14 April 2016, The Tablet

Shedding blood for the life of humanity is just what women do


Three out of four brands of tampon, according to a recent piece in The New York Times, are designed by men.It is also largely men, no doubt, who then levy a tax on these tampons, as though they were cakes, biscuits, hot pasties, or similar inessential items we purchase for pleasure.

Such things have become more questionable since the appearance of social movement to reclaim menstruation as a beautiful and honourable aspect of female experience: the “Free Bleeding Protest” aims to take menstruation out of the tax bracket and out of the realm of taboo. Some are even campaigning for women to have “menstrual leave”.

Like these protesters, I find it odd that something which intrudes so regularly and often painfully in the lives of women should be so little discussed. Exactly once a month my body, and the bodies of many women around me, is afflicted with pain and loses large quantities of blood for several days, but neither I nor anyone around me acknowledges it publicly when it happens. If any other event caused me or anyone that amount of pain, disruption and blood loss, it would feature largely in our social interactions.

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