On Monday, March 26th, at 7:00 pm, a discussion was held in the theater of the Smith Student Center called the Period Panel. This panel consisted of professors and the director of the Women’s Center, Jodi Solito, who talked of the biological, social and historical aspects of menstruation.
The discussion began with professor of psychology Dr. Emily Keener talking about the biology of menstruation. Kenner gave the definition of menstruation: “the first outward sign that the female body is prepared for pregnancy.”
She then showed a brief video discussing the menstrual cycle, fertilization and the ovarian cycle. Keener moved the conversation to sex hormones and the related variations in mood and behavior.
“There is a weak correlation,” she said.
She went on to say that people always assume that, when a woman is on her period, she acts moodier or angrier, which is a common myth and stigma. Kenner also mentioned that, up to the late 19th century, it was thought that men and women had the same reproductive system.
“When men would get nosebleeds, people thought that it was a man’s menstruation,” Kenner said, finishing her segment.
Dr. Cindy LaCom spoke next about the history of menstruation.
“In different countries and religions, women would be put in menstrual huts, not be able to walk into religious places, and even had sexual restrictions while on their period,” LaCom said.
She went on to explain that the idea of “women being inferior and lesser men” began with the Greeks, mainly Aristotle. St. Augustine then took that idea further and said that menstruation was seen as “corruptive, the markings of a sinful woman and a danger to men.”
LaCom said St. Augustine also believed that men and women both had the same fluids, and to this day, it is still seen that sperm is a positive thing while menstruation is negative.
Jodi Solito, the director of the Women’s Center, spoke next about the current history of menstruation and how the second and third wave of feminism have started to push the idea that menstruation is a normal thing.
“It is not something negative or shameful,” Solito said. “It is something natural and should more celebrated.”
Solito then talked about how we see periods today, which is that we hide it from most people.
“Young contemporary girls think of hygiene before fertility,” Solito said.
Solito mentioned that the women of her era called menstruation “the curse,” ending her portion of the panel.
The last speaker of the panel was professor of sociology Dr. Richelle Dykstra-Crookshanks, who spoke on the sociology of menstruation. She began by saying that this topic should not be taboo. She then talked about how the Social Constructionists form their own realities through shared meanings about menstruation.
Dykstra-Crookshanks also explained that less than five percent of women truly experience the stereotypes of being “moody, needy etc…”
She then brought up the point that women talk about their period using euphuisms such as “Shark Week,” the “Special Visitor,” the “Curse,” among many others.
Almost every commercial for tampons involves a woman in a white outfit running through a field, Dykstra-Crookshanks pointed out. She said this is because society is commercializing menstruation to seem not-so-bad. She also brought up the notion many have that “women are physically, mentally and emotionally handicapped by menstruation.”
“If men menstruated, they would be celebrated, high-fiving and waving their tampons around, while women are still hiding when they need to get a tampon and use the restroom,” Dykstra-Crookshanks said.
When the dedicated speakers were finished, a video titled “Period Poem” by Dominique Christina played; Christina recited a powerful poem about how women should be confident and not let men criticize them for menstruation.
To end the night, the panel opened up a discussion, asking questions such as, “When did you feel ashamed or empowered by your menstruation?” and whether or not there were other misconceptions not discussed already. It was refreshing to see some men in the audience so they could see what women go through and understand that most of the stigmas about menstruation are untrue.