So this isn't intended to be a very long post. In fact, I could probably just post what I'm about to say in a Facebook status, but this is where I document my thoughts and feelings so for the sake of keeping everything in one place, let's have a quick chat.
(Although, in the wise words of my best friend, "That's why I wanna be a writer, because I get to argue with people for 90,000 words and they can't argue back." This certainly won't be 90,000 words, but it is a pretty one sided conversation. So let me rephrase: please allow me to talk at you for a few hundred words with little to no feedback) :)
So, I'm genetically a female. I have ovaries. I have a uterus. Those things, blessedly, give me periods. Yay! And breasts.
Have you stopped reading yet? Because ten years ago, I would have. How dare I talk about such a taboo subject.
I've had periods for (if my math is correct) just over twelve years, and I've had breasts for about 8 months longer than that. Which means that for over a decade, I have had to buy menstrual products and bras. When I was just starting to go through those changes, unless you've gone through the same exact thing, you cannot imagine how absolutely mortifying that was.
Before there was self checkout, I would avoid buying bras and menstrual products unless the cashier was a woman or my mother was with me. The few times I had to go to a male cashier because it was an emergency, my anxiety was at a 10 and I was absolutely mortified. I would hide my products at the bottom of my basket or tuck them under my arm as I walked up to the register every single time. I would duck behind racks of bras in Kohl's if I saw a male coming so that they couldn't see me purchasing something so personal. Yes, it is assumed that at some point someone who is has xx chromosomes will eventually grow breasts and start their period, but I didn't want a single person to know that and think of me that way. It made me feel dirty. I didn't want men to know what I might eventually be wearing under my shirt. I didn't want them to know that I would sit down later and have to insert something made of cotton into myself to prevent a small waterfall of blood from seeping down my legs. I didn't want them thinking of me sexually-- because, let's face it, vaginas and breasts are sexual objects to most heterosexual males, and they refuse to see them as what they are, which is reproductive organs.
I'm 25 now, and two weeks ago I spent at least ten minutes staring at tampons with my husband standing next to me. Several people passed by. I complained loudly that they did not have what I wanted in stock. And I could not have cared less.
It's true-- the older you get, the less you care about the embarrassing things that seemed to matter so much to you before, but yes, I still feel that way. I still feel uncomfortable any time a male sees me in the bra or menstrual product department. But you know what? I'm just trying to live my life. These things are natural things that happen to me, and even though I may never embrace them (because honestly who enjoys periods? and I know I'm probably one of the rare ones, but I absolutely hate having breasts-- anyone have $10k to have them removed?), I'm over allowing men to make me feel uncomfortable for something that should be normal. And sure, maybe these things are all in my head... sometimes. But I can guarantee that my fears haven't always been insane, and that those thoughts have passed through the minds of men.
And that, my friends, is one of the hundreds of reasons that I'm a feminist. I could go on for days about how it's not just about women but all genders, and it's not just about equal pay and harassment and uteruses and breasts and ovaries (because if you didn't already know, not all women have those parts!)... But I won't bore you with that (today).
All I'm saying today is that if you want to stare at me while I buy my boob holders and cotton blood plugs, go right ahead, because I'm tired of feeling like a freak.