Menstruation Is Having a Pop-Culture Moment — And It’s About Time

A few years ago, I watched an all-female comedy group perform a joke about taking shots of cheap, watery Crystal Palace vodka from a menstrual cup. Maybe it was the inebriation of the audience or the small liberal arts school-ness of the crowd, but the joke sold. And I was kind of amazed. This was in the Vagina Monologues era of my college life, when I was heavily involved in my school’s feminist group, and even though we talked about Diva Cups as much as we blamed stuff on the patriarchy, I was quietly in awe of this offhand reference because it felt so normal.

Earlier this week, a feminist Reddit forum called TwoXChromosomes started posting graphic details about menstruation after Reddit changed its settings, turning formerly hidden subreddits like 2X into default homepage fixtures. In an attempt to ward off any potential future trolls, 2X posters explicitly discussed and described period shits, period clumps, and the like. While the gross-out nature of this dialogue probably parallels any frat-boy discussion about bodily fluids, it is far more rare. In a sentence I never thought I would ever type, menstruation seems to be having a moment — a moment of normalcy.

Plenty of young musicians and bands like Tacocat have penned songs about their periods — just take a listen to Bitch magazine’s period-themed playlist. BuzzFeed recently posted the quiz “How Metal Is Your Period?” and asked people to illustrate what their periods feel like. Lily Allen has turned period pride into her pet project, with her song “Sheezus” containing a verse that starts out with, “Periods, we all get periods/ Every month, yo, that’s what the theory is.” Allen told The Guardian that she thinks “period” will be her version of Beyoncé’s “surfboard,” a word that she totally owns. This isn’t quite the brand of “I am woman, hear me roar!” menstruation talk that has typified much of the pro-period discourse. Instead, this is menstruation as a bodily function, a fact of life, a sometimes-cheeky joke where the period isn’t the punchline, but it can be treated comedically.

Feminists have worked hard to increase the visibility surrounding menstruation, from Gloria Steinem’s classic 1978 essay, “If Men Could Menstruate” to artists like Carina Úbeda using menstrual blood as a medium for an art installation just last year. In some ways menstruation is still shrouded in stereotypes and stigmatization, but what isn’t? Last year, The Daily Beast ran the admittedly horribly titled “Are Tampons Anti-Feminist?,” which raised questions about how our “menstruation-fearing culture” keeps periods invisible.

Thankfully, it seems like we’re entering into an era where talking about your period doesn’t need to be a brag or a LOL, just a statement of fact. While I don’t think I’ll ever loudly and publicly congratulate my uterus for doing its job, I would never want to pretend that it doesn’t exist. What I think — what I hope — this spate of “period pieces” indicates is a greater acceptance of women referencing their periods without feeling like they need to hide them or use a euphemism because someone can’t stand to hear the word “period.” (And, also, doesn’t Aunt Flo as a term sound way more gross?)

When something is de-stigmatized, it doesn’t necessarily need to be flaunted; it can also just be. When you normalize a topic of discussion formerly seen as taboo, people can talk about it rationally. So, yay for people being able to talk about menstruating without getting freaked out or grossed out or blatantly cringing! (We totally notice you when you do that, FYI.) Maybe this is maturity, maybe it’s feminism. But it’s about damn time.