Monday, November 07, 2005

I really missed you guys too...

...only this had nothing to do with Disneyland.

I went to a screening of a film about menstruation. It was interesting, I guess. I’ll hold off on critical analysis for a moment, but I’ll start with an observation - people in the “real world” are not used to talking about the nitty gritty of their bodily functions in public. The number of times I had to restrain myself from saying things like “I need to run to the bathroom and see if I’m still spotting” was boggling. (Actually, I was restraining myself from having any sort of deep conversation - I was trying to be in small-talk mode. Didn’t completely work, though I only shared my deeper analysis with a tiny group of people, two of whom I don’t even know that well...)

The film is, as I said, about menstruation. Specifically, it centers loosely around the question of menstrual suppression - using Depo Provera or continuious BCPs to reduce the number of bleeds. My first bafflement of the evening was the realization that lots and lots of women don’t understand how their bodies work. Women don’t realize that the period they’re having when they’re on “regular” BCPs isn’t really a period at all, but just withdrawal bleeding. They don’t investigate the future health ramifications of Depo. Many of them wish they could just stop getting their period all together.*

What I found most disturbing was the absense of attention to the concept of fertility. I don’t just mean that they failed to mention the potential after-effects of something like Depo on a woman’s fertility, but that the notion that menstruation is tied to reproductive functioning seemed like it was missing from the film. How do you talk about menstruation without acknowledging its link to fertility and reproduction? Many (most?) women use BCPs and other forms of monthly or longer menstrual control/suppression not to rid their bodies of menstruation, but as contraception.

Another angle on the same point: Getting a period means (in most cases... there are exceptions... standard disclaimers apply... blah, blah, blah) that you’re not pregnant. If you’re 17, that period after you missed a pill is probably a big relief. If you’re 27 (or whatever) and TTC, that period is like a punch in the gut. Both mean you’re not pregnant, but not being pregnant signifies different things to different people.

Obviously, I don’t expect the filmmaker to have incorporated every aspect of menstruation in the film. That just wouldn’t be feasible. But I do think that some general reference to the notion that periods are inherently linked to women’s reproductive functioning might have been in order. I’m just saying.

Now I need to run to the bathroom and see if my period is really starting so we can get this show on the road.

* I certainly understand that there are circumstances (fibriods, endo, and the like) that would warrant menstrual suppression. But lots of women just don’t want the bother, which seems very different to me. Not inherently bad (though I fought so hard to get my body to have periods that it’s a bit foreign) but very different.


  1. You sure know how to pick a good movie. ;-) I went to see Pride & Prejudice the other night.

    I got very thorough sex education in school. We got the basics in 6th grade of elementary school. Then we learnt the human reproductive system again in high school. I think in the 2nd or 3d year, the yuck factor was still sufficiently high.

    It has always bothered me that they forgot to mention that not every woman is regular like clockwork. I found that out very soon and I wish I had known about BBT then.

    Also, there was the suggestion that unprotected sex surely leads to pregnancy. I guess telling a bunch of teens that the odds are actually only 20% is not a good idea, but still.

    They taught us the blessing of BCP and other contraceptives, but don't think they explained exactly how these worked.

  2. It baffles me, too, that more people don't know what the hell is going on with their own bodies. I hope your period shows soon so you can get this cycle going.

  3. I am ashamed to say that until a couple of years ago, I thought having a period meant you had, for sure, ovulated 14 days prior--even if it came 40 days after your last one. Oh, the bitter laughter.
    Sounds like an interesting movie--I have all kinds of dull theories on the subject. And I know what you mean about people being uncomfortable talking about such things--I have slipped occasionally, and said something that is blog-but-not-real-life appropriate, and the looks I got....

  4. I was blissfully unaware of a lot of how things work until all this TTC nonsense. I'm not sure if that is good or bad though.