By Norah Hodgson
I sat on the sofa late at night, marvelling at Sandi Toskvig. She explained that scientists had found 28 bones of roughly the same size and shape dating back to prehistoric times. Strangely, they had been formed into a systematic order believed to be a primitive calendar. What she then asked baffled the QI universe: Why would cavemen need a record of 28 days? It seemed too specific to be documenting hibernation of prey, too short for a season and far too long to be a period of extreme weather. What basic primitive need was there for 28 days to be recorded? It didn’t make sense.
Until she revealed that it was a menstrual calendar.
Men of science had been struggling with the concept for years; as had Stephen Fry, the rest of the panel, the audience and I. The answer should have been obvious. Yet, it wasn’t until a female scientist came along that the answer was discovered. I am not ‘man-bashing’; I, as a woman, had not thought of the answer myself. Rather, I am recognising that there is a whole dialogue between our genders that is yet to be complete.
I know the ins and outs of the male reproductive system thanks to sex education in school. This way, when I have a male partner or in the event that I have a son, I know any problems that may occur. Why is it different with women?
Recently, when talking to my boyfriend, he bashfully asked me, ‘What are pads?’. I was taken aback; not because it’s a question I mind answering but because here was a young man of 19, who didn’t know about a necessity roughly 50 percent of the global population use on a regular basis. To give this some context, imagine your partner of almost 20 telling you they don’t know what a condom is. Even if you’ve never had sex, it is safe to assume you know what this method of protection is. You know how to apply it, you know its basic function and what it looks like. Why is it so different with pads, tampons or diva cups? Worryingly, even some women reading this will google what a diva cup is.
You could argue, ‘But everyone uses condoms!’. However, this argument is flawed. I’d ask you to consider the LGBT community. You could argue, ‘Not everyone has periods!’ and that’s when I’d ask you to consider your mother, your sister, your aunts, your nieces, your grandmothers, your friends and any female partner you may have. Similarly, ‘Not everyone has penises!’ could be used as justification for not knowing what a condom is, and yet, condoms are frequently acknowledged. You could argue, ‘Periods are gross!’ and that’s when I’d ask you to consider if any bodily function isn’t gross.
To my knowledge, vaginas are self-cleaning. And period blood is actually sterile until it moves into the vagina, where it becomes a little acidic and bacteria that keep the vagina clean also move into the period blood. When it’s outside the body obviously it’s exposed to other airborne particles and bacteria, but so are your face and hands and food.
As students we clearly understand the value of knowledge – what a powerful tool it is. Then why is it many of us refuse to learn, acknowledge or accept the menstrual cycle?
This article was published in our October 2016 issue.