What Donald Trump’s ‘period pains’ say about society

By Joshua Piercey

Image source: Molly Riley/Polaris/Newscom

Image source: Molly Riley/Polaris/Newscom

As a man who thrives off controversy, it’s tough to imagine how Donald Trump would interpret the public outrage following his recent Fox News comments. In case you missed it, the Republican candidate didn’t take too kindly to news anchor Megyn Kelly grilling him for misogynistic jibes during a live TV debate, so he decided to put her tough questioning down to ‘blood coming out of her… everywhere.’

The motivation for his comments is clear, but one wonders if the scale of the backlash was expected even by Trump, who courts publicity on a daily basis.

Megyn Kelly was doing her job: taking a poorly informed hypocrite to task about his attitude to women. By insinuating that Kelly was on her period – and that this was the reason she was challenging him – Trump was doing what he always does: reaching for low hanging fruit while attempting to deflect attention from his own failings.

His recent stunt has highlighted his weaknesses (hypocrisy, lack of coherent policies and sketchy knowledge on politics), and emphasised his reliance on a pantomime combination of bombast and candour to get attention.

It was a cheap shot and one that has been made millions of times by men and women. But it’s a cheap shot that got Trump banned from a RedState conservative gathering, attracting thousands of Republican supporters in key states. Organiser – political blogger Erick Erickson, admitted: “There are lines even blunt talkers and unprofessional politicians should not cross. Decency is one of those lines.”

The reaction to Trump’s comments is justified… but is perhaps motivated by more than the disapproval of a hugely disrespectful remark. Trump crossed a line as soon as he mentioned periods.

Crossing the Line

It’s important to bear in mind that this is a man who within the last few weeks, implied Mexicans crossing the border into the United States are all rapists and that ex-presidential candidate and former POW, John McCain, was only a war hero because “he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” Trump is an unwavering jerk about many things, so it’s strange to find him pilloried because he implied a woman was menstruating. It’s rude and fundamentally patronising… but why is it wrong to talk about periods?

The feeling that Trump crossed a line indicates how conflicted we are in our attitude towards menstruation. It’s undeniable that Trump’s remark was insulting and condescending, but at least he had the dubious honour of being obviously bogus (and stupid). Erickson told the Guardian: “I don’t think I should have anyone on stage who would say that to a female journalist while my wife and daughter are watching.”

Women using the hashtag #periodsarenotaninsult have parodied Trump’s remarks

Erikson; this case’s defender of decency has himself, faced criticism for calling Texas politician Wendy Davis an ‘abortion Barbie’ and labelling Michelle Obama a ‘marxist harpy’ who would go ‘Lorena Bobbitt’ on her husband (referring to a Virginia woman who cut her husband’s penis off for cheating in 1993.) It could be forgiven for deducing Erikson’s number one priority may not be to uphold decency, but rather to shield his wife and daughter from the mention of periods. Because periods are gross, right? And mentioning them is indecent.

Periods have been labelled as disgusting, sinful and – somehow – unnatural for millennia. That something which happens to 50% of the population once a month could be seen as indecent, requires a dollop of cognitive dissonance, and that cognitive dissonance is sustained in part by the taboo around periods – a self-fulfilling, self-sustaining cycle of irrationality which keeps menstruation, or the acknowledgement thereof, as an insult.

If Donald Trump had implied that Kelly’s tough questioning came from another biologically inconvenient condition – indigestion, say – he would have been ridiculed, rather than condemned. But despite the fact that periods are an unavoidable fact of life (like indigestion), our attitudes continue to label them as something more.

The Lamest Taboo

We live in a world where menstrual hygiene is seen as a luxury. Literally – in the UK there’s a 5% luxury item tax paid on tampons and sanitary towels, something that essential items like helicopters and crocodile meat avoid. While that 5% tax might not lead to huge expenditures, the attitude behind it – that menstrual care is not health care – means that huge numbers of women worldwide, lack access to something as basic as sanitary products to use when they are bleeding from their vaginas.

