I don’t want to knock college newspapers. They can be an incubation ground for great journalists, and sometimes their columnists are funny, sharp, insightful and so much more.
But other times, they’re just plain ridiculous, and that sums up John Corrigan, who is apparently approximately 12 years old, at “The Temple News” to a tee. For his parting shot as he prepared to leave the paper, he wrote himself up an oh-so-witty column about cis ladies and their periods. Because, as we all know, this subject is hilarious, especially when written up by a man complaining about how his girlfriend transforms into some sort of creature from the deeps for three to five days out of the month.
He managed to include almost every possible period stereotype, no mean feat for such a short column. He portrays menstruating cis women as out of control animals, held captive by their hormones, depicting menstruation as some sort of minefield for the men around them (“When your girlfriend suffers, you will too”). He informs us that women eat weird things during their periods -- har har! -- and points out that one side benefit is a chance for some sexytimes, but “don’t expect a quickie.” Because, you know, menstruating women need to be tenderly held and snuggled, all emotionalstyle.
For bonus points, he even managed to sneak in a trans joke with a shot at Chaz Bono. Yes, folks, you heard it here first: All trans men are actually just cis women going through elaborate measures to avoid menstruating, because apparently they haven’t heard of menstrual suppression.
YOU ARE NOT AS FUNNY AS YOU THINK YOU ARE
Most of the comments on the article are castigating it in no uncertain terms, and some of them are delightfully cutting. Corrigan’s column appears to have been an attempt at satire, but the fact that he’s an incredibly shitty writer means it fell far short of the intended goal. Instead it just reads like a string of misogynist jokes glued together with flapping noises from his butt cheeks.
And the fact that this was his last column suggests to me that he intended to rile readers up. He seems to have succeeded in that, but he didn’t rile readers up in a particularly funny, useful or entertaining way.
It’s pretty clearly a misguided and poorly orchestrated struggle at being funny, but it reflects some really common ideas about fertile cis women’s bodies. Like that they’re gross, because they bleed from the vagina periodically. And that they’re totally ruled by hormones, incapable of behaving like rational human beings and turning into blood-ruled monsters when they’re menstruating1.
The fact is that some people do have really awful periods, for a variety of reasons. They can be extremely painful, the flow can be really heavy, their bodies can feel like they’re under attack, and they can experience delightful symptoms like headaches, cramps, nausea, and fatigue. So yeah, having periods is sometimes really shitty, but men making endless jokes about it comes with a side of a deep, cutting edge.
STAND ASIDE, BLEEDING WEAKLINGS
Women and other menstruators joking about their periods are funny. Men joking about them carry an undertone of superiority; “I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for three days and doesn’t die” isn’t all that funny, but people seem fond of repeating it anyway. Menstruation continues to be used as an argument that cis women are weaker and less capable of dealing with the world, and any time cis women express any kind of emotion or advocate for themselves, it gets chalked up to “that time of the month.”
Under that metric, women never have justifiable anger. If they’re being discriminated against, harassed, hassled, abused, marginalized, or otherwise mistreated and they attempt to fight back, they’re just being “PMS-y.” If they express thoughts in anything other than a totally calm, neutral tone, they’re obviously “hysterical,” a term that, I note, originated in the idea that “disturbances to the uterus” made women inherently unstable.
So men distribute these “hilarious” guides to “dealing with” their girlfriends while menstruating, positioning menstruation as a problem, a burden, a huge pain in the ass for them, while also making it into a big joke and another reason to push cis women to the margins. “Take caution,” Corrigan advises, as though his readers are preparing to enter a building rigged with explosives.
Behind jokes like these lies a genuine belief in their content, lurking below the surface. Unlike menstruators with comedy routines like this who are poking fun at and upending attitudes about menstruation, Corrigan is just reinforcing existing ideas. And, of course, any menstruating person of any gender who criticizes him is likely to encounter the attitude that obviously, it must just be that time of the month.
1. Hey, by the way, John, “PMS” stands for “premenstrual syndrome,” as in, something that happens before your period, not during. Just thought you might want to know. Return