Brown paper parcels

One day out of the blue the chemist shop stopped housing its pads and tampon supplies in neat layers row after row wrapped in brown paper.

Rather like the way these days they sell cigarettes in what they call plain packaging, they did the same with products essential to women once some brainwave landed on a way to manufacture materials that soak up our period blood and leave us more able to function in the world during that trickly time of the month. 

Something of those ancient attitudes and disgust towards female bodily stays with us, with me. The yuk factor, again not unlike the yuk we experience when we talk of shit and defecation.

I suspect our response to faecal function comes out of childhood and toilet training, a necessary part of life, otherwise we’d none of us be able to manage our shit and where we put it. Hygiene would be a major problem. 

We need to learn to distance ourselves from our own toxic waste otherwise it makes us sick.

But period blood is not toxic waste in the sane sense. It’s blood, dry and stale and like any blood if left out to dry and curdle it will start to smell unpleasant but it’s not inherently unpleasant unless we think it so.

A few of my husband’s wowser friends from many years ago when he was still a school boy were communicating about their distress at what they see as ‘cancel’ culture. The way they imagine the so-called minorities are controlling the public discourse these days. 

All this emerged from their concerns about the renaming of Australia Day to invasion day From their privileged position as older white males. But also from their sense of lack. They believe indigenous people who to their minds have been well cared for want more than their share. 

They have no idea of what we as a nation have done to our indigenous people and the extent to which no amount of money thrown at them will undo the damage.

The damage will only be undone through a united effort at changing the story from one of our entitlement to a recognition of what our ancestors did and how we have profited ever since.

The final insult – to my sensibilities at least – came in the form of a message from one male friend to another.

He quoted an interview between major General Cosgrove on an ABC radio program. I do not know how true this is or whether its another example of fake news, so I try to hold it lightly.

It follows:

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The comparison of rifle use to prostitution alarms me. 

It’s not exactly wrapping pads in brown paper bags, but it has the effect of silencing. And sure, the interviewer might have been out of line likening teaching kids to use rifles with teaching kids to become violent killers, though if you follow it through, why else would anyone use a rifle other than to kill, whether people or animals. Or to practice hitting inanimate targets. 

But to suggest that women are equipped with an innate skill to be prostitutes using that old fashioned word as well, not sex worker. That women are born with a capacity to sell their bodies for sex for the pleasure of another, as of it’s a given, alarms me to the pit of my gut.

This is what I call misogyny.

An insult hurtled towards a female because she has dared to challenge, albeit in a clumsy manner, the man’s use of guns. 

Why did we ever hide pads and tampons behind brown paper other than to imply there’s something secret shameful about them? They must be hidden. This means that their function also needs also to be hidden. The secret nature of women’s bodies need to be hidden.

And then if we call out the secret nature of any desire to use a gun, to kill or maim or assert oneself, even in the pleasure of being able to hit a target, needs to come out of its plain paper wrapping to expose it for what it is, a dangerous activity, especially in the wrong hands. 

The function of periods: they’re part of the procreation cycle and of fertility, life giving stuff in women.

The purpose of guns: to kill. To end life. 

7 thoughts on “Brown paper parcels”

  1. It’s a difficult argument to make, in the face of recent US Rebublican rhetoric, but I grew up in what we called a ‘black powder family’. Dad was a gunsmith and dealer and we learned the use of black powder early. Blowing up inanimate objects was joyous! There was no DV and no killing of animals (except for a favourite dog who killed sheep – a secret I kept from my younger sister for decades). We learned as children to respect guns and to use them with regard to the fragility of life. I have called on my Dad to help execute dead or dying livestock and he absolutely hates it, every time.

    All that said, I love that he has trained all of his daughters in the safe use of firearms and I can report that every one of us sisters are really f*cking good shots!

    1. So much of these perspectives have cultural overtones, Sarah so I understand and admire your father’s intention to teach his daughters the safe use of firearms. I try not to be a wowser in most things but it’s the juxtaposition off misogyny with other forms of violence that strikes me. And I’m not for one minute suggesting that women can’t be violent, or that we all don’t need to find ways of protecting ourselves from violence. Thanks sarah.

  2. Such a long conversation about British settlement in this country. Right from the start, more or less, there was the recognition that British had stolen the lands of Australian aboriginal people, that the English had shot Aboriginal people for their land. Quite a lot in the press, including the religious press, This is a long, complex story..what does it mean to be white? European, and a settler?

  3. I remember the first time my first proper girlfriend said to me her “monthly visitor” had arrived as I asked, “Who’s that then?” I honestly had no idea what she was on about. I was sixteen at the time and knew of mentruation but it had never been a part of my life. My mother was anemic and never had periods and the same was true of my sister I learned many years later. Mum used to take big orange iron tablets and I’m sure I was told why but it didn’t affect me so I wasn’t interested. When I got married I do recall having to buy tampons for my wife from the local supermarket and it didn’t bother me. I was just so taken aback by the range. I stood there for ages trying to decide what what the best one. No mobile back then to phone and ask. I’ve never understood what all the fuss is about. In fact when I learned how painful periods can be my heart went out to my female friends.

    I grew up in a culture where there were men and women, rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, Labour and Tory, Scottish and English. There were no blacks or Asians or gays. Well there were but they knew enough to keep their heads down. I grew up in a world where taking sides was normal and expected and in a family that epitomised that mindset so it’s odd I grew up the way I did. Granted I don’t understand the choices other people make–why does a man want to kiss another man when there’re perfectly good girls around?–but it’s their lives. They don’t understand why I have to write poetry and how can I explain that to them? I think it’s odd everyone doesn’t write poetry.

    We’re supposed to be living in enlightened times. Granted people are more aware now that they were when I was a kid but they aren’t equipped with necessary understanding to cope with this brave new world. Here, though, is what they need to understand: You don’t need to understand. I will never know what it’s like to have a period or give birth or be black or want to kiss another man. No one’s asking me to.

    What has to change is majority rule. It is wrong to assume that the majority should dictate. Just look at Brexit and the last four years in America. One man, one vote only works if all voters are equal. And they are not. You should have to sit an exam before voting and not just pick the candidate who looks the most honest. I didn’t vote in the referendum on Brexit, nor did I vote for or against Scottish independence. I’m not qualified to vote. I don’t understand the issues and no one knows what the consequences will be although I think a lot of people have come to realise breaking with the EU was just a tad more involved that picking up our ball and saying we’re not playing any more. Personally I think you should have to sit any exam to be any position of power but especially something like prime minister or president.

  4. Yes indeed, Jim, power is something people need to be better equipped to handle. But as I understand it without politics we might be in even deeper trouble than we’re in. Without democracy things could get worse, as imperfect as democracy might seem. To me, the big problem is capitalism with all it entails – greed and power seeking. Thanks Jim.

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