May 25, 2007

Uh-oh, I made Eugene Volokh talk about ladies' periods and look what happened!

So he's all:
[C]oncerns about long-term health effects are quite sensible. But [after quoting one of my commenters] I don't see any justification for the feeling that it's not "right to sidestep" something that's "part of being a woman." I suppose it could be some esthetic judgment that argument won't much drive; but setting aside esthetics, why on earth should we want to accept natural but painful or unpleasant things?
Screetch. I have an aesthetic judgment. Please, use the spelling "aesthetic." Humor me on this one, Everyone in the World. Back to Eugene:
Disease is a part of being a human. Headaches are part of being a human. Excruciating pain in childbirth is part of being a woman. They are bad parts.
And to mention the most obvious: death.
A good part of being a human is being able to prevent disease and to ease pain. Why embrace the harmful, painful, or uncomfortable parts of human nature, and reject those parts of human nature — our species' intelligence and resulting scientific acumen — that diminish harm, pain, and discomfort?
Then, Eugene makes a post out of one of the comments, some doofus who conflates pregnancy and menstruation:
It's been amazing seeing my wife and other women deal with her first pregnancy. Immediately upon announcing to the world she's pregnant, my wife was part of the "in crowd." Every mother--whether she knew my wife well or not--could smile and talk about morning sickness, or finding out the baby's gender, or feeling bloated, etc.

So, it is not aesthetic. Humanity derives meaning from shared experiences, and deleting one of the most universal and central of all female experiences can subtract perceived meaning from people's lives. In that regard it is very important.
Oh, for the love of.... like it's a big, fun sorority. I'd rather be able to use my own body to write my name in the snow. You know, you can't do that with menstrual blood. Not too damned easily anyway. So Eugene responds to this Human Meaning expert with:
Humanity does derive meaning from some shared experiences — but not all. Shared experience that you bond over: pregnancy. Shared experiences that you don't bond over: hangnails, nearsightedness, tooth decay. Shared experiences that people sometimes seem to bond over, but that I'm sure they'd be much better off without: various illnesses or operations that some elderly people stereotypically discuss with each other, but which they'd be glad to avoid without any worry about lost "meaning."

My sense is that menstruation falls within the second (or, less likely, third) category of experiences rather than the first. To many women, pregnancy is a harbinger of their joy in becoming a mother, an affirmation of their fertility (something many women worry about before they become pregnant), a sign of a growing bond with their husbands, and more. Menstruation, it seems to me, is far removed from that...

But let's hear from some people who actually menstruate, and have been pregnant. When you menstruate, do you feel that you're part of the "in crowd"? If you chose to stop -- not because of menopause, which is a marker of age and of lost fertility, but voluntarily and reversibly -- would you feel "out"? Do you smile and talk to your friends about the cramps, the mood swings, and the like?
Aw, come on, that's typical smartest-guy-in-the-blogosphere Volokh getting it as right as any guy should even want to get it. But screw him, right? He's a guy.

Hey, all you law students writing the parody lyrics for next year's law revue shows, start here:

... and just let it... flow....


So, the women -- I mean the people who actually menstruate -- hear the call and go after our Eugene. I'm tracking this down via Robert J. Ambrogi, because he linked to me (though he did also go on to confuse me with another Ann). So over at Feminist Law Professors, Ann Bartow is being mean to Eugene:
I think Eugene needs to be educated gently and incrementally...
Somehow I picture him showing up for the first class wearing one of these...
Wow! What's with the violence? Eugene is the one who thinks it's okay not to have your period. Why aren't you PMSing after the pregnancy-jealous, out-crowd doofus?

Taking a more gentle approach is the -- inaptly named -- Christine Hurt:
[P]regnancy and childbirth make women part of a very large club whose members have something very important in common.... Menstruation is similar. When girls begin to menstruate, they do join sort of a club, but it's much more underground....

I do think that the natural end of menstruation usually comes with some sadness. It is an end of an era. Some women may be liberated by the end of that era....

I don't think this pill is really about discomfort, hygiene or convenience. I think it's about casual sex....
Oh, good lord. I think the pill is about liberation. If there's a health issue, it should be taken seriously. But if there is no health problem -- and consider whether all this excessive menstruation in the modern world is itself a health probem -- then go ahead and free yourself from all the pain and mess and inconvenience.

I have more to say, already recorded on video. Oh hell, I'll just give it to you, to be contextualized later:

ADDED: Eugene tries to understand why Bartow got so pissy:
What sort of feminism is it that faults people for asking actual women about their experiences, and for trying to start a public conversation in which women's opinions are actively solicited, on the grounds that the questioner should instead have gone to the library or taken up the time of his colleagues?
Dr. Helen thinks Bartow is violating her own research-before-blogging principle. And what a repressive principle that is!

