Archive | March, 2009

Menstruation Conversation*

31 Mar

After responding to my latest blogaround, Eloriane wrote a great post on the way menstruation is discussed in the efforts to reclaim it from its “eww, women’s uterine lining. I can’t believe you expect me to listen to this” taboo.

It makes the whole process so filthy and uncomfortable, and impossible to talk about. The few places where feminists are trying to break the menstruation taboo are, half the time, uncomfortably period-positive for me– I have nothing nice to say, ever, about this process, and I don’t like the idea that I have to “embrace” menstruation or else I’m just a puppet of the patriarchy…How do we fight the truly stupid cultural perception as PMS as totally crazy-making while still having room for stories, like mine, in which that is a problem? I mean, it happened when I broke my hand, too; discomfort makes any person irritable.** But I’m not always sure that there’s space for me to say, in period conversations, that I am in discomfort, and it does make me irritable, even about things that I don’t really care about, without coming across as some kind of patriarchy-loving troll. But talking about it anywhere else would be laughable– I mean, if it’s unbearably “grooossss” to talk about a perfectly natural shedding of one’s uterine lining in non-feminist spheres, how much more unbearably gross is the same thing plus poop?…It’s not acceptable to say that periods are gross and terrible because eww, they come from women’s vaginas. But we need to leave the space for people to say that their periods are gross and terrible because eww, poop everywhere.

You really ought to read the whole thing. Here, have another link.

How do we make sure that the conversation allows people that have really shitty periods to have the same safe space to talk about this as people who have okay periods, or periods that are kinda crampy at the beginning then are barely noticeable? The idea of reclaiming it from the taboo is that women’s bodies and genitals aren’t vile, disgusting things on the whole (that whole “Don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die” trope), but by saying that, we shouldn’t say that our bodies are utterly incapable of emitting anything but rainbow-scented shit from our asses and adorable purple daisies from our vaginas.

My menstrual blood is pink and smells like flowers? Doesnt yours?

My "menstrual solution" makes me bleed hot pink and smells like flowers. Why the fuck doesn't yours?

We still need to be honest about what our periods do to our bodies. We still need to be able to say things like “PMS does X to my body” without feeling like we perpetuate the patriarchal stereotypes about women. In my first period blogaround, I linked Bitch, PhD’s M. Leblanc, who said,

“I’m twenty-five, for god’s sake. Most of the men I know are pretty comfortable with The Woman Thing and not inclined to act like twelve-year-olds and giggle. But it’s still awkward. It still feels strange to disclose to a male friend that I am grumpy as fuck because I have awful, awful cramps.”

I think some of the trouble we have in discussing our periods is that we’re still trying to be the Angel in the House.*** We still struggle with killing the idea that women should be these demure, perfect creatures that don’t complain. But when we do speak up about our periods, it’s just “harpy shrills” or something nobody wants to hear because it’s “too much information.” We need to “quit our bitchin'” or nobody will take us seriously. How the fuck is that not patriarchy in action? I feel like the need we have to not talk about how our periods affect us negatively, while ostensibly telling the patriarchy “Hey! It’s blood! Get the fuck over yourselves!” (a sentiment I fully agree with) is almost an extension of the idea that women’s bodies are unimportant. Stories like Eloriane’s are so seldom told, and so seldom welcome, because they present menstruation in a less-than beneficial light. Because they are stories of how a woman’s body can be less than perfect. Because they give the lie to the cultural myth that reproduction is good, that menstruation, while sort-of sucky (I mean, eww! Blood! Out of a va-jay-jay!), is ultimately for the greater good, something to be suffered through.

So how do we deal with this? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m inclined to defer to Liss’ suggestion: that “[p]ersonal narratives are an extremely powerful bit of teaspooning” and that you tell your story, and I’ll do what I can to spread it as far as I have influence. But I’m also worried that that’s not enough. How can it be, when you’re fighting the fucking hydra of patriarchy, and eleventy-billion heads grow back once you cut any of them off?****

And a general note: if you don’t have horrifying, painful problems with your period, tell your story too! As many people fighting this hydra as possible makes it a hell of a lot easier to kill.

