MENSTRUATION MATTERS

Guest Post by Heather Dillaway, Wayne State University

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Trying to find a reason to stay up late this past Saturday night, I found myself watching Saturday Night Live for a few minutes. Unfortunately I tuned in right before a skit called “Tampax to the Max,” a skit within which two male SNL actors played sports announcers for a “Ladies’ Billiards” competition. Drew Barrymore and SNL’s Kristen Wiig played the two billiards players, but the skit wasn’t really about the billiards tournament at all. The skit was written specifically to highlight Tampax as a sponsor of the billiards event and, therefore, the skit was filled with superfluous tampon jokes and random interjections of the word “Tampax” (which, of course, brought the most laughs for the skit). Putting all other comments aside about the perpetuation of gender inequality in sports as well as all of my feelings about how ridiculous Drew Barrymore and her SNL counterpart (Kristen Wiig) were made to look in this skit, I think that we cannot just sit by and let this skit air without commenting about the place of menstrual products (and, by default, menstruation itself) within it. On one hand, this skit was simply a way for some SNL writer to air some really bad Tampax jokes and allow male actors on SNL to get a chance to say “Tampax” as many times as they could within one skit. In this context, perhaps some could characterize this skit as harmless. Yet, on the other hand, menstruation and women’s activities surrounding menstruation become a complete joke in this skit as a result. The inferences made about the connections between menstrual products and women’s sports are strange (Is Tampax what everyone thinks about when they watch women’s sports events? And are the sponsors more important than the actual sports event, if it is a female sports event? And is it more fun to think about women’s menstruation than to watch women compete?).  The fact that the billiard players’ place within the skit becomes shadowed by their menstrual products is maddening, however. The skit makes clear that women’s involvement in billiards (perhaps sports in general?) is unimportant but their use of menstrual products is much more interesting to men…

While I understand that SNL makes light of all different kinds of bodily processes (and that IS funny at times), the underlying equations of women with their reproductive processes and the laughs gotten from the pure mention of Tampax in this skit are disturbing. As I watched this skit, I couldn’t help thinking about why we haven’t moved on from laughing about menstruation and menstrual products.  As we all know, jokes often let us know exactly how unequal the world is and, in my opinion, letting male SNL actors just get a chance to make some random Tampax jokes in a skit is not doing women or reproduction or menstruation any good at all. Does menstruation become any more positive or any more well understood because of this skit? I don’t think so. I was offended by this skit, and would be interested to hear if I was the only one who was….

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