That vacant look

It’s been a pretty crazy week for Moist. I’m excited to announce that the blog has had more than 3000 (yes, that’s three thousand) views since its launch, which is obviously way more than I had ever imagined. Y’all just love menstruation. Bless you. So this is a post about a couple of things I’ve thought about over the last couple of days, and mainly about that vacant look that comes on most men when I tell them about my research.

I work in a big shared office space so there’s a lot of smalltalk and a lot of ‘how are you’s in my days. On Friday I answered one of these with an ‘I’m really excited to present at this conference next week’. So this man asked me what my research was on and I answered ‘menstruation’ (cause that’s what my research is on). And he went blank. I could just as well have said ‘yeah so, I castrate baby boys and note their reactions.’ what followed was an ‘oh…’ and a really, really awkward silence.

Now I obviously understand that I work with a sensitive topic and that a lot of people find it weird, uncomfortable and revolting. I also completely assume the strategic choice of overstepping boundaries by introducing the topic of menstruation into everyday discourse, and when I talk about my research it’s often met with either a “cool!”, a “why?” or a “gross.”. Over the course of this week I’ve come to totally respect all of those positions (more on this in a later post). What I still find really odd is the total silence I meet when mentioning periods to men (a lot of men. Not all men. But a lot.).

My lovely gay husband and colleague Tim works in a different team from me and has become a proud menstrual activist since the beginning of our dysfunctional but cosily vanilla marriage. Good sympathizer as he is, he’s done lots of PR for Moist this week. On Friday he received an email from another colleague with Moist’s url in the title. The email said: “Bitch, really?”. Tim answered: “Bitch, yes.”
The shock isn’t really what I find interesting in this amusing anecdote. What I find fascinating is that this whole team of 10 people obviously knew about Moist, yet not one of the men in that team brought it up with me (the women did). It’s possible that I’m over analyzing here, but I do find it interesting that the level of discomfort that this topic causes a lot of men is dealt with through silence. This is perhaps where I see the taboo at its strongest: the invisibility that is forced onto a completely natural process that so many women experience all the time.

Anyway, just a thought.

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4 comments

  1. vlijtigeliesje

    Wow, I love your blog. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before. Do you come across male views on menstraution in your research? The discourse of silence is, I think, also a discourse on its own. The fact that you’re not silent about this deserves a compliment. Well done:)

  2. Iben Johansen

    This is liberating!!! I have talked about the blog with male friends and have gotten the same weirded-out response. But it might have to do with their time of the month: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=53725
    Tak, Miriam!

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