complaints, healthcare, rants

Hey guys… periods are none of your bloody business!

Obviously, this post is going to be TMI for some readers. Proceed with caution.

A couple of days ago, The Atlantic ran an article about how menstrual periods are now “optional”. The article was entitled “No One Has to Get Their Period Anymore”, with the tag line, “Why Menstruate if You Don’t Have To?” As I sit here wondering where my period is, and hoping it doesn’t strike this weekend as I celebrate my birthday, I think back on the many days I’ve spent “on the rag”. Starting New Year’s Eve 1985 and continuing to this day, I’ve mostly been very regular. It’s only been within the past few years– 2017 or so– that my body has occasionally taken a month off. I’m pretty lucky, though, because my periods have always been mostly bearable. Yes, they’re messy, stinky, and kind of gross, but I’ve never been bedridden because of that time of the month. The most I’ve had to deal with is cravings, crankiness, and the occasional ruined pair of underwear.

Some of my friends have not been so lucky. I know women who have had to deal with excessive pain and lengthy menstrual periods. I know other women who are busy and don’t have time to deal with the monthly bill. Some of those women have decided that they would rather not menstruate. They visited their doctors and got help. From the article:

Today, any doctor will tell you there is no medical necessity for periods unless you’re trying to conceive. The body preps for pregnancy by thickening the uterus’s lining, like a bird building a nest for her eggs; hormonal birth control prevents pregnancy, in part, by keeping the uterine lining from ever building up. Many of the roughly 19 million Americans who rely on the pill, the shot, IUDs, implants, patches, or rings see a change in their period—often it’s lighter, but it can also disappear altogether. In clinical trials, more than 40 percent of the Liletta IUD’s users no longer menstruated by the end of the product’s six-year life. More than half of people who get the Depo-Provera shot every three months will become amenorrhoeic within a year, and almost 70 percent in the second year. And anyone using the pill, patch, or ring can safely skip scheduled withdrawal bleeding.

Sounds awesome! I have never used birth control myself. In fact, Bill has never even used a condom. He has never needed to. Again, my period isn’t really that onerous. I’m not a career person. It’s not a big deal for me to menstruate, although it can be inconvenient and annoying. But like I said– I do know women who have suffered a lot due to menstruation. And so, if they don’t want to menstruate, why should they? More importantly, why is it that some men feel the need to opine about such a personal decision?

In the comment section on The Atlantic’s Facebook page, I was surprised to see a lot of comments from men about this topic. One guy, who wrote that he has daughters and worries about their health, queried “How is this healthy?”

And my response was, “Men seriously need to STFU about periods.” I could tell by the reactions to my comment that a lot of women agree with me.

Fellas, I appreciate that you worry about the women in your life. I like that you want to know how her body works. But, unless you are a physician and it’s your job to deal with women and their periods, I think this is a subject on which you shouldn’t offer too much input. I, for one, am very grateful that my husband’s wonderful mom, Parker, taught Bill so well. When Aunt Flow comes knocking at our house, Bill comes home with red wine, steaks, and chocolate. And that’s all that needs to be done… except for a little cramp relief.

It’s been my experience that most men don’t want to know the gory details of the monthly menstrual period. They aren’t there to comfort their wives or daughters when they accidentally leak through their pants. They may not be too appreciative in the middle of the night, when their wife or daughter wakes up with a gush of bleeding that has pooled and leaked on the sheets. They don’t know the sorrow of a destroyed pair of favorite underwear. They don’t understand the special fatigue and icky feeling that comes from having periods… not just the actual bleeding, but also the bloating, sensitive breasts, sleeplessness, irritability, and odors that come from that time of the month. Some men love to joke about such things, but they don’t experience it, and they can’t fully appreciate the unpleasantness of it.

Another example of a man getting involved in a conversation about something about which he clearly knows nothing.
And another… There were more, but in the interest of not boring people, I’m not going to post them. You get the idea.

