menstrual memories anyone?

 
A new anthology, called GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos For Our Times, is making some people uncomfortable… why must these things be spoken of??

And making others relieved… thank god we can finally speak.

Because I have a short piece in the book (about the perils of attending a pool party in the 1970’s), and because I believe in saying the word menstruation out loud,
I recently sat outside Blue Heron Books with a little sign that said Menstrual Memories?  —  And waited to see what would happen.

Young children were rushed past.

Men looked uncomfortable. Women too. One woman actually sneered.

But after a while, I noticed people coming back, and some of them stopped. Then many more stopped. It was as if they’d been initially blindsided by the question… but… now that you mention it, yeah, I do have some memories I’d like to share.

And so they shared.

Menstrual memories.

And why not?

A man asked if he could take a picture of the table. I asked if he had any menstrual memories. He said no. We laughed and I liked that the word was spoken between genders. It’s hard enough sometimes just between women.

And that of course IS the whole point of the book, i.e.Why are women made to feel awkward and embarrassed about a basic function of biology?

The first to stop was an 83 year old woman from Cape Breton who whispered about shame and flannel cloths worn like diapers, about the horror of washing them and hanging them to dry. After a few minutes she stopped whispering as one memory twigged another and her friends got into it, all of them swapping stories, and I could tell they’d never had this conversation or anything like it before. As she began to leave, she stopped, smiled and said thank you, this has been fun. She seemed slightly surprised that it turned out that way. And I have no doubt that part of the fun was the relief of speaking the words… at last.

Following are memories so many women shared with me… on a sidewalk, outside a bookstore, on a beautiful summer night… in their own words:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My aunt was on holiday in Austria and her ankles got so swollen she went to see a doctor and discovered she was eight months pregnant. She’d gained some weight but still had her period and so it was a complete shock. My cousin was born the next month and my aunt and uncle quickly got married and moved in together.

When I got my cycle at age thirteen my mum told me I had to carry a purse for “my stuff”. The way she said it was like it was the worst thing on earth.

My dad worked in a factory that made menstrual products and got an employee discount but was too embarrassed to bring them home in the company box, which ‘advertised’ what was inside and so made a whole production out of wrapping the box in brown paper so that neighbours wouldn’t be any the wiser as he brought it into the house from the car. It was treated like contraband.

I was an immigrant and there was a questionnaire at school. One of the questions had the word “menstrual” in it and I didn’t understand, exactly. But I didn’t ask what it meant. It was like I had an idea it shouldn’t be said out loud.

My mom left a booklet about “being a woman” on my dresser one day. In my closet, that same day, on the top shelf, was a box that had a lovely picture on it of a lovely woman in a long white gown. I was very excited about my new dress (which I assumed was inside!!).

My period started on the way home from school on the #28 Davisville bus. Me in my school uniform: white blouse, kilt, knee socks, blazer. I felt the ‘gush’ and when I stood up I was mortified. I tied the blazer around myself as I exited the bus.

I can’t remember what I said, nothing big, I’d simply mentioned my period in conversation to my boyfriend, who became (immediately) enraged. The details are a blur. All I remember is how angry he was that I said whatever I said out loud, like blasphemy or something. I have never, not once, spoken a word about my period to any guy since. Including my husband.

Boys made jokes about girls who were on their periods. (On the rag & worse.)

Try using an outhouse when you have your period.

When I got my period my mother took me aside and said I was to avoid boys now. She didn’t clarify why or which boys so I avoided them all, including my brothers, to the point that I was afraid if our elbows touched as we passed on the stairs. It completely changed our relationship.

Got my period at eleven. I was on a toboggan with two boys.

My favourite menstrual thought:  I look forward to menopause!

A menstrual memory for me is when I was in my twenties and playing softball. I was either pitching or shortstop, and I felt something. Uh oh…

My periods were heavy and I didn’t carry a purse. I worked as an auctioneer.
I used to keep extra pads down the sides of my cowboy boots.

I remember watching TV with my dad and my brothers and running from the room in embarrassment when Kotex ads came on.