UPDATE: To see the video clip in context, watch this segment of the new Bloggingheads.


Simon said...

"I'd rather be able to use my own body to write my name in the snow. You know, you can't do that with menstrual blood. Not too damned easily anyway."

Do it, photograph it, call it modern art, and apply for an NEA grant. ;)

Maxine Weiss said...

Funny how the prefix of menstruate is "men".


"Mens" "True" "Ate"

Gee, what could it all mean?

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: despite the fact that I have a short name...

TMink said...

I seem to recall being told that one of the rules of periods was that men were not allowed to comment upon them.


Maxine Weiss said...

Harkonnendog said...

If such a petty subject causes a tempest feminists have won.

Cedarford said...

It's one thing for Feminists to say they love their c*nts, a la Monologue.
It's another to cherish and love their periods. Mess, cramps, mood changes!
Like guys saying not only do they love their d*cks, but they also cherish and embrace male pattern baldness and dying on average 5 years before women born the same year do.
Dumb. Dumb!

Althouse - ... and just let it... flow....


Tahl said...

Or lost.

Tahl said...

Dang it.

Oh, well. Honestly, though, I remember that time of before and after when other girls were talking about "it" and you were either "in" or "out" of that.

You know... this pill wouldn't end that because girls would still have their period start before they turned it off.

After that, though...

Oh, and ladies of my age and older *do* talk about the end of it. Mostly about the misery with a little bit of "be glad when it's over."

Tahl said...

And I'm posting as my daughter *again*.


Hattie said...

Time for a "bleed in." Let it flow.

Unknown said...

Volokh is an anti-gay bigot, so I really don't care what he thinks.

Palladian said...

"Volokh is an anti-gay bigot, so I really don't care what he thinks."

Speaking of mess, cramps, and mood

Unknown said...

I thought you were going to ignore me Porky.

Palladian said...

That wouldn't get you off if people ignored your little prissy fits, would it, Mary?

Palladian said...

It's Friday night! What is a wealthy, fit, girl-about-town like you doing at home posting comments on a menstruation thread at Althouse?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Women can pee standing up...with a little help from Whizzy.

Great tag-line: Women, take a stand!

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I think I just found what to send you to celebrate your 10 millionth visitor!

Unknown said...

"I'd rather be able to use my own body to write my name in the snow. You know, you can't do that with menstrual blood. Not too damned easily anyway."

Do it, photograph it, call it modern art, and apply for an NEA grant.

Since you brought it up, you might want to give a shout-out to the artists Petra Paul and Tamara "Red Tide" Wyndham.

Oh, and while you're at it, join this group too.

amba said...

I THINK THIS PILL IS A WAY OF BECOMING MORE LIKE A MAN -- as "free" as a man. As free to have the illusion of being free of the physical. (Anybody notice that taking a **** is much more problematic for a man than a woman, though? They have to sit down, and that's humiliating, unmanning somehow.)

In the Bloggingheads of which Ann just gave you a preview, we discussed whether it's actually more "natural" and healthy to suppress menstruation, because women originally did not ovulate or menstruate very often; they were pregnant or nursing most of the time.

Be that as it may, I liked my period. (Obviously, it didn't give me much trouble.) Not in a clubby way, in a private way. I did, ridiculous as it sounds, feel connected to nature and the moon and the sultry buildup to the release of a thunderstorm. There were eddies of different kinds of mood and creativity around different parts of the cycle, which could be used as energy sources. You could ride it. I thought that was a sort of underutilized and ignored resource, and that being male would have been kinda boring by comparison.

amba said...

On the other hand, it's been real easy to get used to not having it, too. You kind of look back and say, "What was that all about?"

Freeman Hunt said...

What? We're supposed to love having our periods now? Yeah, blood and cramps--big party. Is this a joke?

Christy said...

I still wonder if they did enough testing.

Still more questions. We women tend to cycle with the other women in our lives. Is this a subliminal bond of some sort that will now be forever broken? Before we even know how it affects us?

And finally, will this pill sever young women from the universal consciousness? Will Artemis be forced to wander aimlessly forever more? Nothing to do, nowhere to go?

JimM47 said...

I'd rather be able to use my own body to write my name in the snow.

Did anyone else just flash back the SNL skit "Lothar of the Hill People" where the cavemen are discussing the superiority of men with Ed O'Neill (Al Bundy on Married with Children) ?

Mike Meyers: "Yes! Who smoked the Tree People when they attacked with a force three times greater than our own?"

