By Courtney Anderson
On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, the hashtag #IfMenHadPeriods started trending on Twitter.
The intent of the hashtag seems simple enough: it appears that it was designed to give people who have periods a space to ventilate and make jokes about how those who don’t have periods would react to them.
Here’s a typical example:
Pads, tampons and cramp meds would be tax free and half the price they are now #IfMenHadPeriods
They really would be.
— $heridan (@SkirlCookie) September 6, 2016
After all, periods are no joke.
In addition to the 4-7 days of blood and the inevitable cramps, some people can experience extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and feelings of depression and anxiety as a part of their menstruation.
Not to mention physical disorders such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome that make menstrual cycles even more hellish.
And it’s pretty well-known that periods are treated as dirty things that women do that make them irrational and overly emotional.
So it would be nice to have a hashtag that called out those attitudes and discussed issues involving menstruation and sexism.
But #IfMenHadPeriods, like so many things, is well-intentioned, but very flawed.
The hashtag #IfMenHadPeriods erases many of the men who do have periods.
Pre-transition female-to-male trans men, as well as many other masculine-presenting people who do not follow the gender binary, are people who identify as men and have menstrual cycles.
And because they are men, they are often left out of conversations that involve menstrual health, menstruation products, vaginal and uterine health and other issues associated with having a period.
Transgender writer Mitch Kellaway spoke to his experience as a trans man who menstruates in the Mic.com article, “Here’s What It’s Like to Have Your Period When You’re a Trans Man.”
“As a trans man, I am so used to not being considered in any conversation when it comes to menstruation, anything having to do with vaginal, cervical or uterine health,” he said. “It’s a symptom of a larger thing where I’ve become very used to people being unaware of the possibility of the fullness of my existence.”
Kellaway made this comment to Mic.com while explaining his response to a trans-inclusive advertisement for Thinx, a brand that specializes in creating underwear people can comfortably wear while they are on their period.
It was the first time he saw a menstruation product that was inclusive of men who menstruate.
The hashtag is unintentionally exclusive, and participates in the form of sexism: cissexism, wherein being cis gender is the “norm” and anything else is the deviant.
If the hashtag had been #IfCisMenHadPeriods, it would have avoided this erasure.
It is a point several Twitter users brought up while the hashtag was trending.
#IfMenHadPeriods except some of us do, get outta here with this cisnormativity and trans erasure
— IAN (@ianaIexander) September 6, 2016
• Lots of men do have periods
• Lots of women do not have periods
yr feminism means nothing if it erases trans people
— allison gallagher (@aewgallagher) September 6, 2016
Social media does not exist in a vacuum.
#IfMenHadPeriods is indicative of a larger problem many trans people have with certain forms of feminism.
Trans antagonism and the exclusion of trans people in the name of radical feminism is a problem that is still all too prevalent.
Whether accidental (like this hashtag) or intentional (as in the case of trans-exclusive radical feminists, a.k.a TERFS), feminism that does not include the liberation of trans people is incomplete at best and perpetuates the transphobia in patriarchal society at worst.
The everydayfeminism.com article “Why the Feminist Movement Must Be Trans-Inclusive,” provides a straight-forward reason.
“Transgender people face institutional discrimination, oppression, and violence as a result of transphobia as well as sexism – due to a structural obsession with the gender binary, with a cultural and political policing of gender roles, and an overall devaluation of feminine qualities,” the article’s author, Laura Kacere, writes.
The most effective form of feminism is one that analyzes an oppressive society through an intersectional lens and advocates for all marginalized people.
It will advocate for people of color, LGBTQ people, people with physical disabilities, mentally ill people and anyone else who is oppressed.
And the best feminist hashtags make sure to denote the difference between a cis gender man and every other man that’s out there.
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Cover Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)