Now, in fairness to the guy who asked, “How is that ‘healthy’?”, I did see a few women also posting about how they felt it was better not to mess with Mother Nature. And frankly, I kind of agree with those women. I don’t have a need to mess with the natural process of things, so I don’t. But– just as I probably would never choose to have an abortion but support legal abortions for other women, I fully support the rights of other women to make the choice not to menstruate. That monthly ordeal is truly a pain for a lot of people. Unless a woman wants to get pregnant, there’s no need to deal with the mess.

Another thing the article points out is that sanitary products are potentially very expensive, plus they don’t do great things for the environment. Of course, if money is an issue regarding sanitary napkins or tampons or the other products available, then it would probably also be an issue in paying for birth control, particularly for those who can’t pay for health insurance. And for some people, not having a period is a medical necessity– people who are missing an intact uterus or vagina, for instance. Not having a period can also be a psychological necessity. The article mentions a transgender man who suppressed his period because he didn’t want the monthly reminder that he was “born in the ‘wrong’ body”.

On the other hand, some people are comforted by the presence of their periods. For instance, some people use the presence of their periods to know that they aren’t pregnant. The period can also be a marker for recovery from an eating disorder or another health condition involving the pituitary or thyroid glands. When menstrual periods resume in someone who has had severe anorexia nervosa, that’s a sign that the body has healed from malnourishment and, perhaps, has regained fertility. Other people just like the rhythm of the period. It makes them feel “in touch” with their bodies.

Whatever… the point is, now that science has made a period free life possible for people who would ordinarily menstruate, it should be a choice that can be made without a bunch of chatter and mansplaining from those who don’t have to deal with having periods. I think the only time this should really come up with a man is if he’s raising a female child alone. I do have a male friend who is raising his daughter… and I don’t think he’s prepared for when she hits puberty. I hope he has some female friends who can help him out, because it’s just around the corner.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about periods… and how men really need to be quieter when it comes to discussing them. Back in 2017, George Takei shared an article about how menstruating women were being “price gouged” at an airport– $15 for a box of tampons. Lots of men were making stupid comments about that, too. Because that was an interesting post, here’s some of what I had to say about that situation reposted here:

An anonymous woman happened to be at Calgary International Airport when everybody’s least favorite aunt arrived.  She found herself unprepared for her period and the vending machine in the ladies room was empty.  When the woman went to a drug store to buy the necessary supplies, she was ripped off.  It was $15 for the tampons.  So the woman paid the money and left the box in the restroom for other women, along with a note of explanation.

A screenshot of the tampons Carlee Field found at the airport.

Carlee Field came across the box of tampons, snapped a photo of them and the note, and posted to Reddit.  Apparently, the outrage was enough to spark a response from airport officials, who promised to stock the vending machines.  The drug store, likewise, lowered the price of the tampons.

The story was interesting enough, although the comments were especially stimulating.  It always amazes me when men want to weigh in on subjects regarding menstrual periods.  To their credit, many men were surprisingly understanding and even empathetic.  On the other hand, there were quite a few comments from guys who felt the need to lecture us women about bringing the necessary supplies with us. 

Here are just a few comments from males who think they know what it’s like to bleed from the genitals every month…

Maybe she should be a responsible adult and bring her own…? Or should we treat women like helpless victims?

Airport price gouging is not unique to tampons. It’s a huge price gauging enterprise. It’s why I make sure I have what I need, along with “just in case” items, before I leave my house.

Oh please. This is the problem nowadays. People stop looking at reality in favor of talking points and PC bullshit. The topic was price gauging. My comment was that the gauging isn’t unique to this particiular item, and that planning ahead could prevent the expense. Am I really wrong about that? Really?  (someone should teach this man how to spell “gouging”– actually, this word is curiously misspelled several times by different people)

I’m confused. A lot of women are saying they have irregular periods, heavy periods, etc. as an excuse for being caught off guard. That just seems counter intuitive. I would think that if you had irregularities in your cycle and that you likely COULD have a surprise…. Isn’t that more of a reason to always be prepared and to carry fem Hy products? Because you know there’s a likelihood of having a surprise?

