Katniss. Tris. Bella. Hermione.
Every one of those characters are young, cisgendered women. Yet never in any of the books was anything mentioned about one of them getting her period. The Hunger Games trilogy sold 50 million copies in the United States alone. Divergent, Twilight, and Harry Potter come in at 10 million, 100 million, and 450 million respectively. That is a lot of books sold. With such powerful voices telling these amazing stories, one can only imagine there is a better tale to be told than a woman and her “Aunt Flo” every month. For instance, Katniss is impoverished – she barely gets enough to eat, and she is in survival mode so her body probably would not be able to menstruate. Tris is in that same boat, danger is her lifestyle, her body has no time for cramps. Bloating? Pfft. Bella could probably not care less about her constant bleeding around vampires. And let us just accept that a woman like Hermione simply cannot reduce herself to crying over Ron and listening to Celestina Warbeck croon out about heartbreak one week a month. Menstruation is messy, unappealing to men, and takes away from more important aspects of the plot. It, frankly, is not important.
But here is why it is. Menstruation is messy. It really is. 49.6% of the world knows that. There are billions of people out there who have had to deal with all the messy things. The buying of pads, tampons, and cups. Sneaking out of class to change, waking with red sheets, ACCIDENTAL LEAKAGE. It truly is a horror story. To see someone who is brave, strong, in love, or even just going to a super rad magic school deal with one incident – Katniss waking up in the games wondering if she was injured, Bella absolutely confused as to why Edward was freaking out. Something to show that the young girls that read these texts are not alone, or to give the readers something to laugh about and relate with.
But why does it always have to be about the young girls? Young adult boys find periods repulsive! Well that might be a problem. Even if a period is not mentioned in a text it still matters that young men and women understand that they are completely normal. It is not only common to get a period, but it means that the individual is healthy and has a healthy, baby making body. Somehow we have shamed a culture into ignoring a part of life. I am completely against public acts of menstruation, because blood is blood and nobody would like it if someone just let a nosebleed go free, but a period does not count as an excuse to dismiss someone’s opinion, it does not make a person count less or become uncharacteristically destructive. In the same way pop culture has made it commonplace to accept women will wear pants or have short hair, it should be commonplace for anyone to not freak out over a little (hygienically maintained) blood. Maybe with a little knowledge Young Adult men will feel a little less grossed out and a little more sympathetic?
And yes, I realize in these books that the plot is not central to periods.Yet in two of these texts pregnancy is mentioned as a main plot point, (Peeta’s fake baby with Katniss in the second book, Bella and Edwards crazy demon spawn in their fourth book) and sex happens in all four (Peeta and Katniss have kids, everyone in Harry Potter has kids, everyone in Twilight gets some and Four and Tris get it on a bit too before Tris… y’know…), pregnancy is actually very much linked to the menstrual cycle and ovulation and all that fun stuff that a body can do, yet in all the texts I can only remember Bella going on about how she missed her period, and that was like a page in the fourth book. All of these texts are by female authors. They cannot even pull the card of not knowing. One line from Katniss would make a million young adult women feel closer to her than before. It does not take much for someone to feel represented, and we have consistently spoken about how much representation matters.
Society feels completely comfortable with texts about children killing each other, society turning in on itself and creating mindless armies, an immortal vampire in forbidden (and tbh a little bit creepy) love with a mortal, and teenagers having to go against authority, the government, and their own families to save the world. Yet in these worlds of dystopia, futurism, mythology, and magic the idea of a woman talking about her period is out of place. So when writing a text like The Shore Girl, or This One Summer. we can see female authors telling stories about real life female young adults. This can totally apply to them too. I brought it up in class about Caution, and it has just sort of been stewing in my mind ever since. I guess I had a lot more to say and I did not want to take up any more class time 😉
Menstruation matters because it happens. It will happen to you or someone you know and that sounds very threatening to type, but it’s just a fact of life. Homeless women deal with it without any products. Women in developing nations are kept from school and work because of their periods. Women with medical conditions and eating disorders sometimes do not get them for months at a time. Women can go through such immense pain that they are kept from school and work here. Considering most of this class is female, I would say that we all have stories to share.
Thank you for taking the time to read!