I’m willing to bet that you’ve been mansplained a time or two throughout the course of your twenty-something life. If you’re not familiar with the term, mansplaining is when someone, typically a man, “explains (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing” according to my simple Google search. Depending on your own personal experiences, it may be more or less than that. It may be more offensive than what that definition implies. Or it may be a subtle comment you’ve learned to ignore and continue on your daily business like the total #girlboss you are. Whatever your experience is, it’s important to remember that it is unique to everyone.
I experienced my first mansplaining incident when I was twelve. TWELVE, my friends. Yes, T-W-E-L-V-E. I was still preteen af (and didn’t even know the term “mansplain” existed). Let me set the scene for you. I was still in middle school, still taking pictures in the photo both at the mall for fun, and my parents were still driving me to my friends’ houses on the weekends. I had braces, just received my first hot pink Razr flip phone, hadn’t discovered the horrors of acne yet, and, for the sake of this story, didn’t know what it was like to get my period.
So here I am, twelve-year-old Dee sitting in my eighth-grade health class. You know, the class you have to take to learn all about human anatomy, puberty, and how sex works (truly fascinating stuff) with a handful of friends to make it all the more entertaining. So anyways, at the beginning of class my male health teacher – who is roughly the age of my dad, give or take a few years – announces that we will be learning about menstruation that day. Cool shit!
Naturally, the atmosphere of the whole class changes. The girls blush and look down at their desk, while the boys look around the room making awkward / silly faces at their friends. And once we all gather ourselves, because truly what a hilarious thing the female body is, we begin our “lecture” (what a perfect word for this story).
And the power point is just what you’d expect – your typical run-of-the-mill slideshows complete with super neat diagrams of the uterus and fallopian tubes and all that jazz. But surprisingly, that’s not what I remember most about class that day.
My forty-something male teacher told me what it was like to get a period. Yes, he mansplained to a bunch of twelve-year-olds what it feels like to receive Mother Nature’s monthly gift. He told our entire class to cut girls some slack when it’s our “time of the month”. He told us that girls can be in bad moods, and we call that PMS, because it feels like someone took a baseball bat to the groin and ripped the insides of our body out from our vagina so we bleed non-stop for seven days and seven nights. I mean can you think of a more horrifying image to describe to a bunch of preteens?
Now, let me tell you something you should know about me. I cannot handle blood. I can’t take shots without freaking out, and I can’t give blood without passing out. So needless to say this “lecture” did a little more than just gross me out. It was like I had some sort of PTSD from that 55-minute class I sat through that day. So much so, a year later when I actually did get my period for the first time, I passed out on the floor of my bathroom because I was convinced the blood would never stop and the excruciating pain was sure to follow.
Much to my surprise (and after I awoke from my unconscious state) I discovered that my period was not, in fact, anything like what my health teacher had described to my class that unforgettable day in 2008.
We don’t need to get into the details of what my period is actually like because that’s not important. What is important is the fact that no one should be telling a group of preteens what it actually feels like to get a period because it feels different for every woman. And especially not if the person telling this said group is a professional educator, yet has never even received a period himself.
Sure, sometimes it absolutely sucks and sometimes it even more-than-sucks, but the way we educate our youth on this topic shouldn’t be by making it sound like the most dramatic scene ever. Because it’s not. It’s a fact of a life and a reality for every woman out there, and we deal with it on a monthly basis.
So newsflash kids: not every bad mood is because of PMS and not every period is the same.