My periods stopped the day my mother died. I could feel it starting as I sat with her in the hospital. She died that night, and my period proceeded normally for the rest of week. And that was it. I never had another. I was only in my forties.

We didn’t have products. We used flannel cloths, like diapers, and they had to be washed and dried and re-used. It was an embarrassment when it was your time because people would see the bulge of the pin through your skirt.

My periods were so bad I had to take three days off school most months.

I lived near the ocean and it was a real concern, people would tell you not to swim, to be careful of sharks, and they weren’t kidding.

 

GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos For Our Times available from Blue Heron Books

Support indies!

 

 

welcome!

 

It’s official.

We now live in Honey Boo Boo Ville.

All we need is a quick change of signage and some new stationery.

 

Greed. Just greed. Lest we wonder how this happened.

Also, it’s a sign we need to seriously look at our values as a society… and maybe talk to each other occasionally, not merely at each other. The divide will simply become greater and greater until we learn to really see and hear The Other. Whether or not we agree is irrelevant. Respect is more important than agreement.

And less anger. More conversation, more questions, more listening, and maybe one day we can meet in the middle somewhere, or close to it.

There has to be something worthwhile that comes of this. It’s a yin yang world after all.

 
 
 

it’s not about doors

 
Dear-Menfolk-of-a-Certain-Mentality:

In the event you’re confused about how to treat the wimminfolk ‘these days’, and we suspect you are, maybe this will help…

a) ‘these days’, by the way, have been ongoing since Mary Wollstonecraft had the chutzpah to point out (publicly and in writing) the inequities between genders in 1792. She was, of course, the first feminist or, as some of you might describe her, the first pain in your ass. She certainly heard enough of that in her day. As have all women who dare to point out inequities. Because our more important role is to smile. And if you think the inequities are tiring to hear about, imagine it from our end.

b) It’s not about doors. Or seats on buses. I mention this only because it appears to be no small detail in terms of your frustration/confusion.What do these chicks want?  Are you supposed to open the door or not, you wonder….

c) So, I repeat…  it’s not about doors.

Please understand… we know you live to be helpful, to treat women with chivalry because, after all, that implies horses and knighthood, a nifty metal ensemble, a shiny sword but, honestly, unless our arms are full of groceries or rocks or children, we can handle a door. Same with anyone, really, you needn’t single us out. We’ll let you know if we need help with a jar or a high up shelf but in the meantime we’d like to think you’re using all those knightly instincts being chivalrous to people in general, opening an equal number of doors for men with arms full of children and offering seats to old fellas who look tired. In turn, we, too will gladly hold a door for you should we happen to get to it first. Basic politeness is different than a sense of duty, or favour.

That said, if you just can’t move past the idea of imposed chivalry, that men exist in order to ensure the welfare and good treatment of women, you’re in an excellent position to do something about it given your clout in most things corporate, political, tyrannical and world domination, generally.

A few items you might like to work on:

Justice for sexual assault victims

Elimination of gender discrimination in the workplace, in the arts, in government, at my car dealership

The growing trend of women and poverty (aka feminization of poverty)

Gender based violence in… well, everywhere

Domestic violence and the need for shelters, community support, housing

The buy-in on your part to raise your boys to know it’s okay to show healthy emotion so that they don’t grow up like angry little grenades

The buy-in on your part to allow your boys to do more than excel at sports

The need to change the language that demeans girls:  throw like a girl, etc.

And the language that demeans women… the male server at the restaurant who calls the woman who is neither young nor a lady, young lady, while addressing the male at the table as sir.

Equality of pay

Equality of employment opportunities

Elimination of the pink tax. Why do pink razors cost more than blue ones?

Reproductive Rights

Missing and Murdered Women

Rape and Trafficking

Increased funding and research in the area of women’s health, i.e. maternal, menstrual, menopausal (part of human biology, not chick stuff )

Oh, and stop telling women to smile, okay? You like telling people to smile, tell each other.

~

Because these are the kinds of things that would actually HELP women.

