If the government tracks women’s periods, why not track male ejaculation, too?

Arwa Mahdawi
Photograph: Laurie Skrivan/AP

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Missouri is keeping binders full of women’s menstrual cycles

Missouri, which has a population of over 6.1 million people, has only one abortion clinic. For rightwing zealots, however, that is one too many. An administrative hearing was held this week to decide whether the state can revoke the license for Planned Parenthood’s St Louis clinic; a ruling is expected in February. If the license is revoked Missouri will become the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since 1974.

The Missouri hearing, which concluded on Thursday, has been a master class in gaslighting and misogyny. According to the Missouri department of health and senior services (DHSS), the reason they want to revoke the clinic’s license is because they really, really care about women’s health – it has absolutely nothing to do with controlling women’s bodies! The DHSS’s case rests on four instances of what it calls “failed abortions” – cases where complications arose and the patient had to return to the clinic for another procedure.

As it turns out, the DHSS is so concerned about women’s health it has been keeping spreadsheets tracking the date of Planned Parenthood patients’ periods, in an attempt to figure out which of them “had undergone failed abortions”. Let me just repeat that: American government officials are tracking the menstrual cycles of thousands of women. But, you know, it’s for their own good so don’t worry about it.

Amazingly, we learned about the period spreadsheets because Dr Randall Williams, the director of DHSS – clearly thinking there was a nothing creepy about the affair – openly testified about them on Tuesday. Meanwhile Planned Parenthood and the doctors at the clinic had no idea these spreadsheets existed and were being used in this manner. Outrage rightly ensued.

The DHSS has responded to the controversy in the most predictable and Trumpian way possible; apparently the whole thing is fake news. The health department issued a statement on Wednesday blasting “irresponsible reporting” that has led to “false claims that Dr Randall Williams tracks the menstrual cycles of women seeking abortions at Planned Parenthood”.

The real story, according to the statement, is that “a concern came up that DHSS may not be receiving complication reports for all failed surgical abortions, as required by law. Without a directive from Dr Randall Williams, regulators devised a means to efficiently investigate that concern using legally-obtained information which was required by law and which Planned Parenthood routinely submits.”

Honestly, I have to give a round of applause to whoever drafted that statement: it contains so much spin that it makes you dizzy just reading it. However, despite their best attempts at obfuscation the DHSS also makes clear that, yes, these spreadsheets exist. But they’re completely legal so there’s nothing to see here.

Missouri’s DHSS isn’t the only government department documenting women’s menstrual cycles, by the way. As Planned Parenthood noted in a statement, the spreadsheet controversy “shadows the Trump administration’s history of tracking the periods of refugee girls under the government’s care”. But again, the only reason the Trump administration has been doing this is because they want to protect these vulnerable women.

You know what? Maybe I’m being too cynical here. Maybe all these period spreadsheets really are just meant to protect women and keep them healthy. In that case, I think it is only right we extend the same courtesy to men. A female director of a health agency ought to keep track of when men last ejaculated and ensure they are not wasting their sperm on non-babymaking endeavours. We can call it The Ejaculist. I’m sure the men of America will be touched at the government’s concern for their wellbeing.

Delta thinks lesbian is a dirty word

The airline cut a same-sex love scene as well as the word “lesbian” from its in-flight version of the movie Booksmart. It also reportedly censored gay references and scenes in the Elton John biopic Rocketman. This is the same Delta, by the way, that sponsored Pride parades around the world. Apparently pride runs out when you hit 30,000 feet.

Katie Hill condemns “double standard”

In a final speech in Congress, Hill blasted the double standards she says forced her to resign. “I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching,” she said. Hill acknowledged having an affair with a staffer but noted: “We have men credibly accused of sexual assault who are in boardrooms, in the supreme court, in this very body and, worst of all, in the Oval Office.”

Female MPs say abuse forcing them out of politics

More than 50 members of parliament have announced they will be standing down at the next general election in the UK. Eighteen of these MPs are women. “Many of the MPs who have decided to stand down at the election are women who have cited the daily abuse they receive as their main reason for leaving Parliament,” Labour MP Rachel Reeves tweeted. “Today, death and rape threats are a daily occurrence for women MPs.”

Squashing the patriarchy

The world’s best female squash player will receive more prize money than her male counterpart for the first time ever.

Elizabeth Holmes turtleneck shortage

Every blonde in San Francisco dressed up as the Theranos grifter for Halloween apparently – Bay Area Uniqlos completely sold out of black turtlenecks.

A golden age of feminist thrillers

If, like me, you spend way too much time reading thrillers, you may appreciate this piece from the New York Times on how a new wave of female crime novelists are “presenting women and girls who refuse the roles of passive victim, staid detective or standard-issue femme fatale”.

A very British brouhaha over gay giraffes

Britain appears to be equal parts tragedy and farce at the moment. While not Brexiting or calling interminable elections our esteemed politicians appear to be arguing over the sexuality of long-necked mammals. The Guardian has helpfully put together a brief guide to the great gay giraffe scandal of 2019.