This Metaphorical Bar ep. 12: Menstruation (Part Two)

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Note: 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.

Note: This is the second in a series about writing menstruation. The first episode ended with talk about “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas, and how a perfectly appropriate response to bullying is to eat them.

Note: There are some personal details about how each host experiences menstruation that may be considered TMI.

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

  • Examples of menstruation written well
    • “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas
    • Writers of Clueless
    • Alex quartet by Tessa Duder 
    • Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
    • Sweet Valley Twins #42: Jessica’s Secret by Francine Pascal (ghostwriters: Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant)
  • Things to know about menstruation
    • Stress, hard athletic training, weight changes, etc. can stop periods from happening
    • Always wash blood in cold water first
    • Periods are not always reliable — not on time, don’t always happen even once the person has hit puberty, etc.
    • Not everyone can use every type of supply — example, neither Robyn nor Carla can use tampons, Karen can’t use pads
    • It is not uncommon for people who use tampons to accidentally put two in at the same time (one’s in and they add another without realizing it — Robyn and Carla were shocked and horrified by this)
    • Flushing tampons is a bad idea, it can block pipes — the cotton part is flushable, but can still cause damage
    • Disposable tampons and pads are pretty environmentally terrible
    • Some people have loads of bloody laundry every cycle
    • Generally people figure out their spillage patterns, where they’re likely to spill out of whatever supplies they’re using
  • Werewolves can be a metaphor for puberty, particularly in girls
    • Werewolves as horror often has a male werewolf being a tragic figure who is out of control, but a female werewolf is a sexual threat, a sexual aggressor
      • Buffy – Oz is tragic, Veruca is a sexual predator
    • Women are monstrous, men are tragic
      • Suddenly boys are overwhelmed with hormones and they can’t control what they do and they might tear you apart but werewolves will be werewolves.
    • Boobs deals with some of this, too, because the main character is a predator and does monstrous things, but is not a sexual predator
  • Turns up in YA because it is a liminal period of growing to adulthood — also shows up in romance because it not showing up is a regular plot about potential pregnancy
    • There is a debate about menstruation in the Regency period and whether or not women in the UK were aware of the connection between periods and pregnancy and/or whether they even had periods often enough to be aware of them
    • Robyn went down this rabbit hole of research for a writing project under her secret pseud — in her project, she decided that the character understood conception because she’d seen it in farm animals and her family has had babies, but she’s not fully apprised of the body parts involved and their names and functions
      • But did not mention menstruation. May bring it up in the sequel.
  • Karen had a missed opportunity, too, because she didn’t mention it in any of her books
    • Most of them only took place over a week or so, and menstruation might not have happened in that time
    • HOWEVER, While We Run takes place over several months and would have been a great place to talk about menstruation in the future and the technology of it
  • Period poverty: people can’t afford access to menstruation supplies. Example is that in New Zealand, students stay home from school because they can’t afford enough supplies to get them through their period. There are attempts to address this by providing more affordable supplies.
  • Some options for menstruation supplies
    • disposable tampons
    • disposable pads
    • reusable cups
    • period underwear
    • reusable pads

Things Mentioned in the Episode

Find Us Online

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

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