Hannah Betts, writing in The Telegraph, says that menstruation is the last taboo. It’s the unmentionable. The Deep Secret. The thing which must not be named. Or, as she puts it, “the great shared silence at the heart of female existence”.
News to me. I remember how hard I laughed the time a Scottish friend told me about ‘Aunt Flo’ coming round, or the time she was ‘getting the painters in’.
Or the time I collapsed on the floor of the professor’s office at university and had to be taken away by an ambulance because of severe pelvic pain. As I was being carried out, I heard the secretary gleefully and maliciously tell the eminent old professor the drama was all because of a ‘really bad, really heavy period’ that I’d had in his office. Just so she could watch his face go white.
But maybe Ms Betts lives in a politer part of the world than me.
She’s certainly right that not enough medical attention is paid to it. Me and my girlfriends have, over the course of our lives, passed out, hyperventilated, become anaemic or vomited at various times during menstruation. This, surely, is not ‘natural’ and inevitable. But so little is understood about the workings of the female pelvis that – in the absence of an obvious disease like endometriosis – you get stuck with a GP who apologetically says that the ligaments of the uterus can be cut, if all else fails, which might offer some relief. Even though they don’t know why.
Yeah, thanks for that.
Menstruation is one of those things that everybody thinks is medically settled – like fat accumulation, like menopause, like female sexuality – when actually very little is known or understood about it.
Betts is also right that there’s a dead silence around the issue, at least among readers of The Telegraph.
It made me laugh to see that a whole 12 hours after the story appeared – in the Women’s section no less, where the most innocuous article is guaranteed to bring out the women-hating trolls – there’s only been one comment. From a troll, saying it’s all women’s fault. While still not using the word ‘period’ or ‘menstruation’.