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

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