“What’s your problem? You on the rag?”
I was in seventh grade the first time a boy dismissed reality by saying that I was having a fit of hormone-driven hysteria. He was teasing a classmate and being hateful to everyone who crossed his path, and when I stood up to him, he tried to shame me into backing down.
Clearly, he didn’t yet understand how hormones work. Nor did he know about my near obsession with getting The Last Word, or my astrological advantage (Taurus), or that I was in the early stages of my training as a verbal assault weapon. He was ill-prepared and I came undone. It’s mostly a blur now but I can still remember yelling at him, in front of many of our peers, “I might be on the rag but when that ends, you’ll still be a jerk!”
For the record, I was not actually bleeding at the time. I have no idea why, long before I could actually call myself a feminist, I felt the need to defend my menstruating self, but I did. I had a strong need. At the time, I knew almost nothing about myself, about what it means to be a woman and still, the idea that his cruelty could be washed away in a river of my blood infuriated me. It was a profound betrayal of truth and fairness, and I wasn’t, as they say, going to take it anymore.
Recently, a woman I’m connected with on Facebook posted something very thoughtful and respectful about a political trend she finds disturbing. The conversation quickly spiraled into an exchange between her and a man who was, in my opinion, being disrespectful. She stayed engaged, again very respectfully, and stood her ground. As I watched it unfold, I felt impressed by her ability to be so firm and clear but still keep it clean, especially when he was not.