So there I was on my lunch hour revising a scene in the MS when I suddenly needed to know a bit more about what women used when they had their periods. (This is for Surrender to Ruin, a historical romance, fyi). I had some ideas, but it’s always nice to do some research on such points. So off to Google I went. Fairly quickly, and not unexpectedly, I found that documentation is somewhat sparse.
This should be obvious to you-all, right? Not only is this a 100% female related event, but no one wrote much about going to the toilet etc. We know something about what people used for toilet paper in the Medieval era because there are a few places where conditions ended up preserving the material — moss, for example. But it’s not something people wrote down and then saved for posterity. I did not expect to come across copious documentation.
But I did expect to find some scholarly speculation. My quick and dirty research came to a quick halt when I came across this article about what American and European woman might have done historically. Why this would be materially different from what women all over the world have done, I’m not sure, but people specialize in all sorts of arcane areas.
The author notes that ancient Egyptians made tampons and mentions evidence in other countries that women used rags and other materials such as sheep wool wrapped in cloth. So far I was thinking, yeah. This sounds totally reasonable. Some of this evidence includes European women. And then the author says:
“Read why I have concluded, in May 2001, that most European and American women probably used nothing at all, bleeding into their clothing.”
Here is a representation of my reaction:
The article gets even more ridiculous. Apparently, several woman contacted him to relate their actual personal knowledge of what their relatives did, many of said relatives having been born in the late 1800’s. Some of those people were actual historians with actual evidence. Those emails are posted, along with rebuttals.
Rebuttals. Please go on. Tell us more about your theory that defies logic and actual experience of the subject matter.
My suspicion that the author had never had a period turned out to be correct. The author is a man. And in epic fashion, he has decided that he, a person who has never menstruated, can deduce what women did and to hell with all historical evidence and the women who basically said a nice version of “You are an idiot, and here is why.”
No woman would decide she’d just bleed into her clothes, particularly when the vast majority of women would not have been able to afford to replace their clothing that often. There would be evidence of blood-stained clothing. There would be references to the epic consumption of shifts among the female population. There would be references to monthly replacements of mattresses among those who could afford them.
As a person who has personally experienced periods, I can say with 100% confidence that no woman would just bleed into her clothes as a matter of course. It’s just so ignorant and insulting. I can’t even.
I will leave you with one of my favorite videos by one of my favorite YouTubers, Sabrina, of Nerdy and Quirky, in which she addresses the subject of period euphemisms. Enjoy.