Of course the socialist thinks everything should just be given to her.

Fancy that.

I can see how youd assume most men take such a drug, your sex life must be dull.

Wait… Youre female and you said something logical…. My mind is about to explode! Welcome to the wonderful world of getting yelled at by the mob of women with pitch forks and torches!

Quit getting so butthurt because guys are calling women unprepared for not packing a few extra while traveling 🙄you know you’re away from home for days at a time and that it could happen at any point. Unpreparedness is just the truth here. Sensitive much?

I could probably sit here all morning and read the comments, but I’ll stop with the ones above.  

I have already written this story a few times, but I’ll repeat it for those who don’t want to read old posts. It was the end of November 2012. Bill and I were in Scotland on Hebridean Princess, a ship that generally caters to the elderly set. I had just gotten new luggage and, for whatever reason, forgot to stock my bags with feminine hygiene supplies. I usually have several tucked away just in case, but I guess I forgot to stock up in the excitement of packing.

On the last night of the cruise, we not only found out that our sweet bagel, MacGregor, was dying, but I had also started my period and was completely unprepared. Fortunately, the assistant purser, a very lovely lady named Valeria, was able to score me a few items from crew members to get me through the night. I doubt this is a problem they deal with too often, since most women on that ship are past menopause. Nevertheless, I will never forget that kindness.

Since that experience in 2012, I have been very careful to make sure I am ready in case Auntie Flow arrives when I’m on the go.  But even though I am now especially sure to pack the essentials, that doesn’t mean I won’t need to buy more, perhaps even in the airport.  The human body can be an unpredictable thing.  I’m sure it won’t be long before my hormones go haywire and I won’t know WTF I’ll be dealing with as I enter a “new season” of life, as Michelle Duggar puts it.  

Feminine hygiene products truly are a necessity.  In fact, some might argue (and a few did) that they should be freely available in public restrooms, as toilet paper generally is.  But, as a quick Google search shows, quite a lot of women lack the appropriate supplies for their time of the month.  If you’re poor and you have a choice of spending money on stemming the crimson tide or eating, you’d likely pick eating.  If you’re paying with a SNAP card, the choice to eat would be a no-brainer.  You can’t use SNAP cards on non food items.   

There are some communities taking notice of the need.  How progressive!  It seems like providing hygiene supplies to menstruating women would be a “win-win” proposition.  Women can spare themselves the embarrassment and humiliation of being caught unprepared and “price-gouged” at the airport, and everyone can avoid the sight of blood on furniture and clothing.  In all seriousness, though, this is a big deal.  There is evidence that not properly taking care of one’s period can lead to significant health issues.  Yeah… this is what is “unhealthy” about periods…

It’s also just really unpleasant.

As you can see, this is a world that biological men don’t have to worry about or deal with. But we used to have a president who made tacky comments about Megyn Kelly, saying “she’s got blood coming out of her ‘wherever’.”  I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised when I read stupid comments from men who think they know what it’s like to have periods and have the right to opine about what women should do to prevent being “surprised”.  The fact is, sometimes you get caught with your pants down, for whatever reason.  It happens to everybody.  It shouldn’t be a big deal to be able to access affordable sanitary products when that happens.  And men, who will never have to deal with the mess, expense, and inconvenience of monthly periods, should really be more sensitive.  Better yet, most of them should simply STFU on this particular topic.

And if a woman decides she’d rather not have periods at all, that too is entirely and solely her own business. I don’t concern myself with male-centric topics like the state of the scrotum or prostate gland. I think that men should keep quiet about periods unless they are offering support. They don’t have to deal with a monthly deluge of blood coming whenever and however long the body decides. I honestly think some of these guys who are opining are doing so because they like the idea of being able to get women pregnant. It’s a source of control for them, or something.

