As I’m writing this column, my uterine lining is shedding, causing blood to stream rapidly from my vagina and uncontrolled contractions (or what I assume feel like contractions, having never been pregnant before) to shoot painfully from my abdomen every couple minutes or so. Today is day three for me. For some women, that may not mean much. But for me, lawd a mercy, it means excruciating pain, loud screams, and blood – lots of blood. Now I warn you, from this point on, it may get a little graphic. So I suggest you prepare yourself.
I have a six-day cycle, which means I get a sufficient flow of blood for six days straight. I also have an eight-day pain cycle: five days of pre-menstrual pain – kind of like a warning before the secretion actually takes place – and then three days of unfathomable, unfailing, and uncontrolled cramps that send me into a state of immobility and unconsciousness.
But as the piercing throbs ring across my abdomen and penetrate throughout my body, and the pain –so strong, almost too strong to bear, –cuts through me like, “oh, my goodness, have mercy on me, please”, I am forced to stay silent, regardless of where I am or what I am doing. I am forced to pretend as if nothing is happening. I am forced to carry on with my duties, or, better yet, I am forced to “work through the pain.” But as you may already be able to tell, this silence, this carry-on-with-your-duties, work-through-the-pain shit just isn’t really working for me.
The silencing of menstruation in both public and private spaces – not only by women, but by greater society – has enabled the de-legitimization of menstruation and pre-menstrual syndrome. Little girls are told to carry pads, tampons, and the like at the bottom of their purses – far away from the public’s eyes. When the uterine lining’s shedding begins, they’re taught to only say, “I need to use the bathroom” or “My stomach hurts”, rather than the reality of, “I’m on my period” or “I have cramps.”
This coerced silencing of menstruation in the everyday lives of women on account of the patriarchy has got to stop. For, the longer menstruation continues to be relegated to the realm of mere “female problems,” the longer it will be viewed as an unworthy excuse and as illegitimate for reason. Even feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex, has characterized menstruation as signifying “illness, suffering, and death”. Death, she says! An experience said to signify death? Well hot damn!
I do, however, think that a bloodclot the size of grape pushing through my vagina during the middle of an exam – sending lighting bolts of pain through every crevasse of my body, leaving my mind in a state of throbbing unrest and my entire being motionless (true story) is quite the Beauvoirian-menstrual experience. It’s reason to, at the very least, be allowed to go to the bathroom during said exam for how ever long I need to “get myself together,” without the fear of having less time to complete the exam. Doesn’t sound like too much to ask, considering the circumstances, huh?
It’s time that the silencing of menstruation comes to an abrupt halt. Ladies, let’s take baby steps. Rather than telling my boss I have stomach pains when asked why my head is down on the job, I will instead reply, “Sir/Madam, I’m on period.” Rather than sitting in Adams Auditorium writing an in-class exam fearfully anticipating the worst pains of all – and before I can even shout in agony, its piercing throbs having rushed straight to my brain – I will quaintly go to my professor or teaching assistant prior to the exam and let them know, “I’m menstruating and will need to go to the bathroom a couple times during this test; would it be possible if I could maybe get five to ten minutes after the exam to make up for the time I missed having to change my pad?”
I refuse to remain silent about my menstruation and I refuse to aid in the perpetuated de-legitimization of pre-menstrual syndrome. Like I said, currently, I’m on day three and luckily for myself and The Daily, the deadliest pains of all have come and gone prior to writing this article. For, if they didn’t, let’s just say I’d probably be crouched over on the floor trying to muster up the strength to send an e-mail to the editors letting them know my article was going to be late. Why? Because I’m on my period.
Tyrone Speaks is a twice monthly column written by Christiana Collison on the subject of black feminism. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.