The pain of an uninvited guest arriving unannounced and sticking around is a problem anyone can understand. Now imagine that person entered your home, spiked your food with depressants, kicked you in the stomach, causing internal (and external) bleeding – and then told you to go to work tomorrow. That’s my not-so-subtle analogy of the menstrual cycle, for which Londoners pay a hefty cost with the highest proportion of girls facing period poverty.
The lucky half of our population will never have to deal with the monthly eviction notice for their reproductive organs. Meanwhile, women who bear the brunt of this pain are expected to share the stage with non-period-sufferers and their opinions on our cycles. And as the long history of men trying to sympathise continues, (a kick to the crown jewels does not last 40 years, so stop comparing) it has been a rough ride for Jason Grant, Tayside’s ‘period dignity officer’.
In August, Dundee appointed the UK’s first, only to scrap the role after “threats and abuse” to those involved. One step forward, seven to ten steps back? The obvious gripe was that a man, who has never experienced a period, was appointed as the “strongest candidate” for a role that was intended for period access and inclusion. But with concerns around the job being advertised for only five working days, it’s worth asking whether any better candidates even had the chance to apply. Now, as the post has been axed entirely, period-havers are back to standing on their own dignity.
Still, it prompts the question – would period officers do us good in the capital? I’ve grown up sharing, perhaps excessive, detail about my period pain in order to get the men in my life to understand what it’s like. So more people educating themselves would help prove it as more than just a ‘female’ issue. And with a family history of PCOS and endometriosis it would have done me good to have an earlier education to realise that such intense pain and side effects are not normal. But, as the working group concluded, filling the £36,126-a-year role with an ex-account manager slash personal trainer was just not the best fit.
Ultimately, Grant receiving his pink slip is not as big a problem as this situation distracting from those suffering regularly. London has yet to follow Scottish policy for free access to period products – so there’s a lot more we could be doing. From beginning to end, women should be central to the work being done if we want to educate the masses.
I just hope that this debate doesn’t detract from the real issue – because right now, it’s a bloody mess.