Episode 46: Period Piece
Published April 8, 2016.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman.
Aminatou: This week on Call Your Girlfriend we talk mostly -- exclusively -- about periods and menstruation. We discuss the tampon of the future with a little sidebar to black people being left out of the weed boom. We discuss Whoopi Goldberg's period startup, or period venture I guess, governor of Indiana Mike Pence and what an awful human he is, an opportunity to menstruate on Ted Cruz's face, and many, many more things. Just hang in there with us.
Aminatou: I don't think this has ever happened in history that I'm more tired than you at night.
Ann: Oh my god, I know. I feel invigorating. I'm like half a bottle of wine deep. I am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they say.
Aminatou: No, I . . . my body is ready to give out. This is what we do for this podcast, endurance.
Ann: It's true, although there's something nice. I mean I know you guys don't know what time it is; it's whatever time you're listening to it. But for us this is kind of a late-night record. This is like late-night closet wine moments. [Laughs]
Aminatou: This is very late-night for us. And, yeah, I love that I'm just like a complete space cadet about the whole thing. But you know what? Let's see how this works out.
Ann: It's going to work out great because everything we're talking about revolve around one central theme.
Aminatou: Menstruation extravaganza.
Ann: [Laughs] You know what? In my head there's some sort of uterine pun that I feel like RuPaul would employ in discussing about this.
Aminatou: I know. We really should've workshopped that.
Ann: Well, very enticing headline in the New York Times this weekend which was Tampon of the Future.
Aminatou: I mean, let's be real. That's the first thing I read online for the Times because it really annoys me how by Wednesday they've put the Sunday paper up. That is really upsetting to me.
Ann: Huh. I thought you were going to say it really annoys you when medical innovation seems to not take women into account.
Ann: Because that's what really annoys me.
Aminatou: That's the second most annoying thing to me. So basically, you know, you can summarize this article as super smart, Harvard lady engineer creates a tampon that may detect cancer and endometriosis but encounters misogyny along the way.
Ann: Ugh. I would watch that Lifetime Original Movie.
Aminatou: Like that's the movie that's happening here.
Ann: The deeper theme of this article is yeah, yeah, it's about a tampon from the future. We love that. But it's also about women inventors and what happens when you have a totally homogenous group of people doing all the innovation in a single field. And so in this case, for example, the fact that a woman who menstruates is informing the design of this new tampon is totally crucial. The article interviews some expert dude. Oh, god, Eric von Hippel, scary name.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Eric von Hippel would be studying tampon patents. [Laughs]
Ann: I mean Eric von Hippel who is apparently a scholar at MIT studies this and he told the New York Times the reason users -- in this case, people who use tampons -- are so inventive . . .
Aminatou: I know. The tech industry always talks about its customers as if they were buying drugs. Always. It's like our users, and it's like no!
Ann: It's true that we can't quite tampons though.
Aminatou: Listen, we're trying. We're trying.
Ann: [Laughs] I know. I know. Later period underwear discussion to come. But he says the reason users are so inventive is twofold. One is that they know the needs firsthand.
Ann: And the other is that they have skin in the game, or in this case uterine lining in the game. [Laughs]
Aminatou: True. But let's back up for a little bit and just talk about how dirty the innovation invention game is. 92 -- more than 92 percent of patent holders are men and more than 90 percent of venture capital partners are men. So when you have a great idea from your ideas.biz/ladies folder and you're trying to get money for it, you're literally faced with a barrage of men who don't understand the need for this particular product and that is really frustrating.
Ann: And in this case they essentially said well, okay, this can only scale to like half the population. Since men can't use it, what good is it? They even had investors suggest to them that they do a version that measured testosterone or did things so . . .
Aminatou: Ultimate mansplain. Ultimate mansplain to like hi, I'm building the tampon of the future. "Why don't you measure testosterone?" [Laughs]
Ann: I mean to be totally honest I did say . . . I was like okay, part of the point of this innovation is women are just flushing precious genetic material with lots of health information down the toilet every month. Fair. Fine. Good starting point. But if you really took a look at what men were throwing away that contained precious genetic information, like too hot for the New York Times.
