A BRIEF HISTORY OF MENSTRUATION- Part 2

How the bloody history of the period affects gender & workplace relations.

 

Periods are already painful enough - why make talking about them painful, too?


So this week at Agendr, we’ve decided to focus on bringing some light to these issues. We’ve interviewed a few local women who regularly work and participate in the local music scene to get a consensus on their experiences. Here’s what they had to say!


What has your experience been in male-dominated spaces in general? Do you feel like you were readily accepted/accommodated?

  • “For the most part yes.”

  • “I didn't experience any issues among my peers but with higher positioned men in the work place it was a challenge. There was a sense of imposed superiority beyond just the difference in job level.”

  • “No.”

  • “Not at first, in fact I was insulted many times over the years, or overlooked and expected to fail/not be good at my job, because it’s not typical for people to experience working with a female engineer. Over time, a level of acceptance grew locally and is still growing.”

  • “I was accepted, but not readily. It took my co-workers some time to ‘assess’ me as an individual and as a professional.”

  • “Sometimes, I sometimes feel my contributions were overlooked.”

  • “My experiences have been mostly good. I feel accepted.”


Has someone of the opposite sex ever helped you during your cycle? How did they help/not help?

  • “Yes. They went to purchase painkillers for me.”

  • “On a few occasions, male co-workers have provided assistance to both myself and other women in the workplace, sometimes by providing painkillers or food.”

  • “This is not something I would risk sharing with the opposite sex in work setting. So if they helped it would have been without the knowledge that I was on my cycle. However, assistance has been given in the form of taking over some of my duties while I rest.”

  • “Yes, exes in the past have helped me by offering to purchase and sometimes purchasing menstrual products for me. They have been very willing to take care of me in situations where I felt very ill during my cycle.”

  • “Yes, they gave me a jacket when I had a leak and they got me pads and ice cream to cheer me up.”

  • “Yes, generally my female friends would be the ones to help out if my period started early and I forgot to walk with supplies or if I had a leak. Very rarely would I receive/ask for help from a stranger or male.”


Give us a story of getting your period in a male-dominated space, and how you handled it.

  • “Most times I take some distance and try to handle the symptoms without everyone having to know. If I'm really comfortable with the people I'm working with I may ask for help/they may ask me if I need anything. There have been times where I was made fun of for having cramps and told that it wasn't a big deal.”

  • “On one occasion I had a really rough day and had taken painkillers while outside the office. I had a very bad reaction to said painkillers and nearly passed out, my male co-worker carried me back into the office building and sought help while a completely different woman I'd never worked with nor seen before stayed with me until I regained my strength.”

  • “I work in a very male dominated space. Thankfully, sanitary bins are provided in the restrooms and I've never experienced a very painful period at work to the point where I've needed time off. However, if the situation arises, I hope that I won't face any discrimination.”

  • “Having my period the night of a show, I wasn’t really given much grace and although I was in pain and weak, I was told I just had to suck it up and get through it, which I ultimately had no other choice to do because the “show must go on.”

  • “I have a generally regular cycle, so I am able to plan and prepare in advance without any major disruption. I doubt any male co-workers realise when I have my period.”

  • “Don’t really have any stories. I’ve been very fortunate in that area, most times I have had a female friend around to help me.”


Now, there’s a lot to glean from these responses.


Most respondents said that they have not felt readily welcomed by some men in the workplace - and this is before any talk of periods even begins. Note that the respondents indicate that they either handle their period by themselves, or have to find a way to schedule work around it. Many felt as if they had to fight for acceptance, as they weren’t readily accepted by their workplace as a gender minority, and some felt that their period pains were ignored or not taken seriously. Some even express a general lack of wanting their coworkers to know that they’re even on their period to begin with.


However, none of the respondents had completely negative things to say - in fact, many respondents said that they had actually been helped on occasion, both by other female coworkers and by male coworkers. For the most part though, respondants seem more inclined to request for help from other people more likely to also experience a monthly cycle, rather than someone of the opposite sex. Whether that inclination comes from a general distrust/ reluctance to share such private information, not feeling respected, or preconceived notions on what should and shouldn’t be discussed with coworkers in general, is unclear.


So what can we learn from this?


Of course, the intention of this article is to get you readers thinking. What ways do you feel like you’ve been accepted, or not accepted, because of your gender? Do you feel like having a menstrual cycle holds you back? Have you ever looked down on someone or made fun of them because of their period, regardless of gender? Do you personally know someone affected by period poverty?


It’s important to remember too that gender expression and gender identity don’t always match up. Gender non conforming and non-binary folks experience issues related to the menstrual cycle entirely differently, and should not be left out of the conversation. And where do trans women fall in this conversation - a minority that’s meant to feel as if they are less of who they are because they don’t have a menstrual cycle? How do we, as people, navigate a society that tells us so much of our worth lies in our biology alone? That if we differ from the norm in any aspect, we are lesser than?


Hopefully you found this article informative, and hopefully, the magical mystical veil surrounding the mysteries of the menstrual cycle have been lifted, even just a little bit.

 

SOURCES:


Alma Gottlieb. “Sex, Fertility and Menstruation among the Beng of the Ivory Coast: A Symbolic Analysis.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, vol. 52, no. 4, [Cambridge University Press, International African Institute], 1982, pp. 34–66, https://doi.org/10.2307/1160093


Bell, Jen. “What Was It like to Get Your Period in Ancient Greece?” Periods throughout History, Clue, 14 Apr. 2021, https://helloclue.com/articles/culture/what-was-it-like-to-get-your-period-in-ancient-greece.


“Bruno Bettelheim.” Obo, https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780190221911/obo-9780190221911-0072.xml.


Doughty, Melissa, et al. “Period Poverty.” Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, 6 Aug. 2019, https://newsday.co.tt/2019/08/06/period-poverty/


“The History of Periods: Menstruation through the Ages.” KT By Knix, https://www.knixteen.com/blogs/the-rag/the-history-of-periods.


Holland, Brynn. “The 'Father of Modern Gynecology' Performed Shocking Experiments on Enslaved Women.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Aug. 2017, https://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves.


Holland, Brynn. “The 'Father of Modern Gynecology' Performed Shocking Experiments on Enslaved Women.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Aug. 2017, https://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves.


“Protecting Our Girls from Period Poverty.” Trinidad Guardian, 2 Apr. 2019, https://www.guardian.co.tt/article/protecting-our-girls-from-period-poverty-6.2.815692.14548b78d7


“Review: Menstruation and the Female Body.” Early Modern Medicine, 26 Feb. 2014, http://earlymodernmedicine.com/review-menstruation-and-the-female-body/.


The Secret History of Menstruation - JSTOR DAILY. https://daily.jstor.org/the-secret-history-of-menstruation/.


“When Your Period Means You Have to Live in a Shed.” WaterAid, https://www.wateraid.org/stories/when-your-period-means-you-have-to-live-in-a-shed


Montgomery, Rita E. “A Cross-Cultural Study of Menstruation, Menstrual Taboos, and Related Social Variables.” Ethos, vol. 2, no. 2, [American Anthropological Association, Wiley], 1974, pp. 137–70, http://www.jstor.org/stable/639905.







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