This must be the most annoying phrase in the English language, closely followed by the allegedly more sensitive option of: ‘When are you due on?’
I was led to think about this when listening to the excellent Mary Beard discussing the silencing of women in her recent lecture, ‘Oh Do Shut Up Dear!’ in which she considers the problem that female speech seems to have for a vast section of society. She discusses the treatment of the female voice throughout history, with particular emphasis on the classics, and then comes back round to consider how we are continue in that tradition today. She mentioned abuse on Twitter, uses of words like whining and strident to place female speech in a negative light and it got me thinking.
I wonder if there is any woman who hasn’t had their opinion or point of view challenged with the notion that they might be on their period. Are you on your period? It is a magical phrase. It instantly belittles anything you might say, particularly if it happens to be a criticism (or nag, another delightfully gendered word). Now, while I have felt tense about that time of the month, and inclined to snap on occasion, it doesn’t send me mental. I am still perfectly capable of talking sensibly.
A polite rebuttal of this suggestion rarely closes the matter. In fact, it tends to somehow provide additional evidence for the theory. My own analysis of my body and mood is irrelevant because of the extent to which menstruation has undermined me. I don’t even have to be actively menstruating at the time!
One very curious point is that a woman has never asked me if I am on my period, at least not in response to me saying anything other than, ‘I feel bloated’, or ‘My stomach is cramping’. On these occasions, if I say no, that is accepted. Not so the men. Luckily for them, they are able to understand me better than I can, despite never having had a single period. It’s a truly marvellous phenomenon.
Everyone is affected by their moods at various points. However, it only seems to be periods that have this all-consuming power to irrevocably alter a human being beyond their control. It is ridiculous and very frustrating.
So fellow humans, if a woman is talking to you and you don’t like what is being said, by all means feel free to say so. However, do not try to win by bleating about periods. It’s a cheap trick.