  • “You have a great gift for rhyme.” “Yes, yes, some of the time.”
  • *This reminds me of a joke that’s always made me wince from my favorite play, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Professional asshole Roy Cohn is dying in the hospital of AIDS, one of the complications of which are horrible abdominal cramps. Cohn’s line (paraphrased because I am too lazy to go look for the quote in in my copy of the play in the next room): “Holy shit this hurts! No wonder women are such evil harpy bitchez once a month!”
  • **Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” is a good place to continue from Wikipedia if you are unfamiliar with this metaphor, and the way I am using it.
  • ***That’s not to say that the fight isn’t worth it, it’s just to say that it’s fucking hard.
  • ****Can anybody tell me how to get WordPress to not format my asterisks as bullet-points? Because I kept fixing the formatting every few minutes, and it kept reverting to bullets. And I do not like bullets in my foot-note section.

Menstruation Station Blogaround

28 Mar
Red means yes...99% accurate!

Red means yes...99% accurate!

I enjoyed last period’s period blogaround so much that I’ve decided to make it a feature, to be published on or around the first day of my cycle. I’ll put some links up, and perhaps some menstruation-related writings. If you have some nuggets of menstrual wisdom to share, feel free to leave a link in comments, and I’ll publish it the next cycle.

Linksies!

As you may be able to tell with the title of this series, I like rhymes. This explains my affection for this link.

Essin’ Em: Fucking Blood (period sex w00!)

Gender Goggles: Menstruation and being trans – the blogaround! (I was planning to do this next cycle, but eloriane beat me to it.)

The Pursuit of Harpyness: Periodical 3 (I should note that my love of rhymes is beaten out by my love of puns, so the title of their series sends me into giggle-fits.)

Shakesville: Feminism 101-Periods (oldie but goodie)

Frau Sally Benz: ummmmmm uhhhhhhh hmm (this is totally gonna be the image and prose for next cycle)

Womanist Musings: Boo Yah It’s Period Time (great post, especially with what I wrote below. Also, I look like Megan, but w/ auburn hair – she even has pit-hair! squee!)

Two Women Blogging: My Little Red Story

My Private Casbah: My First Period

Prose!

So, last month when I said the Divacup was all that and a bag of chips (don’t those look yummy?)? I may have been exaggerating slightly. I do have some concerns with the way I relate to my period when I use it. Actually, it would be more accurate to say my concerns are with the way I don’t relate to my period with the Divacup.

In some ways, it forces me to confront the reality of my period more than I ever did with pads and tampons – I have to stick my fingers in my vagina to insert or remove it, which gets some blood on my hands. If I’m home, that’s no big deal because I can easily access a sink, and if I’m in a public restroom, I just wipe the blood off with some toilet paper. But in other ways, it’s like my period isn’t even there. I can’t feel the Divacup when it’s inserted, which bothers me, for reasons both rational and irrational. First, the rational. I forget the cup’s even inserted, which means that I leave it in for a lot longer than the recommended 12 hours – as in, I’ve left it in for over 48 hours before. That’s not healthy-sounding. Technically, the TSS risk posed by tampons isn’t present with menstrual cups, but I don’t want to push my luck. I think it would be wise to start using cloth pads in the latter part of my cycle, after the initial heavier flow in the first 3 days. Which means I need to get the sewing machine out and clean the sewing room (yes, I actually have a sewing room. It used to be a dining room – interesting insight into my priorities, no? Though right now, it’s more of a junk and dust-collecting room). Secondly, the irrational reason I don’t like the Divacup – I feel like this lack of awareness that my body is menstruating disconnects me from myself somehow. Menstruation is part of my reality – I feel like I should remember I’m on my period when, you know, I’m on my period. The first couple of days, I cramp a bit, but then, I forget about it completely, even though I usually continue menstruating for 3-4 more days. I feel like it disconnects me from my existence as a menstruating woman – like I have a detachable vagina. And that bothers me. My vagina is a part of me. It makes me feel somewhat disjointed that I can forget it exists for long stretches of time. I don’t feel like my period is something I should be able to forget about, and I’m not entirely sure why I feel that way – I only know that I don’t like it.

On Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Defense of Abortion

25 Mar

For my ethics class, I’m required to read Judith Jarvis Thomson’s essay, “A Defense of Abortion” and write an informal reaction essay. It fit with the subject matter of this blog for the most part, so I’m posting it here. This is written with the assumption that you have read the essay being discussed. Also, I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say, but I needed to say it to expose weaknesses in Thomson’s argument. As this is not intended to be a philosophy blog, if it’s too jargon-y and hard to follow, let me know what’s unclear and I’ll try to explain stuff.

