The operating system of women


Several months ago, Mr Firewall asked me if I had ever seen the ads for Bodyform feminine hygiene products that he remembers from his youth. I guess they were only in the UK (possibly Europe) because, as far as I know, Bodyform products don’t even exist in the US. As he always does, he charitably decided to belt out the ‘theme song’ of these ads. I thought surely his rendition was exaggerated and over-the-top… but for once, as I sought out the actual ads from the 80s, his version was almost toned down. I was a bit… stunned. What the hell kind of song was this?


Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Firewall remembered the first ad, but my first exposure was this second one… I can’t really tell what the people are doing. First it looks like a water tank, then an oil rig-like thing and then like they are welding or something. (Okay, I admit I am not really watching closely.)

In the months since my introduction to Bodyform advertising, Firewall has continued to regale me with his renditions of this song, sometimes spontaneously and sometimes in response to my statements, such as “I must have PMS” or “I must be ovulating”.

We recently had a discussion, though, about how so many men have no clue about menstruation. (Firewall has a bunch of older sisters, so he well knows.) But I read a handful of things online recently that echoed the same kinds of things I have heard boys, and even men, say… in all their ignorance. For example, they imagine that women can control their periods in the same way people control their bladders. Just WILL THE BLEEDING TO STOP – hold it in! Beyond that, the lifetime cost of having periods will apparently add up to almost USD 20,000.

I don’t really know why I am writing about this except that it makes me mad. We must deal with – as women – for almost our entire lives – something out of our control, uncomfortable and often painful. And then deal with the total misunderstanding and ignorance surrounding this within society. And then get to pay for the privilege… to the tune of the cost of a car. But even that isn’t as infuriating as it could be. At least I have access to choices and resources. And as ignorant as people can be about something like periods, I don’t live in a deeply shame-based culture that demonizes menstruation.

I was talking to someone else last night, mentioning these menstrual misconceptions and issues, and he said that he, too, had spent the evening talking about menstruation… although slightly more targeted than my kvetching aimlessly. No, he was discussing how he and a group with whom he will travel will get feminine hygiene products in bulk to girls in Sierra Leone. He himself will travel with 60kgs of tampons. (I am wondering about the efficacy, probability and feasibility of supplying menstrual cups, which seem easier to manage, transport, distribute sustainably… but not sure how well that would work.)

And this issue makes me infuriated at my own helplessness – not just the fact that young women in Sierra Leone, West Africa, many parts of Africa and all over the world don’t have these kinds of basic tools at their disposal – but the fact that resources in general are so scarce that it is always like anything one does ‘to help’ is a futile ‘drop in the bucket’, yet at the same makes a tremendous difference (in the way it never does in a well-resourced part of the world). I recognize that I am unfocused and grazing the surface in this venting.

Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash

the operating system of the job interview


I think we’ve all had job interviews during which red flags were raised and alarm bells went off in our heads, cautioning us to take a step back and consider whether we really want to work with these people. I certainly have. By the same token, I have also had interviews with people who were immediately engaging, whose intelligence and vision made me immediately want to join forces.

I was thinking today about the former kind, the “this isn’t good”-gut-feeling interview. That is, the interviewer is late, is rushed and stressed, fiddles with their phone or email for a few minutes once the interview has begun, apologizing but nevertheless continuing.

I’m thinking: This is a first impression, dude. And it’s not going so well.

Then the discussion begins. I’m thrown off my game a bit because they have already created this atmosphere. The tone is set. They use words that only certain kinds of people use, “Anyone who works for me will tell you this.”

I’m thinking: In this day and age, who really says ‘works for me’, especially when they’ve been touting the flat, almost-non-existent hierarchy and lack of pretense? Yes, maybe I would be part of your team… but say instead “anyone who works in my team or anyone who works with me”… . The use of “works for me” immediately conveys a kind of (possibly unconscious) structure from within that person’s mind, which strives (again, possibly unconsciously) to establish a power dynamic. And yes, maybe that person would be my manager, but I don’t want a manager who chooses that particular language. I am at a stage in my career and life where I choose with whom to work, not for whom to work.

Once the discussion ends, 45 minutes into the appointed time, right on schedule in fact, they adopt a sarcastic and accusatory tone: “This conversation has gone well over time.”

I’m thinking: Oh, I think not.

And… it was okay for you to disrespect my time at the beginning of the interview but then to get an attitude when you mistakenly believe I have overrun your time?

I don’t love being a nitpicking asshole. I don’t love being overly sensitive. In this case, I don’t like being something of an analyst about minute word choice. I have found, however, that when I dismissed these concerns in the past and convinced myself I was being overly sensitive, I have ended up in some of the worst professional situations I’ve ever been in.

And no, I don’t need that.