Apparently, it’s been a surprising revelation for some people in my life. Well, no, who were previously in my life. I don’t take kindly to women-oriented issues of concern being ridiculed, and stood up for that recently. As a result I lost what I thought was a friend.
It stung at the time, but then I went back to the moment where ridicule over women not having access to female hygiene products became a joke to them and I wondered... if I was in that unfortunate position, how would I feel about someone making a joke out of it?
As it turns out, the anger I felt was legitimate, but I never once lashed out angrily at them. I was firm, I was forthright but I was never uncouth or unkind. I don’t think I lost a friend anymore – instead, I know I gained some perspective, and my life is a little lighter now.
I’m almost certain too, that the level of mansplaining that was leveled at me during the interactions – think “But I was raised by strong women!” and “Can’t you take a joke?” – is indicative of the way many people feel about issues that make them uncomfortable.
Sure, talking about menstruation on a public platform may make YOU uncomfortable, but that’s not something I care about when a large majority of women who, you know, actually menstruate, won’t ever speak about it because they’ve been taught that it’s a ‘shameful’ experience. Moreover, when we have a very real issue in our country and across the globe, that sees menstruating women and girls either missing school, or endangering their lives by being more prone to serious infections, because they cannot access the necessary products to help them through their time of the month... I’m not going to keep quiet.
Losing a friend hasn’t made me shut up, though. In fact, it’s made me even more determined to speak up, and be upfront about the issues that are, so often, ignored or swept under a rug that’s appliqued with charming phrases like “it’s not ladylike to talk about this”.
And, before you accuse me of being some raving loon who has lit her tampon on fire, I’m going to remind you that – spoiler alert – women’s issues are in many ways men’s issues too. Ring-fencing them by gender doesn’t sit well with me, but that’s the way the system works right now, so I’ll use the terms.
It's simple science really: not being able to access the necessary items when menstruating, affects a woman’s ability to attend school and go to work. Moreover, if schoolgirls’ education is affected, we end up with fewer people educated, more people living in poverty and hey, a country with a high level of poverty isn’t exactly flourishing. Your taxes will be needed to support people in poverty, and – oh dear – men and women pay tax. More educated people, fewer people living in poverty and a better-educated populace is what we all really want anyway, right?
So do you see…when I talk about ‘women’s issues”, I’m actually talking about “men’s issues” too, and they all turn out to be “human issues”. Think about that next time you decide to joke about sanitary pads.