November 02, 2005

Striking fear into bleeding hearts...

It’s been a long time since I read any commentary about this site, but I did the ol’ vanity Google tonight and turned up a fresh 4-page forum discussion of my free bleeding page.

For those who haven’t read the free bleeding section, it just explains that when I’m having a lighter period, I’ve figured out how to go without any menstrual products (pads, tampons, cups, etc.) without ruining my life, clothes or furniture. And when I first realized this could be called “free bleeding” instead of “lazy and irresponsible” it made me happier than I’d expected.

I’ve never gotten a lot of email feedback about those pages, except for a couple of cheers from goddess-feminist, ultra-free bleeding women, so the long and rather primal forum discussion is very interesting to me.

It features repetitive wailing of “unhygienic!” and “stinky!” punctuated by a few bursts of “I don’t wear pads to bed and it isn’t a big deal” and the occasional “that woman will never find a quality husband.” (I am tempted to brandish my loverman’s “Runner-Up Sexiest Celebrity in Victoria” award as a rebuttle, but let’s just say I could, and that the guy who won dresses like a pirate, which is clearly cheating.)

Most interesting to me is that the most common first reaction seems to be that I must be unsanitary, smelly, and possibly a disease vector because I don’t wear tampons to bed. This bothers me not because it is insulting (remind me to tell you about the funny insults I get emailed every week), but because it is so irrational and unrealistic, bordering on panicked. I feel bad for people who are needlessly afraid.

Meditate on the difference between bleeding into my own labia during my 8 hour beauty rest and bleeding into a pad for the same time. And then tell me if my skipping the pad is really likely to make a different smell. There is the same amount of blood, aged for the same amount of time, in either system. (Not even considering that synthetic fibers hold way more odour, as anyone who has ever owned a polyester shirt will tell you.) I could draw the same parallels between wiping my vulva but getting a little blood on my underwear, or changing a pad but getting a little blood on my pubic hair.

The exclamations about my nastiness are not rational. Neither are the comments that responded to my article— which says “I’m not into gushing all over things. I can only handle this when my period is light.”— by declaring “Oh no! She’d bleed on my chair!”

Apparently, my free bleeding section could use a clear statement that there is no need to panic. I don’t ruin my mattress. I don’t stain my sheets or clothes. I don’t smell. My fake-husband still thinks I’m cute. And I understand that during heavy periods, menstrual products make life a lot simpler and I don't care how other women deal with their periods. On top of that disclaimer I’d like to add some soothing noises and a gentle spring breeze. (Failing that, a Chill Pill.) Periods happen often enough that it is really worth getting over any panic and stress about them.

I sympathize with the potential for embarrassment, but period smell is over-hyped and the truth, in this case, is relaxing. Yes, proper hygiene, regular bathing, and appropriate medical care are important, but there is no need to live in fear. Generally, a healthy vagina is good for at least 18 hours of daily wear before it becomes objectionable to bystanders. Which is handy, since you can't change into a fresh vagina when yours gets dirty, and even women who use tampons get blood on themselves.

I think anyone who is concerned enough about period smell to use exclamation marks in a comment would benefit from crossing the line. Let yourself get smelly. Choose a weekend when you are home alone or whatever, and find out how much it takes to actually waft fumes when you are sitting around, not just while you are using the toilet. How much does it take to produce a smell that you can’t control by wiping or basic toilet grooming? I bet it takes longer than you expect.

(There— now I’ve actually made a recommendation about the menstrual hygeine of other women! Please return to your panic and offense with reality-based ammunition, women of babynamesworld.com.)

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