There are many people and many events that never really get represented in mainstream literature. This much is obvious to me when I think about who – and what – is represented. So this isn’t going to be a post that says “hey! I’ve had this idea about a phenomenon I’ve noticed, and I shall call it…. privilege!!!”

It’s a question, actually.

Can anybody think of any book aimed at adults that mentions a woman dealing with her period, other than in the “um, it hasn’t come, I should probably get a pregnancy test” scenario?

I mean, I can remember reading a few books aimed at teenagers that feature a girl getting her first period, but that’s different. Especially since those books were aimed at girls specifically – I’m thinking of authors like Judy Blume and Jaqueline Wilson here. For a matter-of-fact depiction of periods as something that the girl is already used to, I can only think of Michelle Magorian’s A Little Love Song, in which Rose, the main character, is relieved to find blood running down her thigh when she gets out of bed, a few days after having sex for the first time. Even then, it’s mentioned as a plot device, because it shows that she is not pregnant.

I can’t think of a single adult book that talks about periods. Not even in chick lit, which, being aimed at women, you might expect to be more forthcoming about it. Admittedly I haven’t read much. I veer between reading fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction usually, and these tend to either change the way the women work (e.g. because they’re werewolves and go hairy instead), change the way the world works (e.g. you only get your period after specifically praying for it, which the lead female character conveniently never does), or only consider bleeding in terms of failure to reproduce, respectively. But I did read all of Lisa Jewell’s books at one stage, and while I can remember her writing about pregnancy, being fat, leg-shaving, bikini-waxing, heterosexual sex, men wanking and sexual assualt, I can’t remember her ever writing about a female character being on her period.

And now I’m wondering why.


It seems that my last search terms post has produced more questions than answers. I’ve since had a couple of hits on the hysterectomy theme, as well as one about a bleeding vagina.

Before reading further, you may as well know this: that all of what I write next could be boiled down to one phrase – “go to see your doctor“.

So, to start with the stranger of the two search terms, let’s talk about bleeding vaginas. I wish I knew what the person who searched for that meant by it. Because either their vagina really was bleeding, or they may have seen blood and been unsure where it came from. And that gives a couple of options.

The vagina itself is not meant to bleed. However, blood does escape from the womb through the vagina every time a woman has a period. I’m linking to two articles from Scarleteen, one with a useful guide to the female body, and the other a guide to periods. They are written primarily with a young (teenage) audience in mind, but this in my opinion just makes them more accessible, and is in no way a bad thing.

Anyway. The “bleeding vagina” may have been a period. Or, alternatively, that person might have known for sure that they were not be meant to be bleeding at that particular time. I’m not a doctor and I don’t know all of the causes of bleeding at non-period times, so my advice would be to go and ask somebody who did do seven years of training!

If you’re in the UK, you may also want to try using the NHS Direct website, or indeed calling their 24-hour number: 0845 46 47

As for hysterectomies in Sheffield, the results I’ve got are less detailed than the ones I found for abortion. Interesting.

It’s worth saying, to begin with, that hysterectomies are not simple procedures. Basically, if you’ve got a womb and you remove it, that leaves space inside you. Which is filled, sort of, by your other internal organs shuffling around. This is not brilliant. This site has a pretty comprehensive list of the effects that hysterectomies can cause. Please, please talk to your doctor before trying to get a hysterectomy.

This is not to say that no woman should ever have one – that would be silly – but they are pretty bloody scary, and definitely not a procedure to be undertaken lightly. So be careful!

With that in mind, this is what I’ve found:

The NHS website that helped me out when I was doing the abortion research isn’t completely finished, and as yet doesn’t list all of the gynaecology services provided (which is the term that hysterectomies fall under). I’ve linked to it anyway, because it is a work in progress and may well go up in the near future.

Some private hospitals in Sheffield definitely do offer hysterectomies as a service. A search for “sheffield hospitals” generates a map of Sheffield, which will be more helpful in finding a hospital to suit you than I ever could be.

Again, this site is probably quite a good place to have a list of women-specific, Sheffield-specific information. Feel free to leave questions in comments, or indeed to contact us privately, and I’ll do my best to find out the answers.

It’s Carnival time!