Once you’ve taken these things as seriously as you do doors, and seats on buses, and opening jars, and similarly ‘helpful’ things, well, then, if you still want to open doors for us, go right ahead.

Thanking you in advance.

 

~

p.s. No one’s really sure about the origins of why opening doors is a guy thing but one theory is that it was safer to have the woman enter first so the guy, er, sorry, the knight, didn’t end up getting shot or stabbed in the event of any nefarious doings and/or plot on the other side.

Once again, thanks.

 

 

appropriate, my foot

 

I don’t care for the word ‘appropriate’ or its variations. Unless we’re talking how sandals aren’t appropriate for hiking in Antarctica or coal is not an appropriate gift for a miner, I’d prefer it not be used… or, more accurately, overused.

For example, in the context of language, inappropriate  behaviour or messages, including those that, oh, I don’t know, threaten job security so an MPP in Ontario can get a date, let’s say, which is a very different thing than bringing coal to a miner. One is inappropriate, the other is pathetic.

See what I mean? Approprite/inappropirate are often words automatically used when other words would be more accurate.Words such as insensitive, racist, anti-semitic, sexist, unkind, or downright stupid and uninformed.

I’m not a fan of political correctness generally. I’m a fan of attempting to be a decent person, or as decent as one can be… and when one is not decent, to be the kind of person that owns up to that indecency by saying the indecency was wrong. Not inappropriate. Not politically incorrect. Just plain wrong.

The terms ‘political correctness’ and ‘appropriate behaviour’ suggest a sign of the times… the perception of a complicated era wherein complicated things need to be memorized. As if we should all make a list of Things To Say and Do in Various Situations and in the Presence of Certain People These Days, rather than acquiring the quality of giving a rat’s ass about people, generally.

It’s the difference between doing what’s decent versus doing what makes you appear to be decent.

I heard someone recently whinging about how things “used to be simpler’, that it “used to be okay” to say certain things, to raise a fist and make a joke about knocking a woman into next week… it’s a joke! Can’t you take a joke? It used to be okay to say these things. God. How is anybody supposed to know what’s appropriate anymore??

Here’s what’s getting lost in that argument… it was never appropriate.

Not in the good old days  when Jackie Gleason did it, not when Ricky Ricardo put Lucy over his knee because she blew the housekeeping budget. Not any time before or since or in the future has it ever or will it ever be okay to disrespect anyone or put your rights above theirs.

Still, it seems there are a few confused souls among us, so here’s a couple of pointers that I hope will help.

♦  If it comes up that you sent emails to someone threatening their job security unless they _________ [fill in the blank], and nobody wants to hang out with you anymore, do not grumble how times have changed. Because that suggests the problem is the times, not you. Be accurate, say that you are an ass, that you have no consideration for others and especially do not value or respect the people to whom you’ve written the emails.

♦  Stop hiding behind variations on the word appropriate.

♦  And spare me the scripted apologies designed to get you out of sticky wickets rather than taking the three minutes necessary to actually consider your actions.

♦  Consider the fact that women are people (they have been since 1929).

♦  Consider that anyone, regardless of gender, might appreciate (instead of platitudes and political correctness) the sense that their feelings matter and to not have to constantly explain what those feelings are and why they matter, not to mention worry about your feelings in the process.

Here’s an example:

You step on someone’s toe . They say ouch.

You can—

a)  be pissed off that they didn’t just keep quiet about it

b)  say oh don’t be so stupid, I didn’t hurt you

c)  sigh dramatically in the way of those who must occasionally throw the little people a crumb, and say fine, I’m soooorrreeee that I apparently stepped on your stupid toe, are you happy now?

d)  send flowers, chocolates, jewellery, money, in lieu of recognizing their feelings and then refer to the injured party as a liar when said ‘gifts’ don’t work their intended magic

or

e)  you can say (and actually mean it), oh, shit, did I step on your toe? What a moron I am, what a clutz. Sorry about that, are you okay?

