A brief history of menstrual taboos

The construction of menstruation as an “unclean” process is an important cornerstone in misogyny, as it provides the sexist asshat a permanently available means of character assassination. Jen Bell gives us a brief review of the taboo’s presence for the past 100 years or so in advertising.

Modess was a brand created by Johnson & Johnson in 1926, which became a household name thanks to a glamorous advertising campaign they did in the US from the 1940s to the 1970s. The ads featured high fashion models, gorgeous gowns and the text: “Modess… Because.” There was no description of the product or what it was for. Periods were a taboo topic that was not directly spoken about, only alluded to. It took until 1985 for the word period to be said in a TV commercial by none other than Courtney Cox.

In the 1950s Modess promoted the fact that their sanitary napkins came in a plain brown paper box to save embarrassment.

Many brands still use terms like “virtually undetectable” or advertise that their product has a “discreet wrapper” to ensure “discreet protection.” This suggests it’s important to hide the fact you’re menstruating. In 2010, Kotex challenged period shame with their “Break the Cycle” campaign, showing that it’s cool to carry your tampons proudly in a transparent handbag.

At first the Softcup ad from 2015 above seems like it’s breaking taboos about period sex: the viewer can peek through an open door to see a couple in bed, with the text promoting “12-hour leak protection so you can sleep. Or not.” But the Softcup is actually designed to hide the fact you have your period, so you can go about your (sex) life “without him knowing.” Friendly reminder: you can have sex during your period — some people even prefer it! There’s no need to hide the fact you are menstruating from your partner. Periods shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment.

Menstruation is also used in other oppressive constructs (e.g. its presence is sometimes cited as “evidence” against trans men’s manhood, or to undermine any AFAB individual expressing a gender other than woman). This demonstrates some of the previous arguments I’ve made about how an attribute can exist but its broader “meaning” remains in dispute.

Maybe we can just generally stop being shitty about people’s bodily attributes.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Notes on selective white outrage

Madelaine Hanson has some notes on the UK’s far-right and their “Muslims arr commin for arr wimmin!” trope.

Anyway, when there were (and there was) thousands of other rape, abuse, sexual violence and stalking cases committed by white guys against ‘our women’, Lo! Tommy Robinson was nowhere to be seen. Nor was any other outraged white right wingers. Because, if you hadn’t noticed, the crime isn’t abusing women, it’s being a muslim and abusing a white woman. In fact I’d go further than that, it’s being a foreigner/non-white and abusing a white woman. It stinks of racism and reminds me of the lynching of black men who touched white women in the South.

They (the far white-right patriots) use ‘muslim’ as an ideological cover for their xenophobia. Controversially, I’d argue that some of their criticism of Islam, Islamists and indeed South Asian/Arab cultural misogyny isn’t completely wrong, but their motives for it come from completely the wrong place. It doesn’t come from a desire for an end to honour killings, acid attacks and female slavery, it comes from very angry, very racist hatred of the ‘other’. They don’t argue for stricter punishment for acid attackers, they argue for the deportation of Pakistanis. They don’t argue for Salafi women to be given police protection from abusive family/spouses after leaving abusive marriages, they argue for hanging to be brought back in relation to Islamic murders. They don’t argue for longer sentences for child groomers, just for less immigration from Central Asia. It’s transparent.

Read more about it here.

-Shiv

that double standard tho

Last Friday, Silentbob pointed out that TigTog, a radical feminist whose work I’ve occasionally encountered on teh interwebs, sometimes comments on FTB. From there I figured I could check out her blog, and I found a few excellent posts I’ll signal boost over the next couple weeks.

The first is a curious double standard which I wrote about on Friday, albeit with a different pair of power groups. TigTog writes about the double standard between criticisms from men (which are viewed as a dialogue and contribution to free speech) and criticisms from women (which are viewed as terrible censorship) despite the fact that the content of the criticisms isn’t overly different, based on a kerfluffle that started all the way back in 2013.

This time it’s women objecting to sexist content in the professional magazine for the Science Fiction Writers Of America who are causing Deep Rifts™. Pointing out that discussing female editors and writers in terms of how good they look in a bathing suit is a blatantly disrespectful trivialision of the work these women do and would never happen in a discussion of male editorsand writers and is therefore sexist and a double standard: that sort of talk is, according to the two men who did that, a call for censorship and suppression of their free speech.  As for complaining in the SWFA forum about a male columnist recommending women take Barbie as a role model to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should”?  Well, that was just making the forum  “the arena for difference”.

Hey, whatever happened to all that free speech crowd’s support for their beloved aphorism: “the only remedy for bad speech is more speech”?

