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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » "The Question"

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Author Topic: "The Question"
Heather
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Several television news crews from New York City are camped outside the Tri-Valley Central School following the story in today's Times Herald-Record about what question a school security guard asked a 14-year-old female student.

The girl was called out of class by a security guard during a school sweep last week to make sure no kids had backpacks or other banned bags.

Samantha Martin had a small purse with her that day.

That's why the security guard, ex-Monticello cop Mike Bunce, asked her The Question.

She says he told her she couldn't have a purse unless she had her period. Then he asked, "Do you have your period?"

Samantha was mortified.

She says she thought, "Oh, my God. Get away from me." But instead of answering, she just walked back into class.

At home, she cried, and told her mother what happened.

It appears that at least a few other girls were also asked the same question.


More here. (Found via Feministing)

This is quite....well, something, particulay given our culture's attitudes about menstruation, and given that it is beyond unlikely a security guard would ever ask a male student a similar question ("Did you have a wet dream last night?"), in public, no less, with a scenario like this.

I'm really glad to see students standing up for themselves, but was really disturbed by the reaction of the principal and district.

What do you think about this? How would you react to something like this if it hapened to you?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Leabug
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Besides the fact that banning all sorts of bags at a school makes absolutely no sense to me in the first place, I gotta say I would have kicked up a pretty big stink if that had happened at my school. The way that the kids are sticking up for their rights is awesome, though- sticking tampons and pads to their clothes in protest is pretty cool. (At my high school, I think most people would have been too squicked out by that idea to do it.)

But what this all boils down to, in my opinion, is a huge violation of the rights of those students to privacy. Unfortunately, many teen girls are mortified ENOUGH about their periods- the last thing they need is some creepy security guard interrogating them about it in a hallway.

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Lea

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LacieC
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that is aweful. I just can't imagine kids going through.
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Heather
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Oddly enough, I'm finding that a few days after posting this, I'm reminded of something.

Back in the day (insert creaky noises here) before ibuprofen and the lot, when the only painkiller most of us had was aspirin, and thus, a good lot of us were utterly dysfunctional on the first few days of our periods, in my junior high, you could get a slip for gym that said you had your period.

(That, by the way, is the obscure reason the for-girls section of Scarleteen was first called Pink Slip: it was a little pink sheet of paper.)

Even then, our gym teachers for girl-gym were female, and there was no to-do made about that slip. You just surreptitiously handed it over to the teacher and hung out on the bench that day. That was seen as announcement enough.

I can't think of how mortified any of us would have been if the scenario above had happened, given that even that little slip, only in the company of other women, seemed humilation enough.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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The only thing I can think to add here is that if, say, a security guard asked my sister (while I was with her) this question, the only thing that would stop me from clocking him (something I am not in the habit of doing, just by the way) would be the fact that given that he's a security guard, he's a big guy. I'd certainly give him one hell of a telling off.
I think the guy equivalent is along the lines of if someone was asked if they had an erection (quite how that would come up I don't know, but it's the nearest thing I can think of). I'd be horrified.
I think the way the class have responded to this is really cool though. An example to us all!

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Leabug
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Heather, you bring up an interesting point there... I do recall that in my jr high, while we didn't have a pink slip, if we wanted to sit out in gym with our periods, we actually had to walk up to the all-male gym staff and ask permission. They never said no if you asked, because you could clearly tell they were very uncomfortable dealing with the topic. But you know, I'd have loved having a little slip to hand to them rather than having to sum up the guts to explain that your period is giving you major cramps and you'd like to sit out.

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Lea

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Wise Janet Weiss
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Wow, this is one of the reasons I thank my grandmother that I'm being homeschooled, no questions, just go into the bathroom and go about my business.

I'd be majorly mortified if someone asked me that, just What The Hell- you know?

Good on the girls AND boys who are protesting against this, I think it's awesome they were doing that.

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lexie
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While I totally agree that the protesting about it is excellent, and I would have also been rather disgusted at being asked the same question in terms of discrimation against women.
The thing that niggled me here was my wish that society was more open about such things. That it wasn't felt like such things should be hidden away and to be embarrassed by.