 

Bottom line—  intention, sincerity, genuine respect for another person is much more than appropriate behaviour.

Way more than optics.

Language matters.

Intentions matter.

p.s. This particular rant is about the treatment of women, but with a bit of re-jigging and imagination, it would easily apply to the treatment by anyone, of  anyone, of any gender, class, culture, religion, hair colour or shoe size.

 

 

 

the war on litter: notes from the front line

 

Actually, not so much notes as questions.

For instance…

All those festively coloured bags of doggie doo-doo you see on boulevards, sidewalks, parks, woodlands. Are dog walkers notoriously butter-fingered, i.e. are all those bags unknowingly dropped? Or have they been set down with the idea of being retrieved on the return trip (after all, who wants to carry crud AND a Timmy’s while strolling) and then forgotten when a different route home is decided upon? Or just forgotten. And those baggies all chubby with doo doo tied to fences or hanging from trees. What is that??  The result of someone coming along, finding a dropped bag and thinking: hmmm… let’s see what could be the best possible move here… oh, I know!  Or do the dog walkers themselves use the baggies as a sort of code among themselves? (If so, please let me in on it, because I’m an occasional dog walker myself.)

Also… people who enjoy a walk (with or without furry friends), who choose to ramble in the pristine beauty of a forest, conservation area or field of buttercups, the beach or any shoreline… and yet somehow find it normal to drop their drinking cups, cans, bottles and chip bags like breadcrumbs as they go. Why are you walking in pristine beauty when you obviously don’t like pristine beauty? Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to stretch your legs at the dump? Wouldn’t you feel more at home there??  Serious question.

And speaking of cups, cans and bottles. (And bags of doo doo for that matter.) Please don’t chuck them under trees. It just makes it harder for me to ferret them out. (FYI — they don’t magically become invisible under there)

Oh, and to the black Honda with tinted windows in front of me as I left the Bulk Barn the other day, whose passenger threw a plastic cup out the window while I watched, stunned:  I’m sorry I didn’t gather my moxie in time to put my car in Park, get out, knock on your tint and ask you in my best inquiring-minds-want-to-know voice, what the [redacted] is wrong with you. Again, serious question:  How messed up is your life that you have so little regard for the planet and what can we do to help you?

And here’s something I learned recently… cigarette butts take forever to decompose. In the meantime they clog and poison land and waterways and are often found inside fish. Yum!  But even if they didn’t do all that harm, chucking your smokes is very Honey Boo Boo.  Seriously, people who empty ashtrays on parking lots or throw butts out car windows or onto the street… please go live on another planet. Because, wouldn’t you like that, to be among all your like-minded friends, each of you knee deep in schmutz??**

Serious question.

** Of course more garbage cans and public ashtrays wouldn’t go amiss either.

Write letters, people! Ask for what’s needed.

Read the story that goes with this pic, here.

From The Litter I See Project.

dear heather: quick question

 
 
Heather Stefanson
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
104 Legislative Building
450 Broadway
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0V8

 
 
Dear Ms. Stefanson:

Given the strong assumption going in that Raymond Cormier was Tina Fontaine’s murderer, and the wisdom of our infallible judicial system determining that he is not, I’m wondering what happens next. How does the case proceed from here, what steps will be taken to find Tina’s murderer?

I’m assuming efforts will be ramped up asap, yes?

Because there is a killer. (As far as I know it’s not possible for a person to wrap themselves in a duvet, then cover themselves with rocks in a river. Especially with an alcohol level ‘slightly higher than is legal for driving’ and ‘traces of marijuana’. Even for a First Nations girl.)

Because she was a girl.

And I’ll be blunt— please ask yourself… just imagine for a moment that she was a white girl, let’s even give her blonde hair and blue eyes, let’s make her pageant quality in perfection of all those things that don’t actually matter (but somehow do), including pedigree. And there she is, in the river, in a duvet, covered in rocks. And let’s imagine some low life happens to have been hanging around her, has threatened some unsavoury actions, even admitted to killing her in off-handed ways. But… his DNA wasn’t found on the Costco duvet. And so the low life is innocent and the blonde girl is… what? What happens next? Do you see what I’m asking?