As Thomson predicts in part eight, I don’t feel like she takes the argument far enough. While I disagree with Mary Anne Warren’s definition of personhood (as was pointed out in class, her analysis of personhood is shallow and could arguably stretch to infanticide or to the killing of those with disabilities or those otherwise considered “less than” in society. Also, depending on how one defines various characteristics of her definition, one could argue that certain species of insect also fit Warren’s description of a being to be accorded human rights, which I also find problematic.), my views on the permissibility of abortion tend towards radically liberal. I’m uncomfortable with a defense of abortion that argues that abortion is permissible almost exclusively from the conception occuring from a rape. I worry that such an argument could influence legislation that permits abortion only in the extreme cases Thomson discusses, such as a case of rape or in the jeopardization of health of the mother. This, I feel, would violate the privacy of rape survivors and victims, as well as trivialize their experiences. I believe that it is unjust to require rape survivors to publicize their abuse, particularly in a society that often blames women for their own rapes. I also believe that when there declaring oneself raped is the only route to a legal abortion, rape reports may be falsified, giving survivors of sexual assault less care and quite possibly considered untrustworthy (I can think of several cases off the top of my head where survivors of rape are not believed, such as in Alice Sebold’s Lucky – and this is while abortion is legal in circumstances other than rape and health concerns).

I find Thomson’s concept of the Minimally Decent Samaritan appealing, but it seems to suffer from an arbitrariness objection – how does one define what is “minimally decent?” Why is an abortion to postpone a trip “indecent,” while abortions resulting from cases involving conception by rape are not? Also, I feel like this highlights a flaw within her violinist example, at least from a utilitarian standpoint.

Suppose you learn that what the violinist needs is not nine years of your life, but only one hour: all you need do to save his life is to spend one hour in that bed with him. Suppose also that letting him use your kidneys for that one hour would not affect your health in the slightest…[I]t seems to me plain you ought to allow him to use your kidneys for that hour–it would be indecent to refuse.

The analogy seems to fail here. Once the hour is up, there is nothing bonding the kidney donor to the violinist, but with pregnancy, even if the 9-month process were condensed into an hour-long process, the woman’s body is more involved with the infant. The role of pregnancy hormones should not be overlooked in the mother’s relationship to the child, and even if after birth the mother never sees the child again (such as in the case of a closed adoption), the mother often retains a painful attachment to the infant. There have been studies likening the high rates of suicide and psychological trauma on the part of birthmothers to post-traumatic stress disorder, which I don’t feel Thomson’s analogy of minimally decent behavior to the violinist covers. While it makes sense in a utilitarian sense to spend an hour hooked up to the violinist, the utilitarian’s calculation of greatest happiness would not be able to rationally extend this to pregnancy.

I feel similarly with the Henry Fonda example.  If it were Howard Hughes, famed agoraphobe and germophobe, whose hand upon Thomson’s brow would save her life, would Thomson be able to make the argument that it’s minimally decent for him to walk across the room and touch the germ-infested, potentially contagious brow of a dying woman, even though the chance is high that it would cause Hughes severe psychological harm? What if it’s Rogue from the X-Men series, who cannot touch others without causing them harm, and herself flagellating guilt? Does life, even though painful, constitute a greater pleasure than death? Or is it “indecent” of Thomson to consider it “self-centered [and] callous” to refuse to bear a child?

1000 Times

23 Mar
The Difference between 1 million and 1 billion is a misogynistic joke. Swell, aint it?

The difference between 1 million and 1 billion is a misogynistic joke. Swell, ain't it?

I get xkcd.com updates in my RSS feed-reader, so I saw this update on Friday (March 20, 2009), but I didn’t want to deal with it. Then, Hoyden About Town‘s lauredhel posted a link to it on Twitter, and I got annoyed all over again. So I’m blogging my ire, because I don’t know what else I can do. xkcd has a history of both getting it right and fucking it up when it comes to feminist issues, so this is definitely not the first assy thing to come from the comedic stylings of Randall Munroe.

“Dear news organizations: stop giving large numbers without context or proper comparison.

The difference between a million and a billion is the difference between me having a sip of wine and 30 seconds with your daughter, and a bottle of gin and a night with her.”

Let’s unpack that, shall we? What the narrator appears to be saying is that differences in dollar amounts can be equated with time spent with a woman (specifically, the person being spoken to’s daughter) and a variation in the amount of liquor he or she ingests. First off, money cannot and should not be equated with human beings. Particularly not with human beings that have historically been considered possessions. Women, especially daughters, have been valued as the property of men, and to compare them to economic concepts, even (or perhaps especially) as humor, is offensive and oppressive.