Oh yeah – the ideal of more and more and more speech being an axiomatic good only applies when it’s men who are expressing contrary opinions to others. When women express our contrary opinions to men, we’re trying to silence them entirely. Because we’re just that evil and divisive.

It’s double standards all the way down. (And before anybody in the atheoskeptosphere starts Vaculating along the lines of “what about your double standards?” with respect to women identifying “what-Vacula-calls-disagreement” as an intimidatory silencing campaign, if only all the Vaculators were doing was “disagreeing” then you might have a point, but that isn’t what’s happening and you know it.  Refusing to engage with vexatious “you’re not allowed to ignore me” types is not a refusal to defend one’s ideas generally: it’s simply being aware that DARVO is the game being played and refusing to play it.)

Read more about this here.

Of course, the exact same power dynamic is sometimes re-created by TERFs who insist that any response to their material constitutes a grave moral failing, while issuing their poisonous diktats is seen as morally righteous.

-Shiv

Linkspam: Menstrual hygiene day

Menstrual hygiene day was technically May 28th, but as usual I was too busy faffing about in my bubble to notice until recently. Have a belated linkspam about the politics and practicalities of menstruation:

In summary: Most patriarchies have highly dysfunctional relationships with menstruation, which is itself a confluence of multiple factors. Thus, those raised in these attitudes and those who do not stop to interrogate said attitudes often continue the practice of singling out menstruation as a unique “moral failing,” despite the fact that there is nothing empirically to separate it from other bodily functions.

-Shiv

 

You Were a Trainwreck Before Estrogen

An addendum to Rae Rosenberg’s “You Were a Misogynist Before Testosterone

 

Trans communities often have something that resembles religion in my estimate–hormones. On the topic of testosterone and its masculinizing effects, Rosenberg criticized a This American Life episode featuring a trans man who justified his sexual objectification of women by citing testosterone as his excuse. Rosenberg notes (and rightly so) that misogyny is a learned behaviour and that there was no basis to connect a biochemical molecule to social norms about expressing sexual attraction.

As much as I would like to think otherwise, there’s no reason a trans person will be any better educated on the notions of biological essentialism or the Euro-colonial gender binary, so it follows that you will also find among trans women a range of anti-feminist or misogynist behaviours. Rosenberg’s article deals with the stereotypes associated with masculinity, and so I thought I would do the same for trans feminine folks and femininity–specifically the trope that we become emotionally fragile simply because we take estrogen.

With trans men, testosterone is often used to reinforce ideas of toxic masculinity, encouraging stereotypes about men as hypersexual, aggressive, angry, emotionally stunted beasts who want to hump everything they see. I see these narratives everywhere, from ‘activist’-leaning online forums to mainstream media.

If I go to a local trans feminine support group, I could ask each member to stand if they could answer “yes” to a few different questions. I could ask if anyone has been raped, and around two-thirds of the group will stand up.  I could ask if anyone lost their jobs and has struggled in their careers, about a quarter. If they are on poor terms with their parents, about two-thirds. How many lost their marriages, maybe a third. Assaulted? Half. Victims of domestic violence? Half again. Harassed on the street? All of them. Most of the circle will have experienced two or more of these things.

These same ladies will insist, vociferously and from the bottom of their heart, that it’s the estrogen making them cry.

Don’t get me wrong, as a trans woman and someone who has the liberty and dumb luck to have the option of hormone replacements, I’m well aware of its effects. I felt that I had been gasping for air at high altitude for two decades before I transitioned, and just starting hormone replacements alone felt like I began to breathe for the first time in my life. But I am quite confident that my sudden inability to remain stoic had everything to do with surviving multiple assaults and a domestic abuse situation and nothing to do with a steroidal hormone, despite both occurring at the same time.

And let’s not forget the suffocating effect untreated gender dysphoria can have long before we figure any of this out. The oft-quoted 41% statistic referring to the rate of attempted suicides in trans Americans isn’t actually lifelong or spread out evenly–it’s mostly clustered around coming out and the planning thereof, usually settling to be no different than the general population as a person’s transition progresses. The closet is no place for a person, yet I see its effects seldom recognized by those crediting estrogen for their newfound emotions–something which usually begins shortly after coming out.

One thing I appreciate about Rae Rosenberg’s piece is that it reminds us that oppression is something you do, rather than something you are.

When trans men argue that they can’t be misogynist because they were socialized as women, it further erases that women can also reinforce and reproduce misogyny.

I would certainly say it is also misogyny–albeit of the internalized variety–for us trans feminine folks to look at the ruins around us and assume we’re emotional because of estrogen. I think this does a disservice to us all when we don’t recognize that anybody would be right in feeling a bit fragile in the circumstances I described above. We’ve earned our tears, estrogen be damned.