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Djuna
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All the same, we have ads for tampons and sanitary products on TV proclaiming 'so use this product, and during your period, you can wear your good knickers!', and that for me is a sharing a tad too much.
As for Australia, when I was in WA during the summer, there were ads on the radio all through the day for erectile dysfunction treatments! "Have trouble getting and sustaining an erection? Take this... so you can last longer. Maybe even a couple of minutes... wouldn't that be nice..."
There is a line, and really should be, I feel, between what is and isn't socially acceptable to be 'open' about. I'll quote the OC here.
Seth: Summer, alphabetizing my CD collection, for me, is like masturbation. We both know I do it, but I'd rather not have you present while it's taking place.
[Big Grin]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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quote:
We have ads for tampons and sanitary products on TV proclaiming 'so use this product, and during your period, you can wear your good knickers!', and that for me is a sharing a tad too much.
You know, though, that is likely BECAUSE of the shamed attitudes some of the posters are talking about.

Are condom ads oversharing? Viagra ads? Weight loss ads? Diaper ads? Underwear ads? Ads for pregnancy tests or birth control methods? Adult diaper ads? Toothpaste? Deoderant? Soap? Ads for medications or supplements to increase bowel regularity?

If they are, that's one thing, as you'd be applying that feeling that body functions and/or fluids, full stop, seem like they should be private tom you, unilaterally. But if NOT, then it's likely overhsaring because you've a bias, or have bought into the shame affixed to mentruation, since all those other things are about bodily functions, too.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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stupidbf
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I'm impartial on this.

If I was in the situation, I'd say "Yes" while still in the classroom and then proceed to pull out my extra big tampon and explain how I needed the larger purse because my flow is heavy today and not only do I need 3 tampons, but I also need 3 pads because you never know when a teacher won't let you use the bathroom and need that backup down there. Plus, I'm staying late after school till lord knows when for a performance and set up for said perfomance, so I *have* to be prepared.

Of course, that is just me. I'm sure he'd become more embarassed than I would be.

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Heather
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You just made me grin ear to ear, stupidbf.

Obviously, not every girl will feel brave enough to respond like that, but I think it's AWESOME that you'd be, and just the perfect thing. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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orca
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I read an interesting piece by a feminist blogger about mentruation and how even women married for years will still hide their menstrual products from their husbands because of the husbands' disgust at the sight of them. She went on about how women are forced to rearrange their lives (and especially their periods and other natural bodily functions) in order to please men who are uncomfortable with even the thought of it. In the piece, she urged women to stop hiding their menstrual products and stop arranging their lives to make men more "comfortable," that instead we should be more open about it. I agree with her a lot. For so many centuries, different societies and cultures have taught women to be ashamed of any and all natural bodily functions. And here I'm going to stop before I start saying "Viva La Revolucion!" (though I really want to).

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heather
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(You really should just say it. [Smile] C'mon, you know you wanna.)

You know, it's one of my dating/relationship rules that hiding menses or menstrual products is simply a non-negotiable for me. Given, at my age, the people I'm dating are either over it when it comes to menses-phobia or they're not GOING to be, so if I even have a partner who acts squeamish, they've generally been shelved pretty quickly.

But even at a younger age, I'd say that if one conversation about it didn't result in a squeamish partners saying something to the effect of "Yeah, I have that problem. I'm going to work to get over it, so please don't hide this stuff from me," I'd be directing them to the bus home.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Leabug
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Overall I've found that a lot of guys are especially squeamish because they simply don't understand menstruation and the products for it, at least in my personal experience. (Many said it was also because the idea of genital bleeding freaks them out, but again, lack of understanding and education there...)

But I haven't been shy about my own menstruation for years now, not since about jr high, simply because I believe that the more it's talked about, the more "normal" it could become for those around me.

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Lea

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Djuna
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I was just saying that bodily fluids = privacy is all. In ads anyway. [Big Grin]
I agree though, that between couples, it's right and proper to know what's going on. Living together, I wouldn't expect a woman to hide her menstrual products from me (I'd be quite bemused if she did, to be frank). And in terms of inconveniences caused by menses, it's not a problem to share either - several times, my friend Sarah has said she feels really uncomfortable, I've asked what's wrong and she'd say 'Oh, well I'm on my period', or something to that effect. It's not a big deal for us (and at this point, we're not even going out). [Smile]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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But saliva is a bodidy fluid. So is sweat.

Do toothpate and depderant ads bother you? if not, any differentiation between menses and saliva is earnestly nothing but social shaming put on women's bodies.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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Just a little quip here.. apparently, there was a bit of an outcry when those digital pregnancy tests with the word read-outs came out, with the high tech commercial with the booming male voice. The original commercial aired with the caption "[Name of test], the most advanced piece of technology you've ever PEED ON!"

It now says "the most advanced piece of technology you've ever.. ahem.. YOU know."

So, maybe a preoccupation with women and bodily fluids in general?

