Having a party, period: How a new trend could make start of menstruation a positive experience for girls

The crimson wave. Aunt Flo. That time of the month. Use any one of these euphemisms in the presence of a male and, depending on how period-slang savvy he is, he’ll clam up faster than a star witness at a mafia trial. 

Yes folks, this is that article: the one where this woman of a certain age wonders why it is that we’ve been able to put a woman into space, a man on the moon and Barack Obama in the White House (please come back), but we can’t talk about menstruation without giggling like a bunch of nine-year-olds.

It’s odd, because we all know how penis-obsessed our culture is on the regular. It’s a part of mainstream culture, for pity’s sake.

There was an entire Netflix mockumentary (American Vandal) based on a teen accused of vandalizing his school with drawings of (you guessed it) the male organ. The hit comedy Superbad had the same phallus-focused theme.

And have you ever seen a movie about men that doesn’t have at least one urination scene? I mean, I get it:  you guys can pee standing up. Likely that comes in handy, especially when you’re camping or sitting on a boat fishing all day. Yay for you.

Enter the ‘period party’

Try talking about a normal bodily function like menstruation, however, and seemingly every man needs to roll his eyes and change the topic of conversation, pronto. Women are ridiculed for being “on the rag” when they’re annoyed, which is a neat little way some folks have of dismissing a female out of hand whenever they don’t feel like listening to them.

Which is why I was thrilled when I heard about the latest trend for teenage girls: period parties. My co-worker showed me a YouTube video of a comedian named Bert Kreischer. Turns out Mr. Kreischer was on a late-night talk show and mentioned that he’d thrown his daughter one.

To say the least, this surprised me, considering I don’t think I ever actually said “period” in front of my father while he was alive.

See comedian Bert Kreischer talk about his daughter’s period party on Conan:

A period party celebrates the onset of a young woman’s menses. Rather than be embarrassed about their “visitor,” girls are encouraged to invite friends (girls and boys) over for red velvet cake, pomegranate juice, etc.

They name their periods and use the occasion to feel empowered, rather than diminished, by getting their period.  

I’ll tell you: I never felt so happy as when I watched that comedian talk about how much he enjoyed his daughter’s period party.

‘Let them eat cake’

Despite the talk show host’s initial cringe when he brought up the subject, by the end of the interview everyone was laughing, in a good way.

When Kreischer said he hoped that all other dads of daughters get a chance to throw period parties for their girls, I nearly cried. Not only does it normalize what has traditionally been thought of as an isolating experience, it makes it a positive, shareable time.

I’ve been thinking about it since then, especially since I have nieces who are nearing that time in their own lives. I haven’t had the nerve to bring it up with their parents (my brother and sister-in-law) as yet. Frankly, I’m not sure how my brother would take it. Which just goes to show you: old habits die hard.

It was the first time in my life when I felt I couldn’t talk to my dad about something I felt was important. At 12 years old, I was just too embarrassed.– Jo Davies

Growing up, getting your period was painful, embarrassing and awkward. In junior high, it became just another competition: the girls who’d gotten theirs already versus the ones who hadn’t.

For me, it was the first time in my life when I felt I couldn’t talk to my dad about something I felt was important. At 12 years old, I was just too embarrassed. It was the loneliest feeling in the world to think I couldn’t share with him the biggest thing that had ever happened to me until then.

I don’t know how my dad felt about it, but I know he knew because my mom mentioned she’d told him. It was a different time.

It really isn’t overstating the case to say that a father’s love and support is absolutely crucial to a young woman’s self-esteem. If dads throwing period parties (or just helping to plan them) is going to help their daughters grow up to be self-confident, strong women, I have just one thing to say:

Let them eat cake.

This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.

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