July 07, 2004

Ranting, Raving... Knitting...

Knitty continues to prove its awesomeness: after emailing with Amy about my disappointment that a great pattern for a knitted tampon case got put in a context that made menstruation seem naughty (behind an adults-only disclaimer) and shameful (emphasis on camouflaging menstrual products), she was keen to rectify the problem. Even though I rather dropped the ball by ranting on my website before emailing her about it. Nice editor :)

My emails with Amy also made me see just how minimal my explanation for my disappointment was, so I'm reprinting here the clarification that I sent her, in case I lost anyone else with my 2-sentence condensed version.

“One of the biggest barriers to decent menstrual research and positive attitudes about menstruation is the fact that periods are treated not just as messy or inconvenient, but as embarrassing, obscene, and worth hiding behind black covers with disclaimers. Fundamentally, that's a gender thing (men don't menstruate), but it often plays out as a sex thing (as you note, it happens in the same orifice… but that's no reason to declare that one week out of four is women's shameful secret, is it?). It might not seem like a big deal, but period shame is most of what makes tampon manufacturers so cavalier about safety and value, it seems to be a large part of why girls are prone to serious depression in the 2 years after they start bleeding, and it ensures that women stay the abnormal Other for a lot of men and even a lot of women.

“My concern wasn't so much that the tampon case was off-topic [in the Sex issue of Knitty], it was that it got the same ‘this is naughty’ treatment as sex toys and provocative undies. Ten year olds and total prudes could enjoy a tampon case, so why keep it behind the sexy/strictly for adults advisory?”

Some references to go along with that:

Periods: From Menarche to Menopause by Dr. Sharon Golub of the Society of Menstrual Cycle Research (re: all of that)

The Curse by Karen Houppert (re: tampon industry's attitudes, othering effect of menstrual taboos).

I've been noticing lately that I often skimp on expansions of my opinions and beliefs on this site, for fear that I'll end up raving illogically about extreme emotional issues. If anything I think that really, the longer I go on the more reasonable I start to sound, so I'll try to give in and spill the full rants from now on. I've been reading a lot this spring and thinking about vaginas even more than usual. Let me know how I do.

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