[ 10-10-2007, 05:34 PM: Message edited by: *Lauren* ]

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Heather
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You know, I did happen to spot one of those original commericals and found it SERIOUSLY refreshing.

So, bummer.

And yeah: women and our fluids are etenrnally The Big Scary, all over the damn place. I brought up some of this in the piece on menstrual suppression I did for an upcoming anthology, in talking about how in porn, there are BEYOND no limits on male fluids, where they can go, how much of them there is, how they can be seen.

And yet, most payment processors for online porn will NOT serve anyone producing material which contains ANY show of menses. Most list it with bestilality in their list of no-gos. Female fluids in porn are basically once acceptable when they resemble male fluids, or when it's something someone else does TO us. So, it'd be acceptable for me, were I a porn performer, to have a face coated in semen, or to have blood caused by something someone did TO me, but even a droplet down my leg of my own fluids, which appen on their own, natural as any other is UNacceptable. Even in porn, of all things.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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To be fair, toothpaste and deodorant ads don't tend to make any reference to the fluid in question. But, for a similar example, I find those prostate health ads fairly nauseating, not to mention the ones about smoking causing erectile dysfunction. And as I said, the ED tablet ads in Australia were one of the main things I disliked.
I don't consider myself a prude, it's just since I only tend to watch TV during meals these days, there's a limit to what I am prepared to sit through while eating.
I agree that there is an awful lot of sexism/misogyny in terms of which fluids are socially acceptable, and I don't subscribe to that at all, just for the record.
And in what porn I do watch, I tend to turn off at the sight of semen. Fluids of any kind are something of a buzzkill for me, just as I can't stand to see spitting. Incidentally, blood I'm OK with, doesn't bother me in the slightest. [Big Grin]

[ 10-10-2007, 06:10 PM: Message edited by: smileyjoseph ]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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(FYI, I'm feeling like this is one of those discussions where it is probably best to limit it to women-only, since....well, when we're asking how a person would feel if this happened to them, someone who doesn't menstruate can't very well say.

I also want to be sure that the women here feel able to discuss openly in a thread like this without the pressure -- sorry, joseph, butcha know, you did this -- of guys coming in talking about menses making them squeamish, and differentiating between menses and any other body fluid, which really, is ONLY a difference when you affix one to it: it's not a sexual fluid, it's part of a normal body function, just like saliva is to our digestive process and the health of our teeth.

Obviously, none of that approach is of much help when it comes to women feeling better about all of this and feeling able to talk about it openly, and given how I phrased the question -- per asking how anyone would feel if it hapened to them -- it doesn't really make much sense to have male or non-menstruating opinion in here. In fact, I'd say it's likely to be counterproductive.

So, let's call this one women-only/menstruating-only from here on out, please. Thanks!)

[ 10-10-2007, 06:12 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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astrocyte
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Hmm. This (the purse thing) has not yet happened in NZ, that I know of. But at my high school I remember hearing a male teacher complain about all the *lazy* girls who would ask to go to the sick bay, but not say what was wrong when he asked, and thinking, but not saying, how stupid that was.

I also remember being late to the same teacher's class, because it was the first day of my period and I had to change my pad. When he asked why I was a measly 7 minutes late I just said I had been in the toilet, and got told to schedule it better or something. I felt like if I had been more specific I would have had the same response.

I think it's really easy for men who don't live with women to forget/ignore menstruation as irrelevant to them. Which in my ex-teacher's case is not so cool. When your job is about people you have to have the physical realities of those people in mind.

[ 10-12-2007, 07:58 AM: Message edited by: rosegeranium ]

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Stephanie101
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That would be SOO embarassing! I would never want to answer that

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stephh!

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Stephanie_1
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I remember a similar battle in my cousin’s high school – which is not all that far from where I went to high school – just last year with a newly mandated policy of clear book bags and purses. I felt sorry for the girls because while I was never shy about people knowing if I had my period, many of the other girls I knew were.

Probably one of my funniest comments to a teacher (though not a great reason to have to make it) was when I asked my band director for a pass to the nurse. I’d been diagnosed with seizures two years before and I was dizzy … never a good sign. He told me to take my things in and put them in my band locker and he’d write me a pass. I had a seizure in our locker room and the first face I saw when I opened my eyes was my director. He looked down at me and without skipping a beat says “Are you on your period?” I had a massive headache and was really nauseous – definitely not in the mood to play 20 questions. I looked at him and replied “No … but I have some tampons in my purse. Help yourself to them, but I don’t know that they’d help you much.” ((OOPS) Reflex comment … it just kind of slipped out!)

