Editor’s Note: The author is a student in the fall 2010 Women’s Studies Program Special Topics course, That Chick is Crazy: Women and Madness, at The University of Akron.
The other afternoon, over coffee, my mom and I were talking about menopause. I honestly don’t know that much about it other than hormone levels fluctuate and your period stops. The latter part sounds like it’s too good to be true to me.
My dad overheard us, froze and asked, “Is that when you go crazy?” The fear in his voice was slightly unsettling but mostly just annoying. It’s as if he thinks that once my mom goes through menopause she’ll turn into a distant animalistic version of herself and we’ll have to lock her away.
Society projects this idea of “crazy” onto women. What does it mean to be crazy anyway? Is there some sort of scale in which to measure yourself on?
Everyone reading this will have a different answer of course. Crazy isn’t any one thing, just as women aren’t any one thing. Although, I beg to differ when someone says that perfectly natural things that happen to a woman’s body, menstruation, menopause, and so forth, are “crazy.
Historically, men’s bodies have been seen as the medical norm. So anything that falls outside of how a man’s body functions needs to be fixed. More specifically, the woman’s body. I can’t think of a single bodily process that is specific to males that we associate with madness.
What does a woman’s body do that freaks men out? It bleeds. We bleed for a week, and we don’t die. Men treat this as if we have some sort of mystical powers. I think this attitude toward periods stems mostly from the fact that they have no idea what is actually going on. In other words, they just have no clue what a period even is. To them it’s a hint to avoid us for a week like the plague. It’s not contagious, I promise!
Throughout history we have put periods through hell. As a society we have tried our hardest to delay the onset of menstruation in young girls. Now, once you’ve started your period you’re bombarded with commercials for pills and shots to stop them all together. Who are we really stopping them for, though? I’ll admit they’re pretty inconvenient at times, but you come to appreciate your period in an odd way. It’s your body’s message that things are running smoothly.
I’m thinking this whole avoidance thing could be for one of two reasons. Because of the hormonal changes going on before, during, and after a period, emotions tend to run a little high for some women. Of course, expressing any emotion short of pleasant and passive lands women another stamp of crazy. Changes in emotion associated with crazy caused by menstruation. Bam! She’s a wacko.
Or maybe, it’s something much more. Something men aren’t consciously aware of. As I’m sure you’re aware, starting menstruation means a woman now possess the power to bear children. Something men, try as they might, will never be able to do.
So without women there would be no continuation of the human race. Without women there would be no men!
Maybe they see this as something hanging over their head, something to be feared. Perhaps the fear is that women will figure this out and stop having babies or stop having as many. Which would mean women gaining greater control over their lives, which takes opportunities away from men. A battle of the sexes.