It's been seven years since I received my first STFU, Parents period submission, and many cycles later, they're still flowing in. It's not too surprising, given that periods are arguably in vogue right now, showing up with far more regularity in entertainment and on social media. Periods have gone from shameful/embarrassing (and, in some cultures, dehumanizing) to a symbol of female power in the mainstream. Young girls and women speak freely about their periods on social media, usually with cheeky self-assurance, and they don't appear embarrassed at all. Being progressive in 2016 means being down with casual period jokes and general "period talk," whether you make them yourself or not. You can't normalize or de-stigmatize something without talking about it, and I think the world has been ready for "period underwear" jokes for some time now.
Plus, as recently as this week, women in Indiana used their periods for political purposes, informing Governor Mike Pence with details of their menstrual cycles in response to proposed anti-abortion legislation that's so restrictive, it inspired the hashtag #periodsforpence. And speaking of political, did you know tampon companies aren't required by law to disclose the ingredients in tampons, and the number of (potentially toxic) synthetic fibers changes in production based on materials costs? That's why there are start-up companies emerging like Lola that use 100 percent cotton. This is truly a time when women are reclaiming their periods, be it for health and social justice, for laughs, or just for shock value—and for the most part, that's a stance I can get behind.
That being said, there's something I still find a bit TMI about period talk, and my relationship with period jokes is spotty at best. I'm not the type of gal to post about being in a terrible mood because Aunt Flo has graced me with her presence, nor am I a prude who would actually call her period Aunt Flo when complaining to friends in real life (which I've been known to do). I'm not afraid of period talk; I'm just not always totally interested in hearing about what's going on with my fellow ladies' "Lady Times" via social media. Does that make me some kind of anti-feminist jerk? Maybe. I'm trying to embrace this period-heavy period in time, I swear on my Midol that I am, but the truth is, I just don't want to learn that someone is having a particularly heavy flow day when I'm scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. And when it comes to moms, there are two types of updates in particular that could probably use some plugging. The first one is the "ZOMG I just got my period for the first time since having a baby and it suuuuuucks" update, which I've seen several times, and which I'm certain my grandmother would be horrified to learn is a Thing that women frequently discuss on social media.
I'm not knocking anyone's right to have this chat online, but I do wonder WHY someone post this on Facebook rather than say, in a group chat that's not read by hundreds of people. But hey, that's just me! And look at William popping up in the conversation—VERY progressive! Try as I might to understand why a woman would communicate this level of detail on Facebook, the truth is that Elizabeth is a grown woman who's speaking for herself and can she do whatever she wants. The bigger issue, in my opinion, is the OTHER type of update moms post about that really has no place online at all, which is the confessional post about a daughter getting her period for the first time.
Why do so many moms do this? Does sharing this information remove any feelings of embarrassment that young girls (shouldn't) feel when they get their period for the first time, or does it run the risk of exacerbating those feelings? Is it really a mother's right to share her daughter's private business with her entire online network? In some cultures, a period is a time for celebration, an entrance into womanhood that's recognized by friends and relatives and capped off with a party. But in America, if a mother throws her daughter a party for getting her period, the daughter is much more likely to be embarrassed. Why, then, do moms so willingly share these personal tidbits about their daughters via social media? It's not the same thing as sharing that their daughters got straight A's or scored winning goals. It's selfish, and even though the sentiment is rooted in pride, it comes across as a total breach of confidence.
If you can't trust your own mom not to tell the whole world (literally) about your period, who CAN you trust? And shouldn't it be a girl's (now woman's) right to take ownership of this new physical development and share the news herself when she's ready? These are the questions I ask myself every time I get a new period submission but feel obligated to consider the greater role periods play in our current popular culture. Are periods no longer so shrouded in secrecy like they were when I was in seventh grade? Should moms feel entitled to share their daughter's news with their social networks? Or are these moms just passively embarrassing their daughters to a whole new degree by putting their periods on blast on the internet? Let's take a look at some examples.
1. Brown Stains
Ah, yes, the old pastime of snuggling up with your mom to read books about menstruation. That sounds lovely. Nothing like sipping a cup of hot cocoa and talking about the joys and anguish of bleeding 5-7 days a week for nearly 40 years. Of course, in my case, my mother barely looked up from her public access TV show when I informed her that I'd gotten my period. She just shushed and waved me in the direction of the bathroom shouting, "So go get a pad!!" I can't imagine her caring enough about my period to bother noticing any "false alarm" brown stains on my butt, but I have a feeling if she had, I would've just looked at her like, "Okay...so you're bringing up periods because I had a dirt stain on my ass?" Sounds like Erin is a bit more prepared, and a whole lot more eager. So eager, in fact, that she's posting about it on Facebook before it's even happened. Something tells me when the big event finally transpires, Erin's friends will be the first to know. Also, Renee-with-an-apostrophe, the word is "attitude," not "additude," but nice try.
2. The Warning
There's nothing that merges the old with the new like bad period jokes on Facebook. Jokes about "warnings" and "bombs going off" and "women being in sync" are as old as time, and now they've found a new home on social media. How quaint. How retro! How boring. How BASIC. Let's stop this now, please.
You know a status update is TMI when a dad gently suggests to his wife that she might want to keep their daughter's period offline. Robbie (who is a woman and does not look like this) is a little TOO excited about her baby's milestone and clearly needs a little reminding that this isn't her news to share. Too bad she couldn't care less and is far more interested in spreading the word about her daughter's Period Meltdown. Besides, who's going to see her status update anyway? Other than everyone she knows?
3. Period Party
Ughhh, planning a period party for a 10-year-old is the WORST. For one thing, you can't hire any male strippers. When a girl gets her period at age 12, sure, but age 10? Jesus, what kind of party is Carissa supposed to throw now? Forget the Crimson Wave Chambord cocktails and "Pretty Woman" screening. I guess Carissa's daughter and her friends will just have to play with dolls or something. What kind of 10-year-old gets her period anyway?! TOO YOUNG, she's just TOO YOUNG to be a woman. Damn you, puberty!!!
Last but certainly not least, we have Jaclyn, whose last appearance on STFU, Parents marked the 8-year anniversary that her daughter "came weeping out of her vagina." Evidently, that same daughter is now gearing up for her ***Moon Blood***, and something tells me no one is more amped up than Jaclyn. She's probably had a 'Ways To Help My Baby Come Into Flower' ideas list for years now, but just in case, she's doing a little crowdsourcing on Facebook, where all the top notch Sacred Ceremony discussions can be found. Between heated political debates over Bernie and Trump, there's also a LOT of fascinating discourse on social media about the ways a mother can guide her daughter into her Period Light. You just have to seek it out and get involved! You never know what some moms have done to really elevate the experience. Maybe someone has a didgeridoo Jaclyn can borrow? Maybe Jaclyn will get a lead on a set of multi-generational cloth napkins that her daughter can have the honor of using herself? The point is, she won't know until she asks, and social media makes this connectivity possible. Let's all just be grateful for that. I know Jaclyn's daughter will be. What a lucky little girl.