I felt kind of bad when the nurse arrived and I found out he was told to ask me that as per whether or not they’d call an ambulance for me. I guess it’s the household I grew up in that makes me less shy. My dad does the shopping, as my mother hates to, so he’ll call from the middle of a store to see if we need tampons and pads (I guess he got used to living in a house with 4 girls). My boyfriend has even offered to pick them up for me from time to time. I agree with Heather on this one … I don’t think I’d last long with a guy that’s not able to handle that. ~ Then again I was the student that when told I couldn’t use the restroom when I knew I needed to change told my teacher that was on my period. Then I’d show them the tampon and begin explaining how it’s bad to go too many hours (And then a very pale teacher would hand me the pass and tell me I should have just told them it was a “personal issue”.) I've never really been the shy type.

[ 02-28-2008, 04:36 PM: Message edited by: Stephanie_1 ]

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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VisualMadness69
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I don't find anything wrong with the commercials on tv or the radio. If I want to listen I will and if they come on during dinner my family and I laugh about it, maybe growing up with a doc and a nurse for parents has something to do with our lack of discomfort over such commercials. If I don't want to hear them tho ... I turn off the tv or radio ... problem solved. They're always going to be ads like that so there is really no reason to get worked up over them.

I'm a shy person so I can't just up and say when I'm on my period if an instance came up like in the school and everything but when I get comfortable with people I will bring it up. I find it gross and I'm just not use to talking about it. Of course when I'm dating a guy I always bring up when I'm on my period b/c I don't want them getting all "Let's have sex!" when I'm on it and with this guy I use to date, I put a tampon in when he was in the bathroom, he watched before he walked out, but ya know what ... I had to do it so if he didn't want to see it too bad. I've been with guys that just want to know when I'm on it, to avoid me that week, and guys that would still have sex when I'm on it so it all just depends. I never hide my products though ... I'm not going to adjust things to make a guy comfortable cause they do plenty of things that make me uncomfortable.

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Typical Young and Dumb Teenager?
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Well, when I first started my period I was with my dad, his girlfriend, my brother, and my dad's girlfriends neice, which was hours and hours away from my mom because they are divorced and can't stand each other. So, at that point, I was pretty freaked out because I didn't know what to do, nor did my dad. What ended up happening was I told my dad's girlfriends neice, then my dad, my dad's girlfriend ended up finding out, and then my brother. It was late at night though, and I had no way of getting products.
*This practically made any chance of me ever feeling uncomfortable about talking to my period to anyone very, very slim, mainly because my dad is just about a stranger to me anyway.


With that being said, like stupidbf, I would have simply came out and said "Yes, I'm on my period. Do you have a problem with it?" Then, I would have probably just took out the 843287 billion tampons I have stored and explained why I needed so many. (in case a friend needed one, in I went through, in case I just felt like I had to change, etcetera.) Personally, I wouldn't have cared a bit whether everyone knew I was on my period. Most people believe I am on it most days anyway. [Razz] On the serious side though, I really dont see why any female should be ashamed about it. Every girl experiences it eventually, and every guy should be mature enough to realize that it's natural. So, why be ashamed, right? Dont get wrong though, when you change, you need to wrap it up, seeing as no one really wants to see an old used tampon.

Basically what I'm saying is that if someone wants to know if I'm on my period, they are going to get a flat answer. When it comes to things like that, if someone really doesn't want to know, they dont have to instigate. [Smile]

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Young and Dumb.
"Life is a balance of holding on and letting go." - Keith Urban

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atm1
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Once, in a choir practice, the (male) director asked a girl if it was "that time of the month" because she seemed really grumpy. Not only did it mortify the girl (she was 14 or 15), but the real reason she was upset was she had been dumped during lunch that day... I was one of a couple older girls who had a chat with him afterwards about how inappropriate that was... he essentially said he had a right to say whatever he wanted in his classroom (He was not a nice guy, fortunately he "resigned" after one year. He also tried to force really gender stereotyped outfits on us when we had never had "uniforms"--the standard had been black bottoms and white tops. So I led a mutiny where a bunch of girls showed up in pants and ties and guys in skirts. It was wonderful).

As you can tell, I would have probably said something to the effect of "no, but I feel like I'm about to get a nose bleed, and I think my tampon stash might help with that" or "yep, I'm about to go shove a wad of cotton up my vagina" (I've used that one before on a classmate in an all male plus me class. It was fantastic).