Dear Randall Munroe: stop using women as an economic system in your jokes. It isn’t funny, and it perpetuates a patriarchy which places women on an uneven footing, where we can’t help but bang straight into the glass ceiling. It continues a cycle where women are valued only as property, as camels in an Internet quiz.

As Melissa McEwan said the day before this comic was posted (emphasis hers),

[H]ow can it be [harmless], knowing what we know about women still being valued (or not) primarily for their bodies and sexuality? There’s nothing innocuous about playing into the idea that the greatest contribution any woman has to offer is her body as a sexual reward or or babymaking machine. There’s nothing innocuous about implicitly reinforcing narratives that sex is a … cheap commodity to be bought, nothing innocuous about rendering the sexual-emotional spectrum down to its two extremes and thus its female practitioners down to one half of a familiar dichotomy—the virgin who rewards the prince with her precious cherry, or the whore who gives her body in exchange for something of value…But how can it be [ironic], knowing what we know about women forced into sexual servitude around the world? It’s only ironic if women (all women, women full-stop) have agency. If they don’t, it’s merely privileged—a proud display of agency that we have that other women do not, tinged perhaps with the anxious fear that we are not as far away from forcibly bearing babies against our wills as we’d like to believe that we are.”

This comic is misogynistic, even if unintentionally so, because it was written in a society that is misogynistic. It’s only ironic if women aren’t used as a form of property – which they are. Women and daughters are used as a commodity far too much to make it funny when they’re compared to money.

That is the cycle you perpetuate when you portray women as property.

Why Is Gender-Neutrality So Hard To Grasp?

22 Mar

Q: Hey Internet, do you know what’s got my underpants twisted in knots right now?

A: No, of course you don’t. Allow me to enlighten you.

Screencapture - Hotmail

Screencapture - Hotmail

What’s pissing me off, dear Internet, is that I can’t sign up for a goddamned e-mail address without the company hosting the address requiring that I state whether I am male or female. I have tried both Yahoo and Hotmail, and upon leaving the little box marked “Gender” or “Sex” (I can’t be bothered to recall which) blank, I am denied an e-mail inbox until I fix this grevious error. I would have tried AOL, but their server was unable to begin the process, for whatever reason. I got a Gmail inbox some weeks ago for the purpose I have in mind, but its vacation forward function (a necessity for my nefarious schemes) seems to be non-operational.

But none of that blather is the point. The point is that I am unable to register for an e-mail address without informing it that I fit into the gender binary. And even though I ostensibly fit into the binary as a recognizably feminine female, why does it matter to the server whether I do or not? Why isn’t there an “other” (which would be problematic, but which my privileged brain sees as better) or a “prefer not to say” option?

I feel grossly unequal to the task of writing this post, as the most I do to challenge the gender binary is fantasize about buying men’s dress clothes at a thrift store and wearing them occasionally – like, in public and stuff.  I still haven’t unpacked a lot of my gender-identity issues yet, and I’m not entirely sure how to. But I’m writing this post nonetheless, and the fact remains – both Yahoo and Hotmail require recognition that one either fits into the gender binary or is willing to lie about fitting in to provide a service, and that, to me, seems seriously fucked up.

Huh. You mean, people dont always wanna be pigeonholed?

Huh. You mean, people don't always wanna be pigeonholed? Silly-talk, that.

Julia Serano addresses some of the problems with gender and sex as understood in modern society in her piece “Cocky.”

Partial transcript from Womanist Musings (full transcript at link)(my emphasis):

Because when a man is defined as that which is not female and a woman is defined as that which is not male, then I am the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me…My penis turns simple sexual pleasures into political acts. She turns biological impossibilities into cold hard facts. My penis is the curiosity that you have been told will kill your cat…I used to hate my body for not making any sense to me and these days I often hate it for being so in between. Some mornings I can hardly get out of bed because my body is so weighed down with ugly meanings that my culture has dumped all over me. You see I have made to feel shame and self loathing so that everyone else can take comfort in what their bodies mean. And if I seem a bit cocky it is because I refuse to make apologies for my body anymore. I am through being the human sacrifice offered up to appease other people’s gender issues. Some women have a penis, some men don’t and the rest of the world is just going to have to get the fuck over it. If I am destined to be the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me then I am going to pull and pull and pull and pull and pull until everyone is exposed, till they all finally see that all along that they were merely wearing the emperor’s new clothes

As I should write at the base of all my posts, I welcome constructive criticism, particularly if I’m exhibiting unexamined privilege. Also, Chally has an excellent post up on hir issues with requiring people to identify themselves as female/male to recieve services that are more important than e-mail inboxes (like healthcare).

