Australia Opinion

ABC: “Women aren’t the only ones who menstruate”

ABC News suggests it’s time to disconnect menstruation from femininity and womanhood because men have periods too.

In a piece published yesterday, the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster introduced readers to Lily Harrison, founder of Period Pack.

According to the piece, Period Pack aims to “ease period inequality” by providing period products to “people of all genders” because “women are not the only people who menstruate.”

Under the heading “The backlash to inclusivity was real”, Ms Harrison detailed how surprised she was to discover people in her own community “thought only women can menstruate and that if you don’t menstruate, you’re not a woman…”

Ms Harrison describes this view as “a very narrow way of looking at things,” considering the spectrum of gender identities.

“Your femininity and your identity is so much more than whether you do or do not bleed,” she told the ABC.

The ABC also spoke with Rory Blundell, who’s said to be the youth project officer at Zoe Belle Gender Collective. Blundell explained that periods are made worse for trans people because of the link often made between menstruation and femininity or womanhood.

“Conflating [trans and non-binary people’s] experiences with womanhood when that’s not what it is can be quite invalidating,” he said. “It does also exclude trans women from the notion of womanhood as well, and that is discriminatory.”

The ABC asked Blundell what needs to be done to erase the gender-based stigma surrounding periods. Blundell said language needs to change first. Instead of saying “feminine hygiene products, just call them pads and tampons.” Don’t say “female reproductive system” when you can say “cervix” and “ovaries.”

Blundell also said companies behind period products have a role to play too and suggested brands move away from pink packaging which links periods to womanhood.

Behind this push is the idea that a person’s gender is not defined by fixed biological factors. Although a woman may be born biologically female, her gender is ultimately determined by her self-identification. If she believes she’s no longer a female, others are expected to set-aside her biology and affirm the identity of her choosing.

In other words, self-perception is to hold greater weight than objective, biological facts. The assumption is that if the subjective mind is at odds with the objective body, the mind is to take preference.

This is concerning because, in some parts, you can lose your job, destroy your career, get expelled from a university and even be fined if you refuse to affirm a person’s gender identity. That is, there are negative consequences for those who refuse to define reality by the feelings of others.

However, categories such as “male” and “female” were not invented to reflect the way people view themselves. They reflect biological distinctions between male and female. They reflect what a person is in the physical world, rather than how a person thinks or perceives themselves metaphysically.

But the question is, why should our need to affirm another person’s self-identification end with gender? If a person’s self-identity trumps their biology, where do we draw the line? What other biological factors rank second to the way a person thinks or perceives himself/herself? And on what basis do some biological factors, such as age or eye colour, trump a person’s self-identity?

In reality, however, thoughts and feelings can’t shape ultimate reality. You may cross a road believing it’s safe to do so, but the oncoming car you failed to see will have little regard for your personal beliefs. Truth is true, even if everyone chooses to believe a lie. Or as Aldous Huxley once said, “facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored.”

The ABC’s piece is part of Heywire’s Trailblazers series, which provides opportunities for “young, regional change makers to have their stories on the ABC.” Successful applicants also receive “an incredible package of support, including media, networking and mentorship opportunities to help them share the story of their work with the nation.”

Trailblazers also promises successful applicants, “an all-expenses-paid trip to the Trailblazers Lab in Canberra in 2021.”

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