Anyway… I feel glad that pretty soon, this will no longer be an issue I need to care about as someone who is personally affected by it. But in support of my younger sisters, I want to go on record to say that women should have dominion over their own bodies without input from men. Periods are not fun. They’re messy, stinky, expensive, and inconvenient. So, if science can make things easier in that regard, I think that should be a choice available to all women. And men need to STFU about it.

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ethics, healthcare, Reality TV

Repost: Is it ethical to deliberately pass on genetic anomalies?

I am reposting this content from June 4, 2017, because it goes with yesterday’s reposted content about Huntington’s Disease. This post appears mostly as/is.

This morning, I read an interesting article about Zach and Tori Roloff of the TLC series Little People Big World.  I have seen the show before, but it’s been several years.  I didn’t know that Zach and Tori were expecting a baby, but the news popped up in my Facebook feed.  When I read it, I learned that their new son, Jackson, has achondroplasia, like his father, Zach.  That means that Jackson, like his father, has dwarfism.

Many different people shared this story.  I happened to read the version shared by George Takei.  Given the type of people who follow Mr. Takei’s Facebook page, the comments were a bit more controversial than they were on other places where this news was shared.  One guy– who was either really brave or stupid– posted this, along with an angry smilie.

The only species on earth that perpetuates its mistakes in genetic material on purpose.

Naturally, this comment prompted a number of outraged responses.  People were angry that this poster had the nerve to state that dwarfism is a “mistake”.  One lady posted this.

Excuse me? Being a little person is not a mistake.

Later, the lady who posted the above comment that identified her as a “little person” posted this…

No eugenics is also advocating that only people with “good genes” reproduce. Deciding whether or not to reproduce is a personal decision. My parents knew they had a probability to have a dwarf and still chose to have me. I am not genetically inferior. My birth and life are not a strike against us. Do you not understand what you are writing and how offensive it is to tbose of us who obviously do meet your criteria for being genetically correct.

I am not genetically inferior. I am shorter than average. Who decides what is a genetically superior height? I don’t need longer legs so I can hunt for food. My legs work well enough to walk through a grocery store, drive a car, and get me from point a to b. I don’t need strength to draw a bow. Science and technology keep me from needing to be a hunter and gatherer. I can type 130 wpm. I have a college degree and an IQ of 150. What is your idea of good genetics? Should I be 5’10”, white, blonde and blue eyed. I wear glasses. Should people with non 20/20 eye sight not reproduce.

I will grant that the poster who made the first comment was harsh and insensitive.  I can understand why people were offended.  At the same time, I wonder how many prospective parents are overjoyed to hear that their child has a genetic anomaly.  Do parents pray that their children will be born “different” somehow?  Do parents wish for their babies to be born with special physical, mental, or emotional challenges that might make their lives more complicated and difficult?  My guess is that the vast majority of them do not.  So, on one level, the first poster makes sense, even if the way he expressed himself is very objectionable.

This particular debate went on for a bit, so I’m not going to post the whole thing.  I will say that I noticed this subject brought out the emotions in a lot of people.  Many people seemed to be commenting from their hearts rather than their heads. 

It reminded me of an article I read in the Washington Post about fifteen years ago.  Bill and I were dating and, in those days, it was his habit to go out on Sunday mornings and pick up a paper for me.  I remember sitting on the floor in his shitty studio apartment and reading it over coffee and doughnuts.  I came across this featured piece about couples in the deaf community deliberately trying to have deaf babies.  I remember reading outraged comments about this movement.  Many people were offended that deaf parents would want to intentionally inflict deafness on a child.

From the article:

Several months before his birth, Sharon and Candy — both stylish and independent women in their mid-thirties, both college graduates, both holders of graduate degrees from Gallaudet University, both professionals in the mental health field — sat in their kitchen trying to envision life if their son turned out not to be deaf. It was something they had a hard time getting their minds around. When they were looking for a donor to inseminate Sharon, one thing they knew was that they wanted a deaf donor. So they contacted a local sperm bank and asked whether the bank would provide one. The sperm bank said no; congenital deafness is precisely the sort of condition that, in the world of commercial reproductive technology, gets a would-be donor eliminated.

