Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Period Pieces, Women Athletes and Donald Trump

My snap of Caroline Wozniacki, practicing last year in Montreal, where it didn't rain but there was a power failure. Brit Heather Watson played well. I saw one of her early matches too.

Now that today's Guardian has written a piece on the taboo of menstruation, because of Donald Trump and his recent ejaculations, I've decided to reprise my favorite essay of all time, that I wrote and had published 15 years ago, in Chatelaine Magazine, the Toronto Edition. (One person wrote in to cancel her subscription, my editor told me.)

 Heather Watson, one of my favorite tennis players is playing in Toronto today, I think, and she got some press lately alluding to her period, a taboo  of sorts in women's sports - and every where else.

The topic is still taboo, says the Guardian Article.. Hmm. My essay was also published on the front of the now defunct Oxygen Network, that belonged to Oprah Winfrey.

Period Piece by Dorothy Nixon

Originally in Chatelaine Magazine and Oxygen. All rights reserved by the author.

A funny thing happened to me the other day. I got up in the morning with a bleeding nose and I raced to the bathroom to stuff a wad of toilet paper up the afflicted nostril. As I was busying myself with this ridiculous performance, I noticed a delicate, almost lyrical trail of blood on the bathroom floor. "How pretty, "I thought. But then a prim little voice in the back of my head immediately piped in, "Better wipe it up: They'll think it is menstrual blood!"

I didn't want to gross out my family. No. No. Not the man I've been intimate for 15 years. Not the children for whom I've changed about a million mortifyingly stinky diapers.

In my house, where bodily functions are nobody's secret, (and where my now happily toilet-trained children love to imitate Jim Carrey as they leave the bathroom - waving their arms and saying "Pyyyoooo! Don't go in there!") my period is still a taboo subject. It just doesn't seem fair!

It's not merely a family quirk: it's a cross-cultural prejudice.

Even on television, with the floodgates of poor taste being flung wide open every week on network and cable TV, menstruation is seldom mentioned. There's no end to the sexual stuff on TV but periods aren't discussed. Period.

Seinfeld may have had its Emmy winning masturbation episode, but no critically-acclaimed menstruation episode.

The only female blood movie TV screenwriters seem interested in exploring comes from knife stabs and gunshot wounds.

Now, I ask, "Why do men find one type of female blood so much more appealing than another?" I recall watching my husband sitting impassively through an X-files episode as a woman was having her heart pulled out of her chest. Yet one glimpse of a blood-stained panty and he's lunging toward the bedroom window for air.

Mulder: (excited) Take a look at this mattress, Scully. There's blood on it. You know, the ancient Wadoodoo people of Peru have a legend where men fall from the sky and disembowel virgins in their beds.

Scully: (taking a closer look) I'm afraid you are imagining things again, Mulder. This woman merely had her period.

Mulder: (lunging toward the window for air) Oh, no. Not that!

I'm confused. Why are men so put off my female menstrual blood? It is the blood of fertility and isn't that what men are supposed to like best about us, our fertility? Hasn't that always been the excuse for men's obsession with big breasts?

Ally McBeal and one of the other impossibly gorgeous female lawyers, talking to each other from adjacent booths. (Crinkling sound in the background.)

Ally: Have you seen that candidate for the articling position.

Other: Yes, she certainly looks...ahh.. fertile.

Ally: (scowling) She's going to be hired for those big breasts of hers..

Other: Oh Ally! That's unfair, You're just sensitive because you're so..ah, gee, the damn applicator fell into the toilet. Do you have a spare tampax?

Ally: Flat-chested! .FLAT-chested!. Why don't you just SAY IT! .Here, take the stupid thingy.. (She opens the stall door and tosses the tampax at her) It's three years old. Do you think anyone this skinny even has a period?

Yes, periods can present a problem, especially for working women. We all have our horror stories. An unfortunate co-worker, busily engaged at work, once bled all over her office chair. Her fellow female coworkers leapt into action, making like an impromptu typing pool SWAT Team; one woman threw her sweater around the poor unfortunate; another hustled her to the bathroom and yet another sped away with the chair.

I once had to attend an all day board meeting on a particularly heavy day and couldn't help wondering if everyone knew why I had to leave the room so often. "If I am lucky, "I thought, "they'll think I have a cocaine problem."

O.K. They're a problem, sure, but not the CURSE, as women my mother's age liked to describe them.

So, why does our culture fear and loathe the female menses, causing us women to fall into that trap to one degree or another? Maybe because periods are our connection to the nature, the life-cycle and the cycles of the moon. - and even the most rational mind can see this is so.

Elaine (munching on a snack, flipping through a magazine.) Oh, Jerry, I just left my old sanitary napkin on the top of the toilet by mistake. Just toss it in the garbage."

Jerry: WHAAAA??

Kramer. (hands akimbo) Why are you so upset about a soiled sanitary napkin. The menstrual cycle is women's connection to nature and the life-cycle.

Jerry. It's disgusting! Ask George. He feels the same way.

George: Sorry, Jerry. I am comfortable with Elaine's womanhood.

Elaine: (smirking) He's easy with the period.

Jerry. All I know is I want that thing out of my house or, or, I'm going to call the movers..

Then, why wait for some screenwriting hack to take the daring step? Hey, Sex and the City: what are you waiting for? Tell a menstruation story today - at dinner. Do it in all reverence. Do it for women for women everywhere.

by Dorothy Nixon --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Edith and Flora Nicholson, 1913, at Tighsolas in Richmond, Quebec. I have hundreds of their era letters but they never mention their periods... Pregnancies are hardly mentioned, just alluded to discreetly.

What does this have to do with my ebooks Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Furies Cross the Mersey, about the militant suffragettes invading Montreal in 1912/13?   Not much, except that the 'true' stories are about turn of the last century women, who didn't even mention their periods.

I have a 1914 letter from Flora who is complaining that 'no one tells her anything." Her sister, Marion, is pregnant and the 'married' women are carrying on with their secrets. She feels left out. She is 20, but supposed to be totally naive about sex and love and babies. In a family full of 'new women'.

The Montreal Council of Women wanted Sex Education to be taught in schools, although I can only guess to a rather meagre extent. This was to prevent women from falling into prostitution.