Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

The Shame Game

August 22nd, 2011 by David Linton

Long before the current fad in Reality TV shows that trade in humiliation and embarrassment, the prevailing menstrual culture inculcated in women a feeling that exposure of the fact that a period was in progress was a social catastrophe.  However, just as “The Biggest Loser” invites participants to parade their socially unacceptable bodies before the cameras for fame and fortune, there are times when women are invited to share their stories of menstrual humiliation in exchange for a moment of media recognition and even a cute photo spread.

Consider the October 1, 2007, issue of FIRST: for women on the go, a supermarket checkout publication.  A regular column titled “First Blush” that specialized in sharing readers’ “mortifying moments” in this issue was titled “My most mortifying tampon moment!”  It consists of four letters from women aged 35 to 50 relating stories of an exposed string, a blood stain on a car seat, dog mischief, and a child’s blurted remark about her mothers’ “bagina.”

The piece is illustrated by the smiling author of one of the letters, “Meg Fitzpatrick, 42, Yardly, PA” whose story about the adorable daughter’s outburst earns her a prized photo in the magazine.

Accompanying the article is some promotional copy for a product called “The Combpanion Tampon and Pantiliner Case” that is described as “a hair comb with a hidden compartment in its hollow handle” so that the reader can “carry a tampon . . . without fear of being spotted holding your feminine product.”

I’m prompted to wonder what an equivalent column in a men’s magazine would look like.  Do men ever have “mortifying moments?”

2 responses to “The Shame Game”

  1. Elizabeth Kissling says:

    The teen magazine YM had an embarrassing moments column that was almost exclusively menstrual mishaps, back in the 1980s and 1990s. I learned about it in 1991, when I was interviewing teen girls about menstrual education for my dissertation; it was their *favorite* part of the magazine.

    As a side note, YM stood for “Young Miss” in my years of reading the magazine, long before that particular column debuted. It stood for “Young and Modern” when my informants were reading it, and Wikipedia tells me that it changed again to “Your Magazine” in 2000. No one ever called it anything but YM, though.

    Also from Wikipedia, YM was the originator of the embarrassing moments column, now a standard feature of many ladymags.

  2. Chris Bobel says:

    and I remember Karen Houppert riffing on these columns (did Sassy do them too?) at the SMCR meetings in Boulder (she was one of the conference keynotes). Lots of fodder for endless analyses there!

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