Teen Vogue has been doing a lot of great journalistic work lately. Pieces like this one on Donald Trump gaslighting America, this one about post-election stress, and this one about the exorbitant amount Trump’s presidency will cost American taxpayers are helping expose a new generation of young women to politics and feminism. So when an article from Teen Vogue titled 22 Times your Period Saved Your Life popped up in my Google Alerts I was excited to see what the amazing writers at the magazine came up with.
Within the first few sentences of the article, the author began to frame menstruation as something positive and I immediately thought: this is going to be good. I get giddy when I see women reframing menstruation in a less oppressive framework. The author was on a roll. She exclaimed: “Your period is the GREATEST.”
Yes, Teen Vogue! Yes!
But that giddiness was quickly extinguished when I read the very next line: “Your period is the best excuse for…everything. It is the ultimate trump card for…everything.”
Oh, no Teen Vogue. No.
The article took a turn I did not see coming and turned out to be a shallow listicle of how to use your period as an excuse to get out of gym class, stay home for the weekend, when you want to go home, when you want to end a bad date, etc. This irks me for two very big reasons.
First, we should stop teaching young girls that they need an excuse to do things they don’t want to instead of teaching them it’s OK to say no.
Now, I get that sometimes we fib to get out of doing things, and I am not going to sit here and say I never used my period as an excuse to get out of gym class. What I am referring to is using your period as an excuse to leave a bad date or for a reason to go home. We need to stop participating in the social zeitgeist where women must be polite all the time to everyone. Girls and ladies, if you are on a bad date and want to end it, end the date. You do not have to make up excuses, you do not need to be polite, and you do not need to worry about hurting your date’s feelings. Tell them it isn’t working out for you, give them a nice, firm handshake, and go home.
Second, using your period as an excuse to get out of anything and everything you don’t want to do contributes to menstrual taboo and stereotypes.
If you don’t want someone writing you off as “being on your period,” it is important to not give them permission by using it as an excuse yourself. One of the most important lessons I have learned about relationships over the years is that you teach people how to treat you. You show them, through your actions, what they can and cannot get away with. If you use your period as an excuse for being in a bad mood, then guess what? The next time you get upset about something, the person you are upset with has the perfect excuse to not care about your feelings because “you must be on your period.”
Many women have pretty benign periods* that don’t get in the way of their emotions, their physicality, or their desire to want to live life. By falsely using your period as an excuse rather than just saying what you would prefer to do: like staying in for the night, having an extra scoop of ice cream for dessert, or not wanting to kiss someone (seriously, this was suggestion number 11), you give your power away.
So, girls and ladies, as tempting as it can be to use your period as a scapegoat for everything, it is important to recognize the message that sends about you. Wouldn’t you rather take control of your life and go after what you want instead of making excuses for everything you don’t want? The choice is yours.
*There are some serious side effects of menstruation that some women and girls live with each month: painful and debilitating cramps, severe mood swings and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, heavy bleeding, etc. Do we really want to take advantage of their actual pain just to have an excuse to wear sweatpants (suggestion 15)?
[Editor’s note: Do we really need an excuse to wear sweatpants?]
Amy Sutherland is a period-positive advocate, educator and writer. She prefers tackling topics like reproductive health, fertility, sexuality, feminism, social justice issues and all those tricky subjects you avoid talking about at family gatherings. Amy holds a Master’s Degree in Women’s Health as well as a Graduate Certificate in Holistic Health Studies. Read her full bio here.