This Metaphorical Bar ep. 11: Menstruation (Part One)

Production notes: Still a faint echo sometimes when Robyn is speaking. Working on it, but we had recorded through the next few episodes before we knew about it.

Notes: We’re talking about menstruation over the next couple of episodes; we try to use gender-neutral language because not all women menstruate and people who menstruate are not all women. We apologize for moments when we mess that up.

This is the episode that we had to record a second time and the conversation went even longer than normal, so this will be split into multiple episodes.

Who We Are

I’m Robyn Fleming, a parent and writer in Tucson, Arizona. I got my first period on my twelfth birthday. Which was also the day I got my ears pierced. It was a pretty eventful birthday.

I’m Carla M. Lee, an author, artist, and attorney living in the Midwest USA, I don’t remember when I got my first period, so instead I’ll tell you that I have a scar on my face sort of shaped like North and South America.

I’m Karen Healey, an author and teacher living in Otautahi New Zealand, and my mother said “Congratulations!” in a way that was cool but also she looked DEEPLY FEARFUL about the fact that her oldest child was now official maturing.

What We’re Drinking

Carla: unsweet iced tea in a festive red solo cup

Robyn: Mountain Dew holiday limited edition: Merry Mashup

Karen: Starbucks pumpkin spice latte from a sachet

Episode Summary

Topic: Menstruation

  • Should we write about menstruation? Is it like characters going to the bathroom or every meal they eat? Do we write about it, do we need to describe it?
    • Yes, sometimes. For example, young adult and romance are two genres where it is important, but it’s rare to see it.
    • YA you only really see it when it’s a coming of age specifically about puberty/menstruation or a kink in romance, e.g., with vampires.
    • Want to see the normalization of menstruation across different types of stories.
    • Can use it while writing characters and stories who are very grounded in the physical, in their bodies.
    • Don’t have to make it a big deal, it’s just something that happens because it is something that just happens to a lot of people.
  • Normalizing it is important because it is still seen as something that needs to happen in private and with a great deal of shame.
    • Writing about it demystifies it and pushes back against the myths and strange ideas about menstruation.
  • Not all stories that contain menstruation need to be about menstruation, but the stories about menstruation and puberty are important, too.
  • One weird use of it is in action stories where e.g. a female spy pretends to be on her period so she can send her kidnappers out to get supplies because pads terrifying them even though they’re fine with murdering people.
    • In many parts of the USA, at least, it really is still taboo for cis straight men especially to go buy menstruation supplies for their partners. And the ones who do are lauded for it as if it’s an amazing thing, but no, it’s just household supplies. You find out what they need and you buy it as a part of household supplies.
      • The wide variety of brands and styles, etc., can be confusing, though.
    • Fear comes from a lot of places: fear of closeness to feminity, fear of blood, fear of “dirty” blood, menstruation needs to be private because it’s gross, fear of the process of pregnancy, women should be pregnant but don’t think about the biological process of it
  • Menstruation can happen differently for everyone
    • Talk to people who menstruate (without being creepy about it)
    • Be careful of the stereotypes you tie into — all periods last the same length, all periods are tied to the full moon, all people who live in the same space will sync up
    • Know that weird things can happen, e.g., travel can kick off menstruation outside of that person’s normal period schedule
      • And not every menstruation is regular, period. (HA.)
      • Apps can help with tracking but obviously this is not useful for everyone
  • Menstruation and werewolves
    • Meme: it makes no sense for werewolves to not know that they’re going to turn into a werewolf with the full moon, it comes around once a month. People who menstruate: This is exactly what happens with my period.
    • Carla is less sympathetic with werewolves because, you know, full moons are on the damn calendar. (Carla has a very sporadic period.)
    • Lycanthropy is often used as a metaphor for adolescence in general, but especially for girls.
    • Boobs by Suzy McKee Charnas is a short horror story about a girl who matures ahead of the rest of her class, gets teased for it, and just when it seems like she’ll get her period for the first time, she becomes a werewolf and starts eating people.
      • Best response to everything. Eat the bullies.

Things Mentioned in the Episode

Find Us Online

Carla: @carlamlee on TwitterTumblrInstagram
Karen: @kehealey on Twitter, @karenhealey on Tumblr, and
Robyn: @robyn_writing on Twitter

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