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The M Scale Black Mark

Gender neutral menstruation

May 17, 2023
Why womanhood and menstruation need to break up

Let me start by saying this: I am not a scientist. I am not a social historian or academic researcher. I am not even a writer. What I am, is a woman heading a social movement start-up with my own ingrained biases and beliefs from a lifetime of social conditioning. It is from this angle that I address this topic. So, bear with me.

A few months ago, whilst gathering initial research for The M Scale, I sent out a google form. It was pretty basic and was designed to understand the problem I am trying to solve – whether women felt they were adequately provided for when menstruating outside their homes, or whether they too felt the same anxiety I felt.

I used gender neutral terminology – not by design, but probably more in an effort to sound more official – more scientific – like I knew what I was doing. Run a business before, I have, but take on a major social cause and build a start-up that will change the world? That was new to me.

Someone reached out and thanked me for the gender-neutral terminology, due to a loved one of theirs who sits outside the scope of “woman” but menstruates. I gave myself a pat on the back. I was a good SJW – eyes open, fighting the good fight.

My research then led me to launching the prototype and creating a landing page about the project as well as the beginning of the pitch deck. To highlight the fact that menstruators were in fact 26% of the population, (that’s about 3 billon people) I used some cute graphics of 8 women lined up, two in red. Always trying to keep it inclusive I wrote “The M Scale will allow women and menstruating people (MP)…..” I launched and watched it garner support.

For about two weeks, a niggling thought ate away at the back of my brain. Every shower-thought would lead to the same question, every 4am wake up before rolling over and going back to sleep: was I actually being inclusive? Or was I creating an “otherness.”

I played around with the concept of changing my language to entirely neutral. I read research on the matter and listened to both sides of the insane argument that surrounds womanhood and menstruation. By changing the language to accept all forms of menstruators and remove the spirit of womanhood, I felt a bit angry. Like something was being taken away from me.[1] My whole life I had accepted the horrors of menstruation as a sign that I belonged to this exclusive club – a sisterhood. By removing womanhood from menstruation, I felt like that secret club was being disbanded and the foundation of my “coming of age” shaken.

I got angry – for about 12 hours.

Why is my cycle linked to my womanhood?

With such a simple question, 30 years of conditioning was removed in 12 hours. What about all those women who don’t have a cycle? Are they removed from the club of womanhood? Is my ability to have a baby what makes me, me?  Is my mother less of a woman because she no longer has a cycle? Absolutely not.

This great article written by Joanna Anagnostou for Moxie Tampons (not an endorsement) paints it black and white for us:

Periods are not exclusively a “woman’s” issue. It does not hurt women to use different language when discussing periods. It does not erase the experience of women. Just because the majority of stories we have heard about periods have come from cisgender women doesn’t mean they are the only ones who experience menstruation. Using more inclusive language can make those that do not identify as a woman feel more included in menstruation narratives and create more dialogue about the experience of periods from people with different gender identities.[2]

In fact, many actual academic researchers have suggested the opposite – keeping menstruation tied to a feminine issue actually does harm to the experiences of women.[3]

We have been told to accept shoddy conditions and deal with menstruation as part of the repression of being a woman and accepting our place in society. Womanhood and menstruation have held hands with one another whilst pushing us down at the same time. Their relationship is toxic and it’s only harming us further – allowing the powers that be to profit off our secret club on the basis that it’s women’s issues – not everyone’s issue. Periods affect 26% of the global population – it is a human issue and should be addressed in that manner.  Not every woman menstruates and not every menstruator is a woman.

Womanhood is a club; it is a sisterhood that should have an open door for anyone who wants to join and appreciate the spirit of what it means to be woman – It is something I am proud of.

It is not based on whether or not one sheds their uterine lining every month. Period.

[1] Anyone who has ever addressed their own privilege should be aware of this indignant reaction.

[2] Anagnostou ( 2021), How to Talk About Periods in a More Inclusive Way, https://moxie.com.au/blogs/the-regular/how-to-talk-about-periods-in-a-more-inclusive-way

[3] Rydström K. Degendering Menstruation: Making Trans Menstruators Matter. 2020 Jul 25. In: Bobel C, Winkler IT, Fahs B, et al., editors. The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies [Internet]. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan; 2020. Chapter 68. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565621/ doi: 10.1007/978-981-15-0614-7_68    

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