I have never had a period. Not by choice, mind you, but because I am a man without a uterus who doesn’t menstruate. I know the fundamentals—the top-level biological functions, the commonly-used products meant to contain the flow—but not much more. When friends and coworkers discuss the details of their periods, I have nothing to add. And why would I? What on Earth would a woman want to hear about periods from me, a man who is biologically incapable of having one and who doesn’t have a license to practice medicine? I presume the most that a woman would want from me is a silent understanding that periods exist, and that I’m not required to provide commentary unless asked.
And that is why I find BuzzFeed’s new video, “Guys Try Periods,” so baffling. In it, three men agree to wear “menstrual rigs” containing a combination of “beet juice and cornstarch,” for a week. The device apparently mimics the flow of menstrual blood, dripping/leaking/spewing (again, what do I know) onto their pads (they’re also wearing pads) day after day. A key characteristic of wokeness is performance, and man, do these dudes know how to perform.
We see confessional videos in which they share the embarrassment they felt when bleeding through their pads, and the horror they suffered through when unable to procure a spare. Though the fact that periods involve blood and some kind of sanitary product is 6th grade-level stuff, these men cannot believe their eyes. Blood! Coming out from there? Can you imagine?!
At the end of the video, one of the dudes sums up his week of pad-wearing by saying, “I had the realization that, wow, women probably bleed through their tampons or pads.” Did you not believe the women when they told you they bled, sir?
Another adds, “You should be able to have tampons. I don’t think pads should be a privilege. I think they should be a right.” I feel like “should be a right” is used pretty loosely/nonsensically here, but “shouldn’t be taxed like luxury items” would work!
Those thoughts themselves aren’t irritating (or at least not that irritating) but the fact that they were unable to have them without the help of a Rube Goldberg period simulator is. To suggest that experiences—and dumb ones, specifically—are the only way to gain understanding of a topic is not only dismissive to the people who have regularly described said experience in detail (i.e. period-having women) but also to every Nice Guy who doesn’t make period jokes and can touch, buy, or store tampons without thinking twice about it—all without having to wear a demonic beet juice dispenser around his waist for a week.
The internet’s fairly recent fascination with walking mile after mile in the shoes of others has never quite made sense to me—partly because of the insufferable smarminess in filming it for an audience of millions (share my wokeness on Facebook!), but mostly because the shoes they walk in are knockoffs. If having a period means wearing a red-soled Louboutin for a few days out of the month, what the dudes in “Guys Try Periods” wore were label-free hunks of questionably sourced synthetic leather from Forever 21. Again, I haven’t ever had a period or put on a period dispenser, but I think it’s safe to say that this video doesn’t approximate the experience of actually having one, month after month, for a long, long stretch of your life.
The desire to learn more about something you don’t understand is always commendable. But the internet’s compulsion to do so by staging poorly conceived imitations is always dismissive of the real thing. In the background of every video like “Guys Try Periods” is a low, steady hum of condescension—one that suggests their experience always matters more.