Over on A Second Thought (hey, we’re all good with gratuitous self-reference here!) I tend to refer to the place as my own, virtual pub, with myself as sole proprietor – which is great, because that means that for the first Carnival of Feminists of 2009, the virtual drinks can be on me! Happy January everybody, and thanks to everybody that sent in reccomended reading.

I’m not the most organised of people, and didn’t specify any particular themes. Which meant that I got a whole host of great, wide-ranging submissions, and had to try to classify them. And, of course, I did this in the most logical and least time-wasting way possible… with the cunning use of lolcats!

Roughly speaking, we’re talking Science here, which means we range from articles that are actually about science to ones which merely go crazy with the number-crunching:

Veronica at Girl With Pen writes eloquently on Why We Need a Scientifically Literate Citizenry.

“Science is portrayed as the only field that uses big words… and thus intimidates many to think one needs to be a rocket scientist to be well, a scientist.”

Greg Laden in his eponymous blog talks in great length about  The Natural Basis For Gender Inequality.

Barry Leiba at Staring At Empty Pages does the number-crunching in Women, millitary academies, and sexual assualt.

What we worship, how we worship it. With a little social commentary thrown in, for good measure.

Lindsay from Female Impersonator writes about  Gendered Language and Early Christian Thinkers in part 4 of an ongoing series.

The Professor from Professor, What If…? asks herself: What If You Could Buy Social Justice (part 4 – the Church of Disney).

Jender, writing at Feminist Philosophers, provides the only social commentary entirely unrelated to worship here: On Tomboys.

Yep, some feminists get angry. And looking at the posts below, you can see why.

Genevieve from Une Femme Plus Courageuse gives us a Question Based On Usual Blog Patterns

Steph sends in a post from …Or Could Be Again about one guy’s opening words: I Don’t Mean To Be Weird Or Gross But…

Jane Doe from Written On The Body tells us Alanis in OK Magazine: Hopefully this is all a misunderstanding

Brianna J at Fourth Wave Feminism posts about  Male Authenticity

On parenthood, and who gets what share of the dirty work.

Renee at Womanist Musings writes about The Easy Bake Oven In My Vagina: The Role Of The Good Mother

Bad Mom, Good Mom posts about Virginia Woolf in You Call That A Feminist Icon?

And finally, a Feminism 101 category!

Renee from Womanist Musings is back, and on the subject of  The Illegal Hijab

Nandita sends in a post from Cold SnapDragon about A Guard At Kotla Ferozshah. I’m using my host’s perogative to also reccomend the latest post, A Rape-Defense World, because it goes very well with:

Marcella’s post at abyss2hope on Understanding and Misunderstanding Genuine Consent

Lindsay from Female Impersonator appears again to point out that Fashion Is Not Political News, part 3 – Catty Bitch Edition

Lastly, I had a late submission from Robin Reed from the National Women’s Law Center. It’s a video post by Melanie Ross Levin, one of her colleagues, which I didn’t want to include without a transcript, but luckily, it’s short, interesting, and she sent me a nice email about it!

“Hi, I’m Melanie Ross Levin with the National Women’s Law Center and I’m so, so happy to report that the House of Representatives just passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This is huge news that we should all celebrate! Now the ball’s in the Senate’s court to do the right thing by women and pass both of these important peices of pay equity legislation very quickly so that President Elect obama can sign them in his first few days in office. Take a moment to write to your senators to make sure that they know that these acts are important to you. Information on how to do that is available on our website. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done so far to help pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. I can’t wait until they’re signed by President-elect Obama and we can really celebrate!”

And that concludes the Carnival for this time. There’s been so many good posts to read, I can only assume that you’ve all decided that I don’t really need to pass my exams!

Submit an article to the next Carnival of Feminists using the Carnival Submission Form, and check out past editions and future hosts here.

Good tidings from the BBC are sorely lacking, I have to say. And the news seems to be that, if you happen to have been assigned “woman” as your gender, no matter what you’re doing, UR DOIN IT RONG!!!

To start with, the happy happy news that:

Females are less physically active at both ends of life than their male counterparts, two studies suggest.

Joys. The article starts off (rather sensibly) by describing the study that focussed on 10-11 year old children. These would be the children in the last year of primary school, and here they find – shock horror! – justification for those tired old stereotypes about what boys and girls like doing. Aparently, it can be broken down into Girls=Talking; Boys=Football.