So Sharon and Candy asked a deaf friend to be the donor, and he agreed.

From what I’ve read so far about Zach and Tori Roloff, which is admittedly not much, they didn’t necessarily plan to have a baby with dwarfism.  I’m sure they knew the risks and were okay with them.  And really, thanks to TLC shows like Little People, Big World and The Little Couple, more and more people are becoming acquainted with dwarfism and the challenges it presents, as well as the fact that little people can lead normal lives, perhaps with a few alterations of their environments.  I remember watching Jen Arnold on The Little Couple go about her business as a doctor.  I watched Jen and her husband building a house that was custom made for people who aren’t a normal height.  

Hell, the other day, I even started watching a German TV show (filmed in Stuttgart, no less) called Dr. Klein.  Klein is the German world for small and the star of the show, actress Christine Urspruch, is herself a dwarf who plays a doctor with dwarfism.  She wears a sexy red dress and red high heeled pumps.  She drives a little red car.  She has a family– including kids, although if memory serves, the kids on Dr. Klein are all normal height.

So yeah, a lot of people are being exposed to people who are different and realizing that they can have normal lives.  But does the fact that people who have congenital “defects” (for lack of a better word) mean that we should, as people, be actively trying to promote them?  Is it fair to deliberately pass on genes to a child who may have a hard time adapting to that condition?  Is it fair to handicap a child on purpose?

I have seen videos of hearing impaired people who hear something for the first time in their lives.  The looks on their faces are unforgettable…

This deaf lady hears music for the first time…
Grayson hears his father speak for the first time.

I’m sure it’s different for little people, although there are so many different types of dwarfism and they seem to affect people differently.  A person with a normal sized trunk and short arms and legs might have different challenges than a person whose body is proportioned, but very short or small.

In any case, regardless of how a person feels about this particular issue, I will go on record as saying that I agree that people must make their own reproductive choices, although I do think those choices should be made with much thought and consideration.  In the past, I have written about my neighbors whose family was heavily affected by Huntington’s Disease, a congenital and ultimately fatal disease that causes people to lose control of their bodies and eventually their minds. 

I remember my neighbor, who died at age 39.  She’d been a mother of three.  When we were children, she told me that she had a fifty percent chance of developing Huntington’s Disease.  I remember her father and her brother, both long dead now, who were very sick and disabled.  My neighbor’s father was forced to move into the local psychiatric hospital when he was in his 30s.  At one time, he’d been a perfectly normal man who was able to father two children.  When I met him, he was 32 years old and wheelchair bound.  He couldn’t speak normally or walk.  His son, then about 13, was also very sick.  He drooled constantly, required home care, and could not ride the shiny red bike parked in the garage.  My parents later bought that bike and gave it to me after the boy died at age 14.  I don’t think he’d ever been able to ride it, so it was like brand new.

Many years later, the boy’s sister, my neighbor and a friend, was afflicted with the same devastating disease.  Two of her three children are now dead, though neither died of Huntington’s Disease.  Both died in car accidents.  My friend’s daughter, aged 2, was tragically killed when her mother accidentally ran over her.  Her oldest son died just a couple of years ago in a more normal car accident.  They left behind a brother who has a fifty percent chance of getting Huntington’s Disease, and now he has a son of his own.  I wonder what it must be like for him, knowing that he might die at a young age of a cruel disease that his mother knew full well she was at risk of passing on to him.

Maybe dwarfism isn’t the same thing as a disease like cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s Disease.  Maybe being a little person is more like being born with one blue eye and one brown eye (I knew someone with this genetic “anomaly”, too).  Maybe it’s like being born with perfect pitch, which I have– although I’m not sure that is necessarily a genetic thing, since I don’t know of anyone else in my family who has it.  Maybe being a little person presents few challenges other than being really short and perhaps disproportionate.  Or maybe there will be challenges.  I don’t know.  But I must admit that article and the comments really got me thinking today.   

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