That’s it really. A simple question.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT IN ORDER TO FIND TINA FONTAINE’S KILLER?

Because surely this isn’t an insignificant case. Surely it will be a precedent of some kind, if only to illustrate how easily a wrongful arrest can be made. (How did that even happen??)

After all, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, teenager of excellent pedigree, a citizen of Manitoba, was murdered in Winnipeg. Her family are distraught. Lives beyond hers are shattered. Oh, wait.

Well, same thing, right? Justice will not be served until the killer has been found!  Right? Right??

On the bright side, justice has  been served for Raymond Cormier. Thank god an innocent like him was spared from undue punishment. Glory be to the Canadian justice system as it serves white men and blonde girls.

Thanking you in advance for what I have no doubt is your deepest and most pressing attention to this… what shall we call it… this ‘matter’?

Sincerely,

 

carin makuz.

p.s. If you aren’t the best qualified to answer this question, feel free to pass it along to someone who is. There must be someone who is…

 

 

 

dear canada: we’re all taking notes

 
A lesson in the laws of this country:

It is, apparently, okay to fly into a rage when someone comes onto our property… perfectly okay to shout obscenities and smash the trespasser’s windshield with a hammer, kick in their tail lights while they are IN their vehicle and would very much like to be on their way at this point…

It is, apparently, okay to grab a gun, fire ‘warning’ shots (warnings of what? why warnings? whatever happened to that old chestnut: get off my lawn! )…

It is, apparently, okay to try to turn off the ignition of the trespasser’s car as they (once again) attempt to leave your property… and it is very okay, apparently, if the gun, still in your hand and now pointed at the trespasser’s head, goes off and kills them.

It’s okay because this is an accident. Because you said it was an accident.

Oops, you might say. You didn’t mean to kill them.

That, apparently, is enough for the courts in this land, enough to appease a jury of your peers (and by peers we obviously mean people as rage-filled and incompetent with a firearm as you are).

You didn’t mean to kill them.

What else is there to say? How to argue that point?

The laws of this country, apparently, condone hysteria, anger and violence toward trespassers. And errors where killing is concerned. Where pointing a loaded gun at someone’s head is concerned.

Oops.

But the laws of this country aren’t the people of this country and I hope the people of this country will stand up and make this travesty a catalyst for change.

Because none of this makes sense. That you, a man of 63, “didn’t mean to kill” but did kill  a 22 year old boy who, like every other boy, every other child that grows up in a place where there’s diddly squat to do sometimes gets up to bad business. Like you yourself might have done once upon a time. Because I’m guessing this isn’t the first time a young person went joy-riding on the prairies and made some dumb decisions. (Those decisions by the way, dumb as they may have been, were not in any way life-threatening… well, not to you anyway.) And, oh, by the way, we have dumb-ass decision makers in cities and towns too, young people who for whatever reason are bored and get into trouble… Do I understand the laws of this land to be that we have a new way of handling these situations? Because this sure as hell feels like a precedent.

(By the way… may I infer that the next time someone, oh, let’s say an Indigenous man, accidentally kills a white boy, by shooting him in the head, the court will appoint a jury of twelve members of the Indigenous community and try him in a fair trial with a jury of his peers? )

Because that would at least be something.

~

What also would be something is if the man who killed the boy was required to go to anger management counselling.

And some kind of night school program where he could learn how to use a gun properly, maybe get a copy of Side Arm Ownership for Dummies.

And if this country changed its rules about jury selection… as was suggested in a report dated 2013, by Judge Frank Iacobucci. who at that time said there was a “crisis in the justice system”.

Or wouldn’t it be something if the court had deemed it worthwhile that the man who killed the boy make a statement to the Boushie family, to ask for forgiveness, and to spend a weekend hearing about who Colten Boushie was, what his life was… to, oh I don’t know, develop a smidgen of compassion for another human being.

That still wouldn’t be justice, but it would be something.