by Gloria Steinem
A white minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into thinking that a white skin makes people superior - even though the only thing it really does is make the more subject to ultraviolet rays and to wrinkles. Male human beings have built whole cultures around the idea that penis envy is "natural" to women - though having such an unprotected organ might be said to make men vulnerable, and the power to give birth makes womb envy at least as logical.
In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it.
What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?
The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.
Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties.
Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shields - "For Those Light Bachelor Days," and Robert "Baretta" Blake Maxi-Pads.)
Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve in the Army ("you have to give blood to take blood"), occupy political office ("can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priest and ministers ("how could a woman give her blood for our sins?") or rabbis ("without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean").
Male radicals, left-wing politicians, mystics, however, would insist that women are equal, just different, and that any woman could enter their ranks if she were willing to self-inflict a major wound every month ("you MUST give blood for the revolution"), recognize the preeminence of menstrual issues, or subordinate her selfness to all men in their Cycle of Enlightenment. Street guys would brag ("I'm a three pad man") or answer praise from a buddy ("Man, you lookin' good!") by giving fives and saying, "Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!" TV shows would treat the subject at length. ("Happy Days": Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row.) So would newspapers. (SHARK SCARE THREATENS MENSTRUATING MEN. JUDGE CITES MONTHLY STRESS IN PARDONING RAPIST.) And movies. (Newman and Redford in "Blood Brothers"!)
Men would convince women that intercourse was more pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself - though probably only because they needed a good menstruating man.
Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. How could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics, or measurement, for instance, without that in-built gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets - and thus for measuring anything at all? In the rarefied fields of philosophy and religion, could women compensate for missing the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death-and-resurrection every month?
Liberal males in every field would try to be kind: the fact that "these people" have no gift for measuring life or connecting to the universe, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.
And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine traditional women agreeing to all arguments with a staunch and smiling masochism. ("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly. "Your husband's blood is as sacred as that of Jesus - and so sexy, too!": Marabel Morgan.) Reformers and Queen Bees would try to imitate men, and pretend to have a monthly cycle. All feminists would explain endlessly that men, too, needed to be liberated from the false idea of Martian aggressiveness, just as women needed to escape the bonds of menses envy. Radical feminist would add that the oppression of the nonmenstrual was the pattern for all other oppressions ("Vampires were our first freedom fighters!") Cultural feminists would develop a bloodless imagery in art and literature. Socialist feminists would insist that only under capitalism would men be able to monopolize menstrual blood . . . .
In fact, if men could menstruate, the power justifications could probably go on forever.
If we let them.
(Not that I am a feminist, but after years of atrocities faced by women on the hands of men whom I think have simply "Lost it!". I have rather met men who are sensitive who know that women are equal, may be different but a creation no less than us, maybe more, as some men look up to women as enigmas but I have also seen a few less evolved men who take women as some meek creature subject to their ego gratification. But things against women have really gone to extremes at some places to give birth to Eve Enslers and other feminist. Even I feel the brunt of such things when I get a simple eve teasing comment from a passer's by and I think if such a small comment can make such a profound psychological impact then what about girls who have been sexualy assaulted, as if they had no personal space, they couldn't call their body as something belonging to them. Any fuckin person says and does any fucking thing to you and does not feel even a wee bit shameful or guilty about it. This is really sad and a sign of a really less evolved soul.
I have never faced a situation like this. May be because of luck or also that I was very outspoken and strong in my opinions since I was a kid. When my uncle's and parents used to tell me I couldn't do a thing because I was "a girl" which was very accepted by the girls around, I could so very much sense the tone of "Oh-My-God-you-are-a-girl!" as something of an attempt to control and over-power the free spirit and decision making ability of the girl. And if that was with someone like me who questioned every belief and detested every dogma then what about the sweet-souled girls who look for harmony in every relationship. Who is ready to sacrifice her beliefs and her desires to keep people around her happy. I have seen this in my mother and in my aunts. And much so in the society around us, Yet they suffer relentless sorrow in the hands of their husbands who take their years of sacrifice to understand their worth and sometimes not even that. Why cant women stand up and draw a line? What is their to loose? Why cant they say in pronounced terms "This is what I want"? I think you really need to ask the universe in clear terms and you get it, then why condemn yourself to sorrow? Why this obsession for security for certainty? Even when it gives nothing but surety of suffering. I guess women have a larger role to play than men in this whole scene. They have to understand that marriage and staying at home and not participating in societal issues are actually recent concepts developed by a patriarchal society. And STOP FEARING for God's sake!)
May faith be with you! :)