Teacakes are one of the many items deemed an everyday necessity, unlike sanitary products that are taxed with a 5% VAT rate. Image source: The Independent

Teacakes are one of the many items deemed an everyday necessity, unlike sanitary products that are taxed with a 5% VAT rate. Image source: The Independent

Part of the reason behind the almost universal condemnation of Trump’s remark is that periods – and the stupid social stigma that surrounds them – have been brought to light. Donald chose a poor time to make his comment, but then the man lacks awareness to an almost parodic degree.

Turns out you can combat social stigma, inherent prejudice and Donald Trump, all in the same way. As women like Rupi Kaur and Kiran Gandhi and Heather Watson are doing – simply talking about periods and refusing to shy away from it. Transparency is the best disinfectant, and familiarity breeds eventual contempt. I would love to live in a world where using a woman’s menstruation as an insult met scorn and mockery, rather than disgust.

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‘Hot Girls Wanted’: The Rise of The Amateur Porn Industry

      By Siân Ryan

Image source: Netflix

“Every day a new girl is 18” Image source: Netflix

In 2014 Rashida Jones produced a documentary which was created to highlight the growing amateur porn industry in the US. Jones titled the documentary ‘Hot Girls Wanted’ after discovering ads from porn star agents on Craigslist, trying to recruit teenage girls. The film follows three excited teenagers who are about to embark upon a career in the porn industry and shines light on the reasons why a generation of young girls are aspiring to become famous porn stars.

The three teenage girls are frequently referred to as ‘teeny boppers’ by their agent; their young age and naivety clear from the very first scene. The girls all have a casual and almost nonchalant attitude towards the emotionally complex world they are about to enter. It is evident that some of the girls answered ‘Hot Girls Wanted’ ads not really knowing what they were getting in to. The promise of big bucks and a free flight to Miami seemed like an opportunity too attractive to pass up, and only once living with their agent, were they able to consider the magnitude of their decision.

Empty Promises

The girls are not trafficked or forced to make films against their will, they are lured into the industry by the promise of earning a lot of money in a short space of time, and most importantly, becoming stars. Director Jill Bauer explains why: ‘These girls have grown up in an era where famous people have done sex tapes. The ‘pornification’ of pop culture has been growing since the 1980s… Recent music videos from Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus and a slew of rappers walk right up to the edge of pornography.’ Celebrity status seems to be at the top of these girls’ agenda, and seeing the sex industry as a launch-pad into mainstream pop culture doesn’t seem as impossible as it once might have done.

The Truth

As the documentary continues, the dreams and aspirations of the amateur porn stars seem to disintegrate. Rapidly. A male sex partner states that the career span for a teenage girl entering the industry is at best six months to a year, yet more likely to be over by the third month. By that time a girl may have shot up to fifty films. When the work starts to dry up and girls are desperately chasing their fame dream, they are forced to explore niche films such as bondage and abuse. Forty percent of pornographic material involves violence against women, and a lot of the harrowing content is focused on violating teenagers.

Opposing views

Years ago Radical Feminists denounced sex work as ‘the absolute embodiment of patriarchal male privilege.’ (Kesler, 2002: 19) Pornography perpetuates male privilege, which is clear to see as we watch the male ejaculate time and time again, in many cases, at the expense of a woman’s emotional and physical pain. The idea of mainstream pornography is detrimental to women’s status in society, but also harmful to the sex workers in the pornography industry. It can be argued by many feminists that these teenage girls are being exploited and abused both by those in the industry and those who watch the films online.

Many people fiercely disagree that sex work and pornography degrades women. Post feminists argue that a woman’s body is hers to do with whatever she chooses. Pornography and sex work are ways to become liberated by earning money, and sometimes, a lot of it. Leanora Volpe writing for the Independent criticises feminists who ‘shame’ women for choosing to enter the sex industry, believing that if a woman enters the industry freely, her choice should be respected and celebrated. ‘”Your body does not belong to them” they cry. The last time I checked, it doesn’t belong to you either.’

Making money in Miami Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/ocean-drive-miami-beach-florida-654933/ Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/ocean-drive-miami-beach-florida-654933

Approximately 12% of the websites on the Internet are porn which equates to 25 million sites. The industry is vast and amateur porn stars are key to the continuation of it, with ‘teen’ and ‘babysitter’ being two most searched for key words on porn sites. The hundreds of amateur porn stars who flock to Miami, and all over the world to studios and castings are not important, as there always thousands of others to replace them.

