Feminism – an out of fashion fortress with a moat featuring murky period blood where men and their penises cry out for mercy as they drown, or a political hot potato never going out of style?
“You know,” my mother says, “he got the job instead of you because he is a man, that’s how the society works.” My father keeps his eyes safely fixed on the meatballs on his dinner plate. I can almost hear my heart rate accelerate as I take the bait laid out by my mum. “Of course not! He was the better applicant!” I argue smashing my fist to the table making meatballs fly about. “No,” my mum says calmly “it is because he is a man and you are not.”
My mother was born in the fifties into both a time of stay-at-home mums making meatballs from scratch and a time of great change and emancipation for Norwegian women. I was born in 1991 into a society of working mums; even the prime minister was female that year. I was born into the luxury of believing that I had every bit as many opportunities as my fellow male classmates and was just as clever. My mother and I might live in the same country in the same century, but our outlook on society and feminism is shaped by our different experiences. My reality is not my mother’s reality, my feminism is not my mother’s feminism, nor my grandmother’s feminism.
This does not mean that I think the golden age for feminism has passed, I believe it has changed character but that does not make it any less important. Thanks to feminists like my mother whom has paved the way before me, I can take basic political and economic rights for granted and give my opinion freely. So bear with me as a take this opportunity to utter a word women and men still whispers under their breath (it is quite shocking so please brace yourself): menstruation.
It has been argued that feminism today has no one particular cause like for instance women’s suffrage, but rather covers a range of both vast and smaller topics affecting the role of women in society. I find this descriptive of my feminism, I would like to call it incremental feminism; those seemingly small, but yet oh so large, obstacles that impede women in their everyday life. All those little crests build up to towering mountains still separating woman from living lives equal to men. Period, the monthly, the flow, shark week, menses. Blood.
In my view menstruation has become a blind spot for innovation, and thus a manifestation of the continuing need to focus on the role of women. The user pull for innovations is hard to spot when even articulating the user implications of a sanitary pad can make a grown man blush. Even the people earning money on the monthly blood bath, tell us that periods are something to be ashamed of. As the world is still too squeamish to face the colour red while at the same time talking about periods, a blue, sterile looking fluid represents period blood in commercials for sanitary products. How very considerate.
At the age of thirteen I was the proud owner of a mobile phone sporting a colour screen, cheeky polyphonic ringtones as well as the possibility to send and receive the mystical “MMS”. At this age I was using sanitary pads, and I had just discovered tampons. By the time I was 18 years old, tampons with a slicker surface for more comfortable insertion had appeared and pads became thinner and less prone to leak, they even kept you “comfortably dry” – a feature celebrated by both menstruating women and diaper wearing toddlers all over the world. Not bad at all. The iPhone had also come into existence. Today I’m 25 years old and mobile phones have turned into computers you can make calls with, all fitting comfortably in your pocket. And I’m still using the exact same tampons and sanitary pads. Compared to other product groups, innovations within “feminine hygiene” are moving with the speed of glaciers. Why is the dominant design for menstrual hygiene still either a bleached cotton pad that you by glue stick to your panties or a bleached cotton tampon? It has even been argued that the bleached cotton products we use so many days a year can have an unfortunate physical effects, as well as cause other uncomfortable mischieves like yeast infections. The last thing I heard described as an invention within the handling of periods was a pair of underwear that you can use without a pad and still be protected. Only downside is that they cost about 250 NOK a pair, I haven’t seen them in Norwegian shops yet and they will not do on heavy days.
One should think that a monthly event in the lives of almost every second human being between the age of 13 and 45 years old should make for a very interesting market to enter. But then again, why make a durable product when there is so much money to be earned on a product that is usually overpriced and needs to be thrown away after one use? Women are revisiting old invention like the mooncup, in order to find more environmentally friendly options. And just by the way, in this day and age, is it still necessary even to have our periods? With cramps and all? Shouldn’t there have been a cure by now, not counting birth control pills? And on that note: Where did the male contraceptive pill go? But that’s a discussion for another time.
So was my mother right, are we still living in a man’s world? Only considering my own everyday life I am tempted to say no, at the same time is the lack of innovation and information within something as basic and natural as periods is a proof that it is still a man’s world where a woman’s challenges comes in second. There are as many flavours of feminism as there are feminists. Pick your topic, pick your fight or pick them all, but most importantly stick with it because neither periods nor feminism are going out of style anytime soon.