Oh, and does anybody have free e-mail server recommendations? One that won’t require me to answer whether I’m male or female?

EDIT: Hah! I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning, but I got bloody Gmail to forward my mails! Huzzah!

EDIT 2.0: In an event heretofore believed impossible, WordPress’ “Related Posts” feature actually has posts relevant to the topic at hand. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d have trouble believing it!

Why Is Les Miserables Important? Part 2

19 Mar

I’ll admit, I was being somewhat facetious with that last post. I fully expected that nobody would actually click any of the links (and according to WordPress’ site monitor, nobody has). So why did I do it? Why did I spend the time I did, finding 100-some-odd posts on oppression and oppressed people in recent months (almost all of those links were published at some point in the first three months of 2009) and hyperlinking them to the preface to Les Miserables?

It’s because I could, quite honestly. Because there is still so much oppression existing in this world, because so many people suffer daily from people exercising unjustifiable privilege over them, because I could have found twice the amount of examples I did if I had spent another half-hour on that post. It’s because I can’t understand how people can be aware of that much suffering and oppression, and not be progressives. And not be feminists. And not be fully opposed to the power structure that makes that much unnecessary anguish not only possible, but standard operating procedure.

That’s why I care about the message of Les Miserables. Hugo’s oeuvre undermines the Social Darwinistic narrative our culture gives us every fucking day – that some people are “other than” and “less than,” and don’t matter as long as I come out on top. That’s why I’m writing the Les Miserables Blogging Project of Unusual Size. It’s because I see it as a form of activism – a way of pushing back against the culture that screams at me to shut the fuck up because I’m young, queer, in need of antidepressants and female, that tells others to back off because of their race or ethnicity, their disabilities, because they are trans, and 42 other reasons, give or take. Hugo’s characters and themes point toward the underlying structures that dehumanize us and take away our voices, and give hope that things can and will improve. Hugo’s writing presents an unquashable sense of optimism – the idea that where our society is (and has been for centuries) is not where it must stay. Hugo’s book is a fucking teaspoon, and it’s my hope (there’s that word again) that this series of analysis, and ultimately this blog, become teaspoons as well.

Why Les Miserables is Still Significant – Linkspam edition*

19 Mar

The preface to Les Miserables:

So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the centurythe degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of lightare unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;—in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Miserables cannot fail to be of use.

HAUTEVILLE HOUSE, 1862.

*Why, yes, every single word is a disturbingly appropriate hyperlink. *sob*

**If you want a slightly less link-intensive explanation of why the narrative of Les Miserables is necessary and meaningful in contemporary discussion, this post is pretty good.

***EDIT: A follow-up to this post here.

Womyn Artist: Alix Olson

17 Mar

A lot of the blogs I follow do regular “this feminist/womanist is awesome and I want to bring her to your attention” posts, and I thought I’d follow their examples. :)

Stop the Stinky War

I love this picture to itty bitty bits, and smile wide when I see it.

I became aware of Alix Olson because of my involvement with Livejournal. More specifically, with the Livejournal community Fuck Shaving. At some point in late 2007, I got tired of buying razors and fighting my body’s tendency to, you know, grow hair, and I sought out like-minded people through the mystical powers of the Internet. Somebody posted about this “OMGWTFBBQ awsum slam poet” (approximate quote) doing a song about armpit hair. And from that point on, I was hooked (and much as I enjoy mocking LJ, it certainly had an impact on my becoming more receptive to the idea that sexism was pervasive and that feminism was necessary, which has become so much of my identity today, so it isn’t just a place for bad grammar, shitty fanfic and dramatic oversharing).

There were no seats on the subway
so I had to grab a strap
As I lifted up my arm I heard a scream “what’s that?”
I took a look around,
I thought “there must be something scary”.
Like a lion or a tiger or the Virgin Mary?
But then, I noticed they were looking at me.
I heard “oh my gawd! They’re hairy!”

Here’s part of it on Youtube, including a small number of women flashing their underarms at the camera (sorry for the incompleteness and the poor sound quality).