Phil Hartmand: "And who was it that redirected the River Zoro, so the harvest would be more bountiful!"

Ed O'Neill: "And who is it that can write their name in the snow without using their hand!"

JimM47 said...

It's one thing for Feminists to say they love their c*nts, a la Monologue.
It's another to cherish and love their periods. Mess, cramps, mood changes!
Like guys saying not only do they love their d*cks, but they also cherish and embrace male pattern baldness

self-love of female genitals : thing that is messy :: self-love of male-genitals : ?

It's been a while since I took that section of the SATs, but when I started scanning that last sentence I wasn't expecting the end of that simile to be baldness.

reader_iam said...

Ohmigosh, what is this? Do I have to endure phase X of self-conscious discussing of the larger significance of periods for the nth time? (I remember hearing discussions prior to my own "initiation" (bah, pfah), so to speak, at 10, and here I am 36-1/2 years later, and it's mostly as boring now as it was then, though I will say that the terms of the overwhelmingly mostly boringness of discussing it has varied, as has the small percentage of interestingness.)

If such a petty subject causes a tempest feminists have won.

Perhaps this will piss absolutely everybody off, but I think that's exactly, precisely the opposite of right. Instead:

If such a petty subject causes such a tempest, feminists have lost.

Of course, there are circumstances, whatever they are and to whatever degree, where the experience of periods aren't petty. There have been options before, and now there's an even better one. Good news!

But that takes absolutely nothing away from my bolded statement... .

reader_iam said...

Some might think the following contradictory to my previous post, but I don't:

Good job, in posting about this, Althouse (and that's regardless of whether you disagree with my take or not, about which I don't care).

reader_iam said...

Also, just for the record, though in entirely different contexts which it's definitely not my intention to extend, I've been known to say on more than one occasion:

"Hell, hemlock is 'natural.' Also, poisonous mushrooms and fugu. Death and childbirth, too."

Parthsarathi Jha said...

jokes apart, it is during the menstrual period girls fight with their boy friends which only shows they really can't take this usual monthly cisis phenomenon.

Emy L. Nosti said...

Oh please. Spare me. If the most fruitful "bonding experience" you have with other women having blood gush from between your legs, you're a whackjob.

Same goes if you feel it's psychologically necessary to everyone's womanhood--unless you're into, you know, biological subjugation. Universal consciousness? Gag. If you like your period, fine, keep it, but enough with the mysticism. It's messy, unpleasant, and unnecessary, not magical.

Re testing: women have been skipping periods with birth control literally for decades, "off-label." If anything, it'd make sense that stable hormone levels are safer than the dropoffs and surges that cause many women emotional and physical misery.

Ron said...

Your video had a distinctive Woody Allen-esque tone of voice...very good!

Unknown said...

On-topic: women have menstruation, men have erections. But, in a demonstration of feminine power, the mere mention of the former can almost always kill the latter.

Off-topic: If you're going to talk to the camera, talk to it. Talk more to the camera, less off-camera. You're drawing focus in directions the viewer can't follow. Where you look, we look.

You insert parentheses as you speak, which is fine, but you can't insert parentheses and also swallow your words.

Finally, frame your shot so you're not precisely centered. Open up some space by placing yourself slightly off-center to the left of our screen.

amba said...

Without using their hand?? Now that would take some pretty agile hopping around.

TMink said...

Amba wrote: "They have to sit down, and that's humiliating, unmanning somehow."

I do not feel humiliated when I sit in the smallest room in the house. I usually sit to read.


Unknown said...

Does anyone else care about the whole pumping-yourself-full-of-hormones factor? This is why I stopped taking the Pill several years ago. I immediately felt more like myself again, too.
When I got married two years ago, my husband honored my request to use an alternative birth control method until we decided to start a family. This method entailed tracking my (blessedly regular) period, with condom use on fertile days and a monthly "free time" during which protection was not necessary as I was infertile. This worked like a charm -- in fact, I felt a little concerned for my fertility -- but when we decided to get pregnant it occurred effortlessly, during our first cycle of trying. (I am no spring chicken, either; I just turned 30.) I do wonder if I would have gotten pregnant so easily if my prior birth control method had been the Pill.
For women who get their periods randomly, the alternative birth control method will obviously not work. For women with regular, predictable periods -- you are getting all the birth control information you need from your cycle, if you choose to use it. Please note I did not take my temperature every day and all that jazz. I just conservatively estimated my infertile days as Day 20 through Day 3. Those were the days we could have all the condom-free sex we wanted. (Yes, this did include sex while I was bleeding -- if a man is grossed out by that, you might want to take that as a warning sign.) I hope all this is not TMI; I just wanted to speak for a method which does not involve ingesting hormones.

