freaked the Fuck Out because she is bleeding ACTUAL BLOOD of the red variety OUT OF HER VAGINA.

So I guess that’s why I was so charmed by these lads and their Manstruation. It was just so nice to hear people talk about it (on National Radio even) without a trace of squick or mystification.

BONUS ROUND: I made a list of fun ways to refer to your ‘time of the month,’ using only my eyes and our friend The Internetz.

  • The Great Ovary Revolt
  • Bleeding out of my Goddamned Vagina (straight to the point)
  • Surfing the Crimson Wave (I heart Clueless so much)
  • Trolling for Vampires
  • Panty Shields up, Captain!
  • Expelling my Hysteria (particularly amusing if you are aware of the etymology of ‘hysteria’: from the Greek ‘of the womb’, suffering of the womb’).
  • The Tears of a Disappointed Uterus
  • There are Communists in the Funhouse (definitely my favourite)

I also found some really awful ones that you should never, ever use unless you are terribly skilled with irony:

  • The Curse
  • Using Man-Hole covers
  • Sick with Girl Flu
  • Broken

 

Pearls, Pinatas and Gotham City between your thies.

Sometimes I shop compulsively to make myself feel better. Mostly I do it online. Not infrequently, I will spend actual hours of my life browsing etsy, ebay and various other institutions of goodness, make twenty or thirty bookmarks and buy nothing.
And it does make me feel better.

I could probably write a thousand words fairly comfortably about the seamless integration of consumerism into the daily activities of our lives, the veritable avalanche of advertising that constantly immerses individuals living in wealthy western countries, the dire repercussions of all of the above (not least the commodification of human bodies).

But instead, here is a list of lady-parts themed jewelryand accessories:

This pendant is awkwardly named Pink Taco by the vendor. I enjoy it’s subtlety, but would enjoy it more if it were named Pearls of Wisdom. Beacuse puns are for winners.

Vagina Dentata: Latin for the Toothed Vagina. Used in many a folk tale to dissuade young lad from devious sluttery. Also widely accepted as a symbol for men’s fear of castration during intercourse. Subject of an incredibly awkard horror-comedy called Teeth. Or, your new, awesome necklace. I really want one of these mounted on my wall in it’s little coffin (IT COMES IN A COFFIN), and I salute the lady who would wear this in public.

Is it a tulip? Is it a semi-melted bell? No! It’s a solid silver vulva, just for you.

Less subtle. But still awesome.

I feel that a $23,000, 18k gold vulva inset with yellow sapphires, diamonds and a big ol’ garnet is an appropriate gift for next mother’s day. It says: I am very rich, and I love you for stretching your vagina to a frankly ridiculous amount in order to bring me into this world. Here is a new one.

No one who hasn’t stuck there face in one with the lights on will ever know.

I feel this ring is the perfect amount of ‘that’s a cool ring, it looks sort of like….um, is that meant to be…oh.’

A belt buckle! It’s a generous lady who wears the vulva belt buckle. One on the inside for me, one on the outside for everyone else!

I must admit I am a little bit obsessed with this store. All the of the vegan lip balms come in these charming tins with explicit body parts on them, and they have special items for members of ‘The Order of the Clitorati’.

Yes! Yes you are looking at BATMAN PADS! Ok, so they don’t have the actual batman logo on them, who cares when YOU HAVE GOTHAM CITY BETWEEN YOUR THIES. I actually don’t know how I feel about re-usable menstrual products. I like that they are recyclable, and economical and come in amazing patterns. I enjoy that the philosophy of people who sell them is interested in dismantling the negative stigma surrounding the whole menstrual process. These are good things all. What I don’t understand is what you are supposed to do with the used pad when you cannot immediately wash it in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Same goes for the Moon Cup. Am I missing something?

House of Chicks. They make giant (and miniature) vulva plushies. They are allegedly puppets, but I don’t understand how that works so I call them plushies. Their website address bar reads ‘Vulva University’, which makes me happy.

UTERUS PINATA!!!
As the vendor so eloquently explains: ‘Because every now and again you have a period that deserves a freaking fiesta.’
Perhaps you have just had your first period, perhaps you have just had extreme uterine surgery and have officially entered your recovery phase. Perhaps you are menopausal and will never have another period again! Celebrate by attacking this pretty pink uterus with big sticks and then enjoy the Hershey’s Kisses, Bliss dark chocolates and Kotex colourful tampons inside!