As an aside, my seven year old brother is actually quite aggrieved at the moment, because the girls in his school “get their own time in the football cage and the boys aren’t allowed in.”

I’m extrapolating wildly, of course, but could it possibly be that children of both genders generally make it socially unacceptable for the girls to play football when the boys are there? I know when I was in primary school (the same one, in fact), the entire class knew that there was only one girl who was “allowed” to play football with the boys. And that was only because she’d proved she was really, really good.

Back to the studies, and at the other end of the scale is the study that focusses on physical activity in the over-70s. Not surprisingly, nobody over 70 is particularly active, and in general, the women have been found to “do more lower intensity activity which probably represents daily tasks around the house.”

What can I say? Apart from the fact that, as always, I’m suspicious of any study that attempts to find differences between the genders, I have to say I feel like the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious has come calling.

To be fair to the researchers, their conclusions – that excercise tends to be good for you, and that no woman wants to get osteoporosis later in life – are fairly reasonable. You’d think that schools might have picked up on it already, like my brother’s school has, but never mind.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what the photograph of the woman in her fifties playing tennis is supposed to illustrate, given that she represents neither of the age groups studied. It wasn’t so long back, remember, that the BBC published an article about the invisibility of older women in the media…

The second story has already been covered by the good ladies of Shapely Prose, but have it again here. Oh, and before I wade in, congratulations to Kate Harding and Al, who got married in Vegas over Christmas – like you do!

Dieting at this time of year could impair your body’s ability to fight the flu virus, a study warns.

But! But but but!!! Don’t think that this means you can just go and eat! That would be silly!

In a rather wonderful example of Double-Think, we see that although the “research shows that having a body ready to fight a virus will lead to a faster recovery and less-severe effects than if it is calorically restricted”, “The study… should not be seen as a carte blanche to avoid dieting all year, but to reserve weight control to the eight months of the year when flu is not so virulent. “

I’ll say it again, but slower, and with less syllables. There is a binary system in place; either you have “a body ready to fight a virus”, or you have a body that is “calorically restricted” – i.e, a body that is not being given enough energy, since that is what a calorie (or rather a kilocalorie, since individual calories are actually mind-numbingly small measurements) is – a unit of energy.

Therefore, the implication given is that a body that is not being given enough energy is not a body ready to fight a virus.

However, this is only a problem for the four months of the year in which the flu viruses are prevalent. For all other months of the year, it is fine to have a body that is not ready to fight a virus.

For an extra bonus point, don’t you just love the way that “restricting calories” and “weight control” are conflated? Given that they’re really not the same thing at all?

Last things last, the cheerful headline “Period Problems Split Us Up“.

More joys. The story goes that Marie Seward had God-awful PMS for 17 years, didn’t realise that it was anything out of the ordinary (and don’t we all get it rammed down our throats that “the curse” is just something we have to Put Up And Shut Up about?) and so only started getting help after “her long suffering husband, John walked out after 17 years of marriage”.

Fucking hell. I’m sure it must be hard being the partner in that situation, but it wasn’t him that had the PMS, for fuck’s sake!

More to the point, it’s not as though doctors are always sympathetic or understanding. Take the other story that popped up on the subject – “I Pleaded To Have My Ovaries Removed“.

In that story, Ann Wilkinson had PMS so bad that she vomited each month because of it. She eventually had to have a hysterectomy privately.

“Her symptoms became so unbearable that at just 38, she took the decision to have her ovaries removed. Few doctors were willing to consider Ann’s surgery as she was deemed to be too young and had not had children.”

I wish I were more surprised by this.

I know our society has a special level of hell reserved for women that don’t breed, but can we put this into perspective here? My mother got pregnant aged 39, and her doctors were concerned that her age would make the pregnancy and birth more difficult and dangerous.

Ms. Wilkinson was 38. Not “just” 38. Actually 38. How exactly is that “too young” to decide that you don’t want to spawn? And how is that “too young” to make an informed decision to have a medical procedure that seems in this case to have vastly enhanced her quality of life. (I don’t tend to like the idea of hysterectomies. But I like the idea of vomiting for two weeks out of four even less, actually.)

Let this be a lesson to us all, that in our society’s eyes, we as women are never adult. Except when society requires us to be over the age of consent. And then puts us in school uniform.