Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Period Troubles. And Jokes.

If you, too,  have an infantile sense of humor, you will get a kick from the title of an email I received about the short menstruation documentary which won an Oscar* this year:

Menstrual Equity's Red Carpet Moment

But even funnier is the UK Guardian story about a guy who decided to calculate how many tampons the average menstrual period would require

I laughed while reading it, and my laughter was pure.  By "pure" I simply mean that the article is incredibly hilarious to anyone who menstruates or has ever menstruated.  My laughter wasn't hollow, bitter and cynical, and it wasn't even sarcastic.

The story is just so hilarious.  The master calculations:

“So the average period is 10 to 35ml of blood, each tampon holds about 5ml, so seven tampons per cycle,” he began. “Lets be generous and say 10 for those ladies with an extra-juicy uterine lining. Nine periods a year equals 90 tampons max,” he concluded, before going on to refer to a 64-pack of tampons listed for £7.90 plus shipping on Amazon (“Buy two packs, save on shipping”).

Okay.  Let's assume that the periods last five twenty-four-hour days and that seven tampons should be used per cycle.  Let's then figure out how long each tampon should stay inside the vagina if we follow those recommendations.  That would be around seventeen hours per tampon! 

Let's then compare that time to the recommendations about how often to change tampons in order to prevent the toxic shock syndrome, a rare-but-dangerous condition that can be associated to tampon use:

How can toxic shock syndrome (TSS) be prevented?

  • Women who use tampons during their menstrual periods should change them often. Tampons should be changed at least every four to eight hours. If the flow is heavy, tampons may have to be changed more frequently.
I do love academic research of all kinds, even the kind of "academic" this example demonstrates.  I'm now going to determine the minimum number of times people need to urinate per day and then I'm going to use that to recommend how to save money by reducing the number of public toilets/bathrooms.  So.

* The linked article about the documentary makes a few criticisms about how menstruation and girls' access to education in India is treated in it.  That I used that link is not to be intended as criticism of the documentary in itself.
But it's true that girls may be kept away from school not only because the facilities don't allow them to care for their menstrual needs, but also for reasons which correlate with menstruation:  Patriarchal societies may view a girl who has started menstruating as ready for marriage, and further education is then not deemed necessary. Or she may be kept at home so that she cannot become pregnant outside marriage.  That would damage both her chances of getting married, the only real career path for most women in such societies, and her family's reputation.

It could be that the lack of facilities for menstruating girls at schools is a direct barrier for their continuing education, but it could also be a consequence, possibly intended, of the overall treatment of children at the point when they enter the relatively constrained roles that are allowed to fertile women. 

In either case, talking about menstrual hygiene needs openly is important.