All this occurs alongside and in addition to our hormone replacements. I’m just not convinced causation has ever been teased out. It sounds far more likely that we are just reproducing the idea that expressing emotion is effeminate, rather than an ordinary adaptation to stress, something most of us are under a tremendous amount of. And while it is validating in the context of a support group, let’s not forget that it will just as easily be the justification of our dismissals by transmisogynistic people when we leave it.

-Shiv

 

The significance of political misogynistic violence on the anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre

27 years ago, a shooter entered a Montreal STEM school lecture hall with a loaded gun and held a class at gunpoint. He ordered the class to divide itself into men and women. They didn’t comply until he shot the ceiling.

Once separated, he turned his gun on the women. 14 women were murdered and another 20 injured before the shooter would turn the gun on himself. We would dub this the Ecole Polytechnique Massacre.

As with all atrocities, promises were made to never forget–certainly many Canadian feminists, myself included, observe the day of mourning. Yet it would seem that many in Alberta’s political landscape have a selective memory indeed, given that mere days ago an entire crowd worked itself into a frenzy to speak of our female Premier, “Lock her up!

It certainly puts Alberta’s conservative leadership in an awkward position. Their previous big tent success has always worked only with the cooperation of their snarling, reactionary dickhead vote, in which virulent misogynists have had their home for decades. Now they are tasked with keeping this vote whilst condemning violence spun in the same cloth that occurred on this day, 27 years ago.

Of course this isn’t the first time Brian Jean, leader of Alberta’s right-wing Wildrose Party, has had to contain this feral portion of the conservative voting bloc. He has gone on record to condemn them multiple times, yet they don’t seem particularly convinced by his ineffectual bleating. Maybe it’s because he’ll turn around in 3 months to start courting their vote again, but only before issuing another disingenuous apology about how wrong violence against women is. You’re not fooling your drooling bloodhounds, Jean, and neither are you fooling me.

How fundamentally perverse it is that the authoritarian jackboots can make their proclamations that the Premier ought to be jailed, simply because they dislike her, mere days before an occasion which reminds us all of the cost of patriarchal entitlement. If that’s a “joke,” you’ll have to explain it to me.

-Shiv

Alt Reich stands for free hate–err, speech

Laci Green is a YouTuber running a number of sex education channels in which she covers a wide range of topics that are arbitrarily considered taboo by many curricula across the world. Although she had a few rough patches early in her career with some unintentionally cissexist remarks, she has improved significantly over the years. Her work in the past year or so has been absolutely top notch and potentially expands access to sex education for those unlucky enough to not have it. I have an enormous amount of respect for Laci, and the importance of her work cannot be understated.

She is also a feminist.

Philip DeFranco, another YouTuber who I’ve already criticized for unironically using the term “Social Justice Warrior” as a pretext to dismiss arguments he dislikes, apparently has some kind of vendetta against Laci Green. There are at least two videos on his channel mentioning her by name, and as we all know, critical videos from cishet white men with large followings tend to create harassment campaigns which they seldom if ever acknowledge or even try to reign in.

The crux of what happened was that Laci asked YouTube to launch an inquiry into the use of her face in photoshopped imagery from a third YouTuber, self-styled “free speech absolutist” Roaming Millenial. The image in question ‘shopped an Indigenous headdress onto Laci’s face. Because Laci is white, and not an asshole, she likely would have been concerned with the integrity of her copyright. RM made a video accusing Laci of censorship–and (CONTENT NOTICE ALL THE TERRIBLE) Youtube’s favourite atheist assweasel goonsquad followed suit.

[Read more…]

Trump’s alt right goons prove how not threatening they are by issuing deluge of threats

Pretty much anyone would feel a bit touchy if it were suggested they were the scum of human society. Nobody likes being called that. When we’re talking about the alt right, a cluster of beliefs exhibiting anything from White Supremacy to anti-suffragist sentiments, it’s hard not to point out that they advocate for a lot of harm. Except a detailed description of the harm in question is a feature, and not a bug. They want to hurt you.

However, the alt right is uniquely predictable in that calling out alt right beliefs as being dangerous will inevitably result in you being doxxed and swarmed by rape and death threats, as if this proves how reasonable advocacy for the alt right cluster of beliefs is.

Cue a Canadian university where this is exactly what happened.

[Read more…]

Priorities

A football athlete stands up against institutionalized racism and his fans burn jerseys, he loses his job, and white people everywhere freak out.

A football athlete is caught on film assaulting his wife or raping teenage girls, and…

-Shiv