Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What If Men Could Menstruate?

Gloria Steinem wrote the article below. I got the article from archive.org

Written by: Gloria Steinem, 1978
If Men Could Menstruate

A White minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into
thinking that a white skin makes people superior-even though the only
thing it really does is make them more subject to ultraviolet rays and
to wrinkles. Male human beings have built whole cultures around the idea
that penis-envy is "natural" to women-though to have such an unprotected
organ might be said to make men vulnerable, and the power to give birth
makes womb-envy at least as logical.

In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are
thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless- and logic
has nothing to do with it.

What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate
and women could not?

The answer is clear-menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy
masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.
Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood,
with religious ritual and stag parties.
Congress would fun a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp
out monthly discomforts.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some
men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne
Tampons, Muhammed Ali's Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shileds - "For
Those Light Bachelor Days," and Robert "Baretta" Blake Maxi-Pads.)

Military men, right-wing politicians and religious fundamentalists would cite
menstruation (MEN-struation) as proof that only men could serve in the Army
("you have to give blood to take blood"), occupy political office ("Can women
be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be
priests or ministers ("How could a woman give her blood for our sins?"), or
rabbis ("Without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean.")

Male radicals, left-wing politicians, and mystics, however, would insist that
women are equal, just different; and that any woman could enter the ranks if
only she were willing to self-inflict a major wound every month, recognize the
preeminence of menstrual issues, or subordinate her selfness to all men in
their cycle of enlightenment.

Street guys would brag ("I'm a three-pad man") or answer praise from a buddy
("Man, you're looking GOOD!") by giving fives and saying, "Yeah, man, I'm on
the rag!". TV shows would treat the subject at length ("Happy Days": Richie
and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has
missed two periods in a row.) So would newspapers. (SHARK SCARE THREATENS
(Newman and Redford in "Blood Brothers").

Men would convince women that intercourse was MORE pleasureable at "that time
of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself-
though probably only because they needed a good menstruating man.

Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments.
How could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space,
mathematics, or measurement, for instance, without that in-built gift for
measuring the cycles of the moon and planets-and thus for measuring anything
at all? In the rarefied fields of philosophy and religion, could women
compensate for missing the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of
symbolic death-and-resurrection every month?

And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine traditional women
agreeing to all these arguments with a staunch and smiling masochism.
("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month?" Phyllis
Schlafly. "Your husbands blood is as sacred as that of Jesus - and so sexy
too!" Marabel Morgan.) Reformers and Queen Bees would try to imitiate men
and PRETEND to have a monthly cycle. All feminists would explain endlessly
that men too needed to be liberated from the false idea of Martian
aggressiveness,just as women needed to escape the bonds of menses-envy. Radical
feminists would add that the oppression of the nonmenstrual was a pattern for
all other oppressions. (Vampires were our first freedom fighters!). Cultural
feminists would develop a bloodless imagery in art and literature. Socialist
feminists would insist that only under capitalism would men be able to
monopolize menstrual blood...

In fact, if men could menstruate, the power justifications could probably go
on for ever.


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