And here she is talking about feminism on A Passion For Justice: 21st Century Feminism.

[partial transcript] You know, the minute that we’re told we’re too loud and too angry and that we have enough, we kind of have this tendency to say ‘Okay [puts up hands in stop gesture], okay, we must [stop],’ you know.  And it’s important to remember who’s telling us that. [links added to transcript – niema]

The paper called me a warrior.
a bad girl. a bad example.
The paper said I smile big,
but I curse too much.
and it’s true. I do
Feel like a warrior just for making it through the day, sometimes
I feel like a fighter.

I choose to use words as my form of activism because, to me that says ‘I choose to speak and I am making a decision to utilize this powerful toolbox of language.’ And I think throughout herstory there have been a lot of artists who have been afraid to be targeted as, you know, a feminist artist or lesbian artist. And I think for me, that’s an essential part of who I am and what I believe in and my value system.

It’s so much of that fear that motivates me. The fear that I’ll be dismissed, either by the mainstream “Eh, she’s just one of those wingnut feminists with hairy legs – who cares if she (spoken with contempt no text can convey) feels marginalized?” or by the feminist movement “Grow up, sunshine – you’re just another fauxgressive ostrich with your head in the sand, and we don’t want you.” That fear paralyzes me – that possibility that nobody cares what I think. So I keep going – I have to, in a way, to preserve my own sanity. But always, in the back of my mind, there are these two diametrically opposed forces, and I worry that I’m not enough like either one, especially the one I aspire to, to make it in this world. And before I spun off into “sleep-deprived niema bares her soul” territory, I was going to say that I very much get where Olson is coming from with why she is so upfront and in your face about her feminist, lesbian identity politics, and I get the feeling she understands why the herstorical artists felt they couldn’t be. It’d be fucking hard to be openly lesbian and feminist in this world without knowing how much easier it can be to hide in a closet – to not be deeply and intimately acquainted with the reasons the closet is such a ubiquitous metaphor in this society.

Olson’s pretty popular – she’s been in magazines and on AfterEllen, and has performed at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival* several times. But I still think she’s pretty damn cool and insightful. Give her stuff a listen!

*I wish I could go this year (I’ve never been), but my finances make it unlikely that I’ll be able to. *deep, heaving sigh* Anybody who’s going wanna be my emissary?

Save About Face Theatre

16 Mar

Hat-tip goes to Shakesville.

About Face Theatre (AFT) is a LGBTQA theatre in Chicago, IL that’s having a bit of a crisis right now. They are in danger of closing their doors permanently, and needs immediate financial contributions to keep that from happening. LGBTQ safe-spaces are invaluable to communities, in my ever so humble opinion, because they give creedence to the LGBTQ experience – that it isn’t just something wrong with us, that it is who we are and we are not immoral for being attracted to other people, regardless of gender or sex, that we are not immoral for being female or male, regardless of our genitalia. It is inexpressibly important to let the voices that tell us that we are not wrong and that we are not alone continue to speak, continue to shape our lives.

From the press release on AFT’s website:

About Face Theatre creates exceptional, innovative and adventurous plays to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity If About Face does not survive, the country will lose one of the few high-profile theaters making new work by and about the LGBTQ experience. The award-winning About Face Youth Theater serves queer youth by providing artistic experiences and leadership training.

In response to the economic downturn and significant debt, About Face has reduced its budget by over 30% by implementing staff and production cuts while also postponing our third show. This is the responsible action to take, but it is not enough. If you help us raise $300,000, we will solve our immediate crisis and build a foundation for ongoing financial health.

Donations can be made by clicking this link, by calling 773-784-8565 or by mailing a check to:

1222 W. Wilson
2nd Floor West
Chicago, IL 60640

Here’s a video that made me laugh like crazy from their Testimonials page.

If you can’t donate now (and even if you can!), please reblog this, forward links to people who might be receptive, link it to your Facebook page. Not to sound cliched, but every little bit helps keep this theatre on its feet, and helps LGBTQA people by giving them somewhere to go where they are loved and respected for who they are, rather than in spite of it.

Relevant links placed at the bottom of this post to save your scrolling finger: Donation via internet, Testimonials, AFT’s website and Face the Future campaign, a FAQ that answers, among other things, what the money will be used for

The Menstruation Station Blogaround

8 Mar

Happy International Women’s Day! Ready to talk about periods?

From The F-Word: A tiny rant on XKCD.

