BLOODY TOUGH GRRLS
That green eyed Libra Jungle Grrl - she’s one tough chick. Her nails are switch blades, not some cutesy pastel accessory. She’s lured some boy with corrugated abdominals into her growly jungle den-pad. She’s gonna do him, because she’s imbued with power, with tiger tampon Menstrual Menace.
Like that noir Panty Liner Blonde. She soaks up her victim’s blood with her ready supply of sanitary napkins. Who says only women bleed. She’s outside the law not because she bleeds - once the rationale for our bodily exclusion from capital P Patriarchy - but because she makes men bleed, and to death no less. We’ll have none of that woosie-weepy, curl-up-with-a-good-book, pikerism. If you’re going to bleed you might as well have dead men to show for it.
When tampon and pad ads hit the telly screen I did that naive thing that late twentieth century popular culture seems premised on. I thought visibility = cultural presence = cultural participation. Here was the thing all girls would hate to see mentioned on the back of their dresses being blasted in front of their brother and his mates. We could Whisper out loud, we were Libra-rated.
Menstruation was our luminary. We girls were on the road to a supermarket aisle of brash attention seeking packing all to ourselves. None of this behind the counter, blushing at the check out bashfullness for us. It was the latest commodity feminist triumph. Its exposure guaranteed our Freedom. Now that our menstrual cycles were freely advertised we could frolic along the beach, ride horses bare back, fool cops and trap and kill grown men. When we bled we could rush the cultural gates like St Trinian’s, roaring Stay Free.
In fact, the bleeding girl is nothing new to market exposure. In 1920s women’s magazines she played an awful lot of golf in her ‘Sanitary Lingerie’ with rubber panelling that did not ‘silhouette’. She was ‘The Modern Woman’, said Menex in 1929, precisely because could ‘fling herself light-heartedly into the whirl of life – dance, motor, play tennis in the sheerest of frocks with no fear of embarrassment’. She was ‘up to the minute’ because she depended on the scientific management of her wayward bodily systems to sanitise, deodorise and regulate her feminine mysteries safely within the confidence of women.
The contemporary Menstrual Menace - nothing but a revamped version of the age old ‘curse’ - still works off the same paradox - how to promise women discretion, ‘protection’ and ‘freedom’ from embarrassment through its inverse, namely market exposure. The farcical part is that in trying to associate with the latest girlish fad, from horseriding to preying on men, these ads still deny that women bleed and that their products are designed to conceal and manage blood.
Menstrual products, for all their brazen cheek, still promise the masking of the inadmissible, namely the bleeding feminine body. Now the contemporary menstruating woman is brash, not at bleeding, but at the ways in which she hides the fact that she bleeds. If the Panty Liner Blonde conceals blood, its because it would incriminate her. Concealing blood takes the ingenuity and agency that she derives from commodity choice. Those men who would judge and police her for allowing blood to seep and show, she meets them with a surly, smug glare. She’s got her pads. She’s clean. We’ve got nothing on that bloody scary Grrl.
Throughout this century the menstruating girl has assumed the guise of the dominant type of womanhood, who not coincidentally has the most consuming power - be she modern girl, housewife or liberated teen. Since the menstruating woman leapt scandalously out of the pages of women’s mags to let men into her confidence, the cat’s out of the bag and she’s vengefully eating boys for breakfast.
This says nothing about our self-protection, freedom, liberation or how much we’ve got it over men, cops or stale older women who hire us to nanny their spoilt dogs. It seems to say more about the cardinal and ageless rule that women must go on cleaning up, perhaps because we are essentially the messy ones. It seems the blood of corpses, dog’s piss and menstrual flow have similar cultural standing. The imperative of women’s bodily self-regulation and concealment remain the same, only trussed up in the guise of the latest consumer feminine type, namely the one most likely to spend bags of money – which is why the feral type, for example, will never cut it as a Bloody Tough Grrl.