I’ve been reading a lot of post-societal-collapse-humans-suck-and-we-destroyed-everything fiction lately (is that a genre?), much of which features female narrators who struggle with the existential crisis of being alive and what it means when everything we measured our lives against is gone. (Yes, we are still us.) And then I woke up this morning and realized HOLY SHIT NO ONE HAS A PERIOD.
I mean, I get it. You can argue that people in these near-distant post-apocalyptic future scenarios might be malnourished, and malnourishment can lead to malfunctioning lady parts, but let’s get real. A lot of this genre examines subcultures and tribes and groups of people that have popped up and are doing just fine all things considered. They talk about shit and blood and sex and disease and PREGNANCY… but not the fact that half the people left on this planet are bleeding from their vaginas once a month and there are no drug stores to pick up a box of tampons and a bottle of wine. Oh, and you kind of have to be a somewhat healthy woman with periods to get pregnant. So there’s that.
Do we just assume they’ve gone the way of our foremothers and sew together belted pad diapers and don’t discuss it? Do they hide in a bleeding tent? Do they just say “Fuck it.” and let it fly, because who the fuck has time to worry about the stigma of period blood when almost everyone in the world has just been wiped out by the plague/zombies/digital blackout/massive tsunami/2016 presidential election?
Periods are real. They’re part of life. They’re part of our bodies and the way we live and function as humans, and most of us deal with them every single month for approximately 40 years. I’m pretty sure that would still be a thing post apocalypse. We’re creating strong, female heroes to guide us through the mess we’ve made (will make? are making?), so why not let them be woman warriors that kick ass WHILE having a period? I’m having a really hard time believing the fictional women I’ve been following through various dystopian wastelands just stopped having their periods period.
I’ve done some searching to see if anyone has broached the subject already. Clearly there are bloggers out there that already know we’re heading for certain doom and that periods will still be a thing. They’re talking real time. So why didn’t any of the authors decide this was a detail worth noting in female-driven fiction about life after life-as-we-know-it ends? Authors who are female.
(PSA: DO NOT google “periods during the apocalypse”. Or do. There are actual online articles and discussions about women, and periods, and blood-sniffing zombies, and how to survive holycrapwhyyyyy?)
With a little more searching, I did come across a piece by Sloane Crosley (slay, Sloane) in The Times about female authors writing in the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genre. She gives one parenthetical nod to the absence of menstruation: “Granted, this is a world where self-proclaimed prophets kill and impregnate at will (incidentally, plenty of plots in post-apocalyptic fiction have to do with pregnancy, but, as far as I know, no one in the history of the genre ever has her period).” Thank you.
Why choose to rant on this beautiful Friday about a female reality I don’t even particularly enjoy? Because it’s important. For way too long women’s bodies have been up for discussion by (mostly) old, male politicians to censor and control. Men (and women!) pick apart our flaws and breakdown our body parts in a dissection of our level of attraction and worth. And God forbid we admit to having any human bodily functions. Tampons have to be passed behind backs (hush, hush!), and reproductive health is not a lady-like topic. What year is this?! What insane world are we living in?
Dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction is one place where we can rewrite the rules, there’s a chance to start over, and yet we’ve made one crucial omission. We adopt the same don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude we’ve been taught since we were little girls with changing bodies.