Menstrual! Menstrual! Menstrual!

By Ciana Alessi

( source )

This all starts with a story…

One day I was at work (I won’t name drop where, but it’s a trendy clothing store) putting away clothes and occasionally listening to the music playing overhead. The particular playlist that day was full of throwback Hip Hop and Rap songs, so -- needless to say -- it was pretty lit. Over the next few hours I listened happily to the censored versions of 2000s hits but only two specific songs, which played within the same half an hour, stuck with me through the end of my shift and back home. The songs? Drake’s “Take Care” and Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli.”

Normally these two songs wouldn’t strike any particular chord with me, (unfortunately, I’m not a huge Drake fan and, although “A Milli” is truly a lyrical feat, it’s still not a song that frequently crosses my mind) however, never am I listening to the censored version of any song...ever. So I never considered the rationale, and eventual consequences, of censorship in music at large, let alone in these works. But these censored versions of songs reveal to a large extent what Big Business (read: Capitalism and the FCC) wants the public to hear and, of course, what they don’t; therefore, this is a topic that deserves some interrogation.

In Drake’s “Take Care” he says: “It’s my birthday, I’ll get high if I want to.” Understandably, according to the normative understanding of weed (realistically, Drake is not getting high on anything other than weed, if that -- Genius contributors say the line is actually referential to a Fabolous song), “high” is censored in the version of this song that I heard. Fair. But then, here comes Lil’ Wayne. “A Milli” is a quick-paced song, heavily lyrical as Lil’ Wayne usually is, and is surely featuring profanity. Okay. I say this because this is my only possible, maybe, almost(?) explanation for what I’m about to say. In “A Milli,” Wayne says, “I’m a venereal disease, like a menstrual bleed.” Now, let’s not get into the complete inaccuracy of this statement, because the word that is censored in this line is… menstrual.

You may ask yourself in utter disbelief, as I did at the moment of hearing this, “How?” “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “Why?” But, yes. The word menstrual, as in, “of or relating to menstruation” as in, “the periodic discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the uterus,” is on par with the act of getting high and with all the swear words you can imagine, according to the FCC. Unfortunately, this is symptomatic of an increasingly normalized problem: people don’t know shit about periods. And everyone should. Yes, everyone.

Unless you menstruate, there is an incredibly slim chance that you’ve actually been taught what happens during this process, what’s normal, and what may be symptomatic of larger issues. Even if you do menstruate, there’s still a good chance you weren’t accurately taught these things. Menstruation isn’t a topic that’s adequately covered in Health or Sex Ed class in middle school or high school. Even if it is mentioned, like in the cliche, painfully cringe-worthy period videos some people were forced to watch, it’s treated as a taboo subject that menstruating people should be sure to keep to themselves. These kids, to our detriment, continue to understand menstruation in this incorrect and, frankly, puritanical way, and they are then left to fend for themselves. Sameera Qureshi, an educator at HEART Women and Girls, a Muslim-led sexual health organization, reiterates this sentiment, saying “girls really don’t understand menstruation at all. I think that’s common beyond the Muslim community. The school curriculum doesn’t afford time for the why, self-care, hygiene, and other questions.” So, how do we teach people properly and honestly about menstruation if we can’t even say the word “menstrual” openly in a public setting?

Well, there’s obviously a lot of work that must be done to fight period stigma as a whole. We can at least start by accurately representing periods aesthetically, like this wonderful commercial that was the first of its kind to throw away the blue-liquid-as-period-blood tactic and embrace reality. After all, “blood” in a commercial for hygiene products is just as normal as “blood” used in any Hollywood movie or halloween makeup… it’s not real. We should also praise resources now available to us like Period Space, which allows all of us menstruating people a place to talk openly about our experiences and foster an environment of period positivity. Most importantly, and the easiest step of them all: We. Must. Start. Talking. About. Periods.

If there is a world where “menstrual” is a bad word, there is no way menstruating people will ever be able to fully and properly understand their perfectly normal bodily processes. Moreover, there’s no chance of non-menstruating people learning about menstruation, which is so important. (...Hello! Hi! That’s this world!!) Just like in discussions of privilege and oppression, where both the oppressor and oppressed must gather an understanding of the condition in order to balance the power structure, those who don’t menstruate need to understand menstruation in order to understand the experiences they lack. At the very least, non-menstruating people will have an accurate and more complete understanding of basic human anatomy, so we can have less articles like this. (And more articles like this!)