Whether you believe these girls are entering into the porn industry freely, and are liberating themselves by making money through their body, or are being exploited by a dangerous industry, it is clear to see through ‘Hot Girls Wanted’, that the dreams and aspirations of these amateur porn stars are almost never fulfilled.

Great expectations: Society’s pressure on women to marry

By Flora Aduk

gifts 5

Our contributor shares some insight into being over 30 and unmarried, in a society where many women marry before they have even reached adulthood.

“What is he saying?” my Grandmother asked almost timidly one Sunday afternoon. I chewed the food in my mouth, swallowed, slowly stared at her and responded with a question. “What do you mean what is he saying?!” I tried to be tactile, but the discomfort and slight harshness in my voice couldn’t be missed.

But she wasn’t one to give up. “Won Kiki (father of Kiki), what are the plans for marriage?” she said. From her tone I could tell that she was trying to be polite as she made reference to the father of my eight year old daughter, but I wasn’t having any of it. I dismissed her with, “I will tell you when the time is right.”

She continued to push me by making me feel guilty. “You are always rather rude when I bring up this topic…” I just laughed sarcastically and told her that she ought to be patient.  But this was no laughing matter. In a society where in the past, women were expected to get married as early as 13, even in this modern age it is still hard to fathom a woman unmarried well into her 30s.

This image is taken at a traditional marriage, where the grooms kin bring gifts and bride price, in an elaborate ceremony where cultural celebration rituals take center stage.

This image is taken at a traditional marriage, where the grooms kin bring gifts and bride price, in an elaborate ceremony where cultural celebration rituals take center stage.

Uganda still holds alarming statistics of child marriages, as awareness group Girls Not Brides points out in their partnership campaigning . A UNICEF Social Development report revealed that Uganda falls within the top 15 African countries in childhood marriage statistics,  with a staggering 46% of women marrying before the age of 18, compared to the African average of 39%.

Although a lot of the statistics speak of the rural Uganda, as a 33 year old, living in an urban setting, the turn to my 30s still ushered in the “why aren’t you married” questions. Where it wasn’t always asked in spoken word, facial expressions always seemed to inquire into that part of my life, especially when I met old acquaintances.

In our society, marriage has come to define success and accomplishment. An unmarried woman despite her accomplishments doesn’t command as much respect as her married counterparts. Even so, today more women are delaying marriage for many different reasons.

I believe marriage is a valuable institution. I often thought I would be married by 25 but now as a single mother of two and way beyond my 20s, I’ve learnt that finding ‘the One’ and making the commitment doesn’t come that easy and that’s ok.

Nonetheless, as an unmarried woman, pressure from society (and biological clocks) can’t be escaped.  Having children takes off a bit of the internal pressure to get married, but there is no saving from the external pressure.

Women are under constant pressure to fulfil this pre-destined role of the ‘married woman.’  It is therefore not uncommon to find marriage at the top of the prayer request lists in Christian circles. Places of retreat and prayer such as Seguku Prayer Mountain, along Entebbe Road, are popular destinations for women seeking divine intervention for among other things, a worthy suitor. I haven’t been there yet, but a couple of friends make the trip every Friday and I have made a mental note to go pretty soon.

Women praying at Seguku Prayer Mountain, Uganda Image source: worldtrumpet.com

Women worshiping at Seguku Prayer Mountain, Uganda Image source: worldtrumpet.com

Some women have been known to pressure their partners to make a marital commitment, going as far as footing the bills for the traditional marriage, popularly known as kwanjula,  if only to do away with the “shame” of being unmarried. 

To maintain the status quo, some women are living in bad marriages.  In a popular women’s Facebook group, Beautiful Modern Mums, a three pronged approach is often volunteered as advice for marital problems- PFG, which basically stands for Pray, Fast and Guma (hang in there).

With the ring elusive for now, women like me have learnt that marriage does not define who you are, which is why we have focused our energies on other aspects particularly our careers. Single parenthood anywhere raises eyebrows; naturally society judges you, but today not as harshly as before.

I believe in building oneself and seeking happiness in things one is passionate about. So what if you are not married yet?