Bissage said...

This is all too much for my tiny little brain. Heck, it was only yesterday I learned there was such a thing as cosmetic vaginal surgery. There was a link at "The Onion" and I thought it was a joke.

Anyway, Althouse’s performance art, writing one’s name in the snow endeavor, sounds like jolly good fun. But where’s the utility?

I am of a practical mind. Thus, there can be no greater an expression of my maleness-in-fullness than marking my geographic territory with a pungent, glistening stream of golden me.

And there can be no greater opportunity for male bonding, short of crashing a plane in the Andes and eating the center midfielder. Go ahead. Piss on a tree. You know you want to. Father and son. Brother and brother. Bud and bud. Any combination of XY and XY one can imagine are bonded for life in the sacred baptismal splatter of high pressure, sylvan, urinefest.

Someday soon, BIG PHARMA will invent a pill that will deprive men of our means, motive and opportunity to affix onto tree bark a liquid banana peel for the next unsuspecting squirrel. But until then, or until our prostates grow to the dimensions of an Idaho potato; LET IT FLOW!

But what’s up with tampons? And what about adhesive pads and other sorts of manhole covers? Real women, like my mom and her mother before her, wore some kind of a weird belt contraption that held a “sanitary napkin.” And I think that belt might also have held up their stockings and secured a flask of booze. Before them, I imagine my great-grandmothers must have stuffed a pine cone or two in there.

Which brings me back full circle to the trees, . . ., onto which, . . ., we men, . . ., draw our circles, the same as our great progenitor Archimedes. “Noli turbare circulos meos.

But periods?

You can have 'em!

Only women bleed.
-- Alice Cooper

I don't know how you [gals] walk around with those things.
-- Elaine Bennis (sort of)

Christy said...

Medical term for women who use the rhythm method: Mothers (Heinlein, probably misquoted)

Ruth Anne Adams said...

TMink wrote, "I usually sit to read."

Trey: You left out an "h".

Bruce Hayden said...

DTL said: Volokh is an anti-gay bigot, so I really don't care what he thinks.

If someone like Eugene, who has come out in favor of single sex marriage (see, for example, Same-Sex Marriages and Slippery Slopes) and has had other SSM advocates as guest bloggers and co-conspirators is an anti-gay bigot, I wonder what you think about the roughly half the country who oppose SSM.

Indeed, I have to credit EV in particular for bringing me to support civil unions and start considering SSM. I think that the problem is that while he is NOT anti-gay, he is also not slavishly pro-gay, as is much of the rest of academia.

Besides, your attitude here seems very much of the shoot the messenger type.

amba said...

Eva -- I also used your barrier + rhythm method (except with a diaphragm) during my most fertile years and (maybe luck) never got pregnant till I was 36.

amba said...

I think that belt might also have held up their stockings and secured a flask of booze. Before them, I imagine my great-grandmothers must have stuffed a pine cone or two in there.


Mortimer Brezny said...

Well, I have some comments:

1. Men love being men. Why do women hate being women? That makes no sense. I like my dick and all its peculiarities. You should like your periods and breasts and so forth. This strikes me like women not enjoying lactation. How lame is that? How lame is a person who denies their biology? Waaaaack.

2. The obvious point is that all the women come forth to register how they hate their period and men don't get it. DUH! That's an essential difference. Why would you want to destroy that? Unless you hate women....

3. Changing your hormonal cycle is a bit much.

Joe said...

There is a valid medical theory that increased iron in the blood is a contributing factor to heart disease and heart attacks. I believe the latest twist on this is that it affects only a significant subset of the populace.

One bit of evidence is the premenopausal women have heart attacks at a markedly decreased rate as men. This changes drastically after menopause.

One effect of this pill is it will allow a broad based experiment as to whether this hypothesis is true.

Unknown said...

Amba --

"(Anybody notice that taking a **** is much more problematic for a man than a woman, though? They have to sit down, and that's humiliating, unmanning somehow.)"

And who exactly told you this? Every man I know doesn't give a crap.

knox said...

Bartow's response is evidence that an awful lot of "feminists" can't get worked up enough about real problems facing women--you know, like fgm, burqas, etc.--but easily find the resources to go off all-out-of-proportion on a harmless question like Volokh's.

I guess it's more fun to act superior and make fun of some professor, instead of actually *doing* something about any of the issues like those above. ugh, it's embarassing.

And periods are gross. Period. Being able to have children is the only thing that makes it not a total unfair punishment.