If cisgender men could menstruate... how would our societal climate change?
By: Riya Gopal
Though this hypothetical scenario may seem silly at first, visualizing the ways in which society would change is actually a powerful reminder of the inequality continuously faced by menstruators. Gloria Steinem, a sociopolitical activist from the 60s, wrestled with this question in a compelling essay.
According to Steinem, cisgender men would make menstruation the rite of
passage to manhood, with the first period being a celebratory matter rather
than something to hide. During their time of the month, they would openly
boast about their cycle, receiving ample accommodation if hindered by cramping or mood swings. Instead of hiding their tampons in their sleeve timidly, they would openly walk around with their menstrual products in hand for the world to see and admire.
Various settings would change their mode of function to adhere to menstrual
pain faced by men. More clinical studies would be performed researching
methods in which men could control period cramps that are not as invasive
as birth control, and men would be given time off from work to take care of
any symptoms they may be experiencing. Menstrual products would be far
more accessible and affordable, without pink tax placing a burden on access.
These cramps would not be a sign of weakness yet one of strength, with
womxn being further looked down upon for not having endured and overcome the same pain. Menstrual products would be far more accessible and affordable. In the media, television shows would openly discuss the menstrual cycle, with media discourse towards men being understanding as opposed to ridiculing.
Upon reading this essay, it is important as menstruators to reflect upon our narratives of period shame. This can be from minuscule actions such as hiding menstrual products in public to more major events such as being banned from participating in a religious service during your cycle. Understanding that our shame and stigma stems from a patriarchal society through this hypothetical scenario gives a unique perspective on how period shame is inherently sexist.