Talking About Menstruation Is Making Me a Better Man

Talking About Menstruation Is Making Me a Better Man
Written byPanpan Wang

But First, A Brief Anecdote About (Fake) Murders and Period Blood

Last Halloween a friend of mine, Chase, came dressed to the office as Jason. Or Freddy Kreuger. Or one of those types of characters. He had a plastic knife strapped to his belt and fake blood smeared on his face and body. It was a pretty aggressive costume for the office, but also pretty rad.

Chase just goes for it.

Near the end of the day, a female colleague who hadn’t seen Chase said to him as she walked by,

“Wow. That time of the month at home, huh?"to which he responded, “Oh man… that’s over the line, don’t you think?”

I don’t blame him for thinking this. I kind of thought this, too.

Even as you read this, you might have even thought to yourself that her comment was pretty gross.

“Wait… are you serious?”, she responded. “You have smeared — on your person — the blood of someone that you supposedly murdered by hacking them to death with a machete, and me joking that it’s from your girlfriend’s monthly cycle is over the line?”

Ignorance is Not Bliss

I get to talk about menstruation on a near-daily basis, and most of those conversations are with women.

Much of the time, the women are apologetic:

“Oh, I’m sorry, I know this might be kind of weird or TMI…”

Or ashamed.

“I hope this isn’t too awkward.”

Or just simply visibly uncomfortable with talking about this with a man.

It saddens but doesn’t surprise me that this is the assumption that most women have when talking to a man about this topic.

I have a sex-ed version of the biology of periods, sure.

And I know about the benefits of period sex, but there was so much of the day-to-day reality of having a period that I didn’t understand.

Gentlemen. Did you know that women here and abroad:

  • Pull their tampon string to the side every time they pee, because getting pee on the string means you need to replace the tampon (and who wants wet panties)?
  • Get cramps that hurt so badly that they have to take sick days from work?
  • Can actually die or lose a leg from toxic shock syndrome?
  • Really worry about the environment and the best way to dispose of their monthly products? (Apparently you’re not supposed to flush tampons. Who knew?)
  • Have to deal with stigma that impacts girls’ education on a global scale?

Getting really into the — and pardon the expression — weeds on the topic of menstruation has made me a better and more empathetic person.

I simply didn’t know how the other half lives. (And knowing is half the battle).

But mostly, I’ve come away from conversations this past year with the feeling that many women are fighting their own bodies on a monthly basis, and that the struggle is often silent.

Sure we make jokes, and the conversation has started, but on an individual level these jokes are relegated to the category of bathroom humor.

In reality, a woman’s cycle gives life to us all and should be elevated to its rightful, life-giving glory rather than relegated to sitting along side flatulence and feces.

Where We’re Headed in 2016

NPR declared 2015 the year of the period, but we’re still in the militancy phase of the revolution where shock value and figureheads grab headlines.

To be sure, there’s a natural rhythm to these sorts of shifts in policy,innovation, and societal dialogue, and there’s still a place for attention grabbing headlines (this post included).

But I’m optimistic that 2016 will bring with it conversations of a more matter-of-fact nature.

I’m optimistic that it will start to be no longer surprising or embarrassing that a man can talk to a woman about tampons and menstruation and innovation in feminine hygiene products.

Last weekend I was with my close friend, Matt, and a small group of women talking openly about what sorts of products they use for their cycle. He was listening but not speaking. He said to them afterwards,

“I really appreciated listening to you all talking in a ‘blocking and tackling’ and almost mundane way about something that is usually seen as taboo. It was really refreshing.”

Here’s to many more of these conversations in 2016 and to men like Matt participating in them.

This article was originally published on Medium byPanpan Wang, an advisor and investor in The Flex Company.