Generally, though, I find that a lot of the time, when the "is it that time of the month" question is asked, it is asked in a way to make women feel inferior. We get a period, and therefore are less rational beings... It really frustrates me. If men say something that is demeaning like that (which it seems to be a lot of the time), I feel I have a right to make them feel as uncomfortable as possible.


And on the subject of other men dealing with periods, I think that a fair amount of the issues younger men have with it comes from lack of knowledge. My boyfriend comes from a house of men and genuinely didn't know a lot before I explained it to him. A lot of those conversations happened when I effectively moved in with him... though when we first started dating, I only spent a lot of time with him on the weekends, and I take my birth control pills so that I get my period between Monday and Thursday. After like two months, he asked if my pills took my period away or something like that! But now he's better informed and not really squeamish about it anymore. He still finds it just strange that I start bleeding between 10am and 2pm every forth monday... but I think that's just because it's something he's never experienced (also, he finds the dramatic regularity caused by the pill pretty freaky). So most guys get over it, and if you make it clear that you want them to, most make an effort. And like Heather said--if they're disgusted by it and want you to hide it, they may not be worth dating...

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Bun Bun
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quote:
Just a little quip here.. apparently, there was a bit of an outcry when those digital pregnancy tests with the word read-outs came out, with the high tech commercial with the booming male voice. The original commercial aired with the caption "[Name of test], the most advanced piece of technology you've ever PEED ON!"

It now says "the most advanced piece of technology you've ever.. ahem.. YOU know."

So, maybe a preoccupation with women and bodily fluids in general?

Just thought that I'd add... The original ad is definitely still running here in Canada! My family finds it particularily amusing : )
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September
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quote:
Originally posted by atm1:
(He was not a nice guy, fortunately he "resigned" after one year. He also tried to force really gender stereotyped outfits on us when we had never had "uniforms"--the standard had been black bottoms and white tops. So I led a mutiny where a bunch of girls showed up in pants and ties and guys in skirts. It was wonderful).

And for that, I tip my hat to you. Pure awesome! [Big Grin]

[ 05-27-2008, 02:44 AM: Message edited by: September ]

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Johanna
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strawberrywine
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Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't really see anything wrong with what happened. I mean, I do feel bad for the girl. I've been in that situation before, and it feels awful, no matter what the gender of the person asking.

However, the rest just seems like the usual swarming of media vultures. I'm not familiar with this school, but you did say NYC. From what I've heard, security is pretty tight in NYC schools, mostly for safety reasons. The security guard was just doing his job. Sure, he could've gone about it in a better way, but it seems like he was just doing his job.

I'd say this is more an example of journalists who need to stop wasting resources with frivolous going-ons. And I also get the impression that a lot of you are upset because girls feel pressured to "hide" sanitary objects in purses...or am I misreading things? Either way, it's not "hiding", it's carrying. We can't all adhere our tampons and pads to our clothing. Oppressive or not, we just need something to carry our sanitary napkins.

Sorry if I come across as hostile, this kind of thing just annoys me.

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-Dr. Twardon (Secretary)

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Leabug
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Well, strawberrywine, for me the issue isn't so much that society teaches us to be ashamed of our menses- I think the students' reaction to the incident was great, and that's why I feel that's not the issue so much. To me, the issue is that rules like this violate personal privacy. Girls are embarrased enough about their periods, it would be mortifying to have to announce that you have yours in front of people at school (if she was comfy announcing it, she wouldn't have chosen to break the rules and use a bag to hide her products, right?). Like Heather said in the original post, it's like someone walking up to a guy and asking "So did you have a wet dream last night?"

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Lea

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strawberrywine
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Ah, I see what you mean. But from what I understand, she wasn't in front of a lot of people. I don't know the specifics, but "The girl was called out of class" and "she just walked back into class" tells me he asked her out of class. The guard took the proper care to make sure she wouldn't be embarrassed in front of everyone.

But the thing is, it might be like asking a guy "So did you have a wet dream last night?", but this specific situation is not. If a guy had a wet dream the night before, the most he might be carrying around is a rain coat (just in case). He was asking her if she was on her period to make sure that the handbag was authorized.

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"Who's to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?"
-Dr. Twardon (Secretary)

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strawberrywine
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Also, if she was on her period, she didn't break any rules by using a bag to "hide her products."

Here's the excerpt at which I'm looking, "She says he told her she couldn't have a purse unless she had her period."

And as I said before, I myself do not carry my products in a bag to "hide" them, but just because it's easier to carry them that way.

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"Who's to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?"
-Dr. Twardon (Secretary)

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