From Rotten Little Girls: Emotional symptoms associated with periods are oftentimes utter bullshit.

From Womanist Musings (who posts regularly about menstruation): Guest post by Holly of Menstrual Poetry (great blog-name!) encouraging open conversation about periods.

From Bitch Ph.D: Men don’t wanna hear about icky stuff! and Shame! Shame! Shame!

From The Pursuit of Harpyness: Women who love to talk about their periods (the comment thread is excellent as well).

From Gender Goggles: The taboo of talking about periods and the inherent sexism that goes into that.

If you have any more links (self-promote if you like!), leave them in comments.

And because so many of the posts I just linked are about opening the lines of communication on menstruation and reclaiming it from its taboo, I’ll share a bit of personal period history.

I got my first period the summer before I turned 13. My mom and I were visiting her sisters and mother in Tennessee, and I went to the bathroom during supper. My mom and I had talked about periods before, so I knew why my underpants were all bloody. So I washed my hands and went back to the table. About half an hour later, everybody but my mom and me left to go do something, so that’s when I said, “Mom, I started my period.” So I was outfitted with pads and tampons from a local drug store, and given a lesson in application of both. She wouldn’t have bothered with tampons, but I wanted to go swimming as my aunt had just installed a pool in the back yard.

A few months later (late September 2001, to give some perspective), I had been bleeding onto my sheets and clothes, and apparently feeling insecure about it. Because my parents and I were out to eat, when my father told me that we needed to talk as a family. My mom silenced him with a “not here.” So for the ten minutes it took to pay and get to the car, I was in an anxious panic, wondering what they expected me to do about all the blood on my sheets. It, as is probably obvious to you, had nothing to do with my period. My parents were separating. My father was moving into an apartment across town. And that moment is inextricably linked to my period and the insecurity that being an almost-teenager gave me.

I don’t remember my periods in high school, other than one where I had pretty bad cramps and was sick at the same time, and feeling like I needed to tell someone, but being too overburdened with the shame and taboo of menstruation to be able to.

At some point my first year of college (which was also my senior year of high school), I learned about menstrual cups. I spent several weeks researching, then forgot about it because I had no way of paying for it. Right around the same time, the event I cited in comments on the Gender Goggles post (linked above) happened.

The first period story coming to mind was a couple of years ago. I was on a school trip (community college, so at 17-18 I was the youngest person). Out of 8 people, 7 of us were 20s or younger, and 2 were male. The older person was a woman, about mid-fifties. Somehow, the subject got onto menstruation, and the older woman got upset that we were talking of such things “in mixed company.” Pretty much everyone was on the “WTF? Men can’t hear about periods?” front when we conferred after getting off the bus, but still, it bothers me that periods are so contentious and verboten that anybody believes men’s dainty ears can’t handle the word menstruation.

I was sinking into moderate depression, so my mom decided I should go stay with her sister (the aunt with the pool mentioned above) for the summer. I made plans to buy the Diva Cup before the trip, but that didn’t happen. On the drive up there, I got my period. And I hadn’t packed any pads. So,I bled into some toilet paper until I got a tampon from another of my aunts, and drove to Walmart (*shudder* I hate Walmart, but this is small-town America) the next morning to buy some pads. At some point in the summer, my grandmother bought me some pads because she wanted to make sure I was okay for things to protect my clothing (which was sweet, because acknowledging the fact that I have a period was a big step for her – she still doesn’t know how much I know about s-e-x). A few uneventful months passed (in terms of menstruation, at least), and in November 2007, I got my Divacup. In the middle of my period, so it had to sit on the shelf until my next cycle began (I have reason to believe this was the cycle that broke my hymen-ow). But once I got past the learning curve, the Divacup has been wonderful. I have trouble remembering I’m on my period when it’s in, and my cramps seem to have lessened since I began using it (correlation =/= causation and all that jazz, but it’s still nice to not need to curl into a fetal position every time I get my period).

And then, my periods got really irregular. I would have a 25 day cycle, then a 14 day cycle, then a 35 day cycle. This continued for a while, and finally it pushed me to go to the gynecologist. He tested my hormone levels, to check for PCOS and thyroid problems, which came back negative. The gynecologist recommended hormonal birth control if it was bothering me (it wasn’t), so now I have irregular periods with no apparent cause.

Which brings me to today, on the tail end of my period and writing this blog-post on March 8, 2009, International Women’s Day.

Titty-wrap hugs,

niema