John Goddard/Toronto Star
And menstruating girls are segregated, off in their own little group, like this paragraph.
Stigmatized, bleeding mysteriously and bewildered by maternal instructions, these girls are not allowed to pray (I am told other religions require this as well). You can see them in the Star’s photograph, the boys at the front, the girls hidden behind, flattened in prayer, and the girls with periods sitting cross-legged or kneeling.
These girls are in grades 7 and 8. OMG I am like totally remembering myself at that age and I would like have died of embarrassment except that I noticed even then that no one ever actually does. That’s unfortunate.
Now it’s different, of course. Menstruation should be a happy sexy thing, proof of femininity and non-pregnancy, and a harbinger of pleasure. When Carly Simon got her first period, her mother took her up to the top turret of the Simon mansion and toasted the moon with a glass of wine. “To men!” her mother said gaily. Okay, Simon’s mother was a bit of a handful.
I speak as a person who loves being female, but it is a huge drag on your career, carries with it a constant threat of violence and is, well, exhausting. Men are one thing but other females can be even more tiring. Plus you get your period around age 11-13 and how this event is handled casts a shade, good or bad, on the arc of your development as a female.
Men know nothing about this. Tina Fey in her new book of essays, Bossypants, recalls trying to get a comedy sketch about feminine napkin advertising past the male writers at Saturday Night Live. She was describing the horror of being a young girl wearing what felt like a saddle with, of all things, belts (I am not making this up. Thankfully, they use strips now that adhere to your underwear).
She discovered that the men weren’t opposed to the sketch because they were guys. They simply had no idea what she was talking about. It did not occur to them that all women start out with this level of humiliation. You worried about leaks? Huh?
I assumed things had improved for young girls, which has always been the only true point of feminism, to make things better for them. But little has changed. I don’t think modern mothers necessarily teach their daughters about that glorious invention, the tampon.
The girls at this school aren’t toughened for ridicule, which is only part of the reason I hate their being singled out for a female function we are still learning to discuss openly in the modern West.
They are sensitive, as are all young girls despite the toughness they parade. They probably won’t do what I would have done in this situation, which is lie and join the rest of the crowd because no one need know when you have your period. (Girls, this is only one of the joys of tampons. Go to Shoppers, buy the box, study the diagram carefully, and good luck.)
The Toronto District School Board cares about building self-esteem for girls. Trustee Michael Coteau says he’d like the services, since they are during school hours, to follow the board’s gender-equity policy. Essentially, that would mean girls pray beside boys, not behind them.
As for singling out girls who have their periods — why not just make them wear a hat with a big arrow or a flag? — no one’s discussing that. Except me, in this column. Why should it fall to me? Can some school trustee, male or female, please stand up to defend shy girls of tender age?