If Men had Periods...
by Gloria Steinem
Since history was recorded, male human beings have built whole cultures around the idea
that penis-envy is "natural" to women - though having such an unprotected organ
might be said to make men more vulnerable, and the power to give birth makes womb-envy at
least logical. In short, logic has nothing to do with it. What would happen, for instance,
if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear -
menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.
Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and
The US Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for
the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammed Ali's Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe
Namath Jock Shields - "For Those Light Bachelor Days," and Robert "Baretta" Blake
Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation
("MENstruation") as proof that only men could serve in the army ("You have to give blood
to take blood"), occupy political office ("Can women be aggresive without that steadfast cycle
governed by the planet Mars?"), be priests and ministers ("how could a woman give her blood
for our sins"), or rabbis ("Without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain
Male radicals, left-wing politicians, and mystics, however, would insist that women are equal,
just different; and that any woman could enter their ranks if only she were willing to self-inflict a
major wound every month ("You must give blood for the revolution"), recognize the
preeminence of menstrual issues, or subordinate her selfness to all men in their Cycle of Enlightenment.
Street guys would brag ("I'm a three-pad man") or answer praise from a buddy ("
Man, you are lookin' good") by giving fives and saying, "Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!"
TV shows would treat the subject at length. ("Happy Days": Richie and Potsie try
to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row.)
So would newspapers. (JUDGE CITES MONTHLY STRESS IN PARDONING RAPIST.)
And movies. (Newman and Redford in "Blood Brothers"!)
Men would convince women that intercourse was more pleasurable at "that time of the
month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself - though probably only
because they needed a good menstruating man.
Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguements. How could a
woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics, or measurement, for
instance, without that in-built gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets - and thus for
measuring anything at all? In the rarefied fields of philosophy and religion, could women compensate for
missing the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death-and-resurrection every month?