Aminatou: Yeah, right? It's like just thinking of tampons as a biomonitoring tool, it sounds so simple, but allegedly nobody else has thought about this or nobody has gotten this far in the process. But the real thing when you read the article, you realize it's like no, actually people have been thinking about it and the obstacles are gender science and the fact that people think that it's gross.
Ann: Yeah, the tampon is from the future; the sexism is from the past. Tagline. [Laughs]
Aminatou: [Laughs] Oh my god. But yeah, you know, serious implications for innovation and for creativity and also just, my god, women are such good problem-solvers. This is the ultimate -- you know how they always say "Have a moon shot, solve a problem," or whatever. Or maybe they don't say that in your town. In San Francisco everywhere you go somebody's working on a dumb moon shot. It's like "What are you working on?" And they're like "Oh, Uber for pillows. It's my moon shot." Which is so infuriating. But I was like this is actually a fantastic project. And then the more you read about the obstacles that she faced, I just wanted to throw the computer away.
Ann: Yeah. I mean and when you look at those numbers about the percentage of patent holders who are men and about the essentially investors who enable products like this to go forward who are men, it's like how . . . like I feel like even if I were a male investor I would say okay, wait a minute, there's an untapped market that's not actually represented here. I mean whatever, this is like . . .
Aminatou: Ann, this is my big rant about investment and the way that it just leaves women and people of color out of the equation. Like diversity is not a moral imperative I don't think. I'm like whatever. You can be a bad person. I don't care. But you should consider diversity as a business imperative because you're leaving cold cash on the table every single time and that's the thing that really gets me.
Ann: Oh, so much cold cash. You know, the other thing about the tampon of the future is that she's saying yeah, maybe it could also detect sexually-transmitted infections. And it's true, now in most major cities you can get a free test for those but privacy is something that women are still willing to pay for and this is a market opportunity. This is not just like charity.
Aminatou: Yeah, and here's the thing: male-dominated funders miss so much stuff. Missed the moon cups, missed the period panties, missed the sexual assault reporting tools, missed the mammogram apps, and missed . . .
Ann: Oh, missed fertility apps for so long. They're now just getting . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, it's just like I never -- the eyes are never on the prize but at the same time you realize that when women have these great ideas they're shut out of the system that would help them create this.
Ann: Right. Well and also the questions that you're used to asking -- I mean one thing that I was struck by with that quote in the article about investors saying "Oh my god, what do you mean it could only scale to 50% of the population maximum?"
Aminatou: I know, selfish, which is what men do all the time.
Ann: I know, but it's like actually that's a lot of people. It's not like she's talking about two percent of the population.
Ann: This is like -- I mean 50% is a lot. That's more than the super wealthy people who are going to buy your vegan meal delivery service for 200 dollars a week.
Aminatou: I know, but you don't think it's a lot when your lizard brain doesn't think that women are full people. That's exactly what happens.
Aminatou: It's true.
Ann: I hope everyone you're pitching your startups to does not heal this.
Aminatou: Oh, I've already been blackballed from Silicon Valley pitching. [Laughs]
Ann: Is it because you called them out on their lizard brains?
Aminatou: Yes, because you know, me and Mark Andreessen are in a war and so clearly it's like I'm never going to get money. I'm going to have to start one of those Panama Papers shell company type things if I'm ever asking for money. The people here are tired of me.
Ann: I mean, wow, Panama Paper shell company in order to get funding? I don't even know how that . . . I don't understand how that Venn diagram overlaps.
Aminatou: Listen, this has always been my dream to just start a company and have a dummy man as the face of it but everything else is like women run the whole show. But I'm like we need a tall . . .
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: We need a tall, blonde man to take all the meetings for us.
Ann: Isn't this the plot of a Whoopi Goldberg movie from the '80s where she pretends to be the administrative assistant but she's really running things because no one would take her seriously as the boss?
Aminatou: Oh my god, Ann.
Ann: It is.
Aminatou: Perfect transition, because you know who else just got into the period game? Whoopi fucking Goldberg.
Ann: Whoopi! Yes.
Aminatou: Whoopi I am not happy with for a lot of things these days because her opinions on issues such as rape and sexual assault on The View can be really problematic but I feel like she's coming back to the right side with this. So Whoopi got into the medical marijuana game by launching this new line of medical marijuana products that's designed for women. She's doing it with this woman who's an edibles maker -- which dream job maybe? Maybe -- called Maya Elisabeth and the line is called Whoopi and Maya.
Ann: Yeah, so basically the point is weed-infused products for cramps and PMS and period pain and all of that stuff which those of us who live in the great state of California and other places where it is pretty much legal to consume marijuana for this purpose have been aware of for a long time. I am really curious about science-wise what are you doing that's different that is specifically great for cramps that my wonderful dispensary is not telling me about?
Aminatou: Right? I'm just like I really want to know, because the problem is there's not a ton of research on the benefits of medical marijuana because the federal government won't let people research what's going on. So most of your research has to be personal and figure out what it is. But I'm like I'm really curious to see what some of these oils do because in all of the press that I've seen about it Whoopi and Maya really push home this idea that marijuana can be super helpful for period pain, and for those of us who have debilitating cramps, it's like who knows? Anecdotally I can tell you that I believe this works.
Aminatou: But I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice, so . . .
Ann: You know there's that Drake lyric in What's My Name? where he says weed, white wine, I come alive in the nighttime.
Ann: This is like what happens when you've had a day of cramps.
Aminatou: I know, right?
Ann: Or is it good weed, white wine? I'm not sure. But anyway Whoopi is basically monetizing a Drake lyric which I 100% support.
Aminatou: I know. One of the reasons too that I'm kind of excited about this, as like a small aside by Whoopi being a lady ganjapreneur, is that did you read that thing in BuzzFeed by Gina's lady friend Amanda Lewis about . . .
Ann: Shout out Amanda Lewis, yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah, that wrote about how black people are shut out of the weed boom? And that's true. It's like black people disproportionately go to jail for selling marijuana that white people disproportionately smoke.
Aminatou: In fact I want to look it up because she had my favorite line in the whole . . . I like died when I read this. . Oh, here it is. She's like "The few black people who have managed to start cannabis businesses or apply for licenses have sometimes found themselves subject to discriminatory law enforcement." Ugh, America. "They've been followed by the stigma that black people who sell pot are dangerous criminals and white people who do the same are goofy hippies." So real with the goofy hippie line.
Ann: Oh, totally.
Aminatou: So, so, so real. So it's like Whoopi and Montel are essentially the only two public black people who are going into medical marijuana and might maybe make money out of it. Like Nick Lachey is making . . . Nick Lachey is essentially a who and he's making bazillions of dollars.
Ann: Well there's Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg and a couple of other names but they're all people who have gotten famous in other ways.
Aminatou: Yeah, they're not selling volume, you know what I mean? They're selling like marijuana accessories; they're not selling marijuana, which is different.
Ann: I mean KK, I heard all about it on this podcast.
Aminatou: [Laughs] KK. Oh my god, yeah, no. But I cannot believe that Nick Lachey is a weed kingpin. That's insane to me.
Ann: That's like a great shame on our country that if he can make it and Whoopi doesn't, that will be the worst.
Aminatou: Yeah, or that Snoop Dogg doesn't, that's crazy to me.
Ann: But it's interesting . . .
Aminatou: Do better about your weed smokers.
Ann: Because, okay, so not just rappers or whatever. Many, many famous people who play in the weed game, it's kind of jokey, right? It's almost like a brand name that's . . .
Aminatou: Wiz Khalifa does not joke with those gold papers. [Laughs]
Ann: Stop, I mean okay, beautiful accessories. But Whoopi told USA Today "I don't want this to be a joke to people. It's not a joke to women." Which is true.
Aminatou: Yeah, no, I totally agree. I think they did the launch really well. They're doing it very slowly. There's like four products to start with. There's a balm, there's a tincture, there's something called a sipping chocolate which I'm worried about, and a bath soak. What I want to try is the balm and the bath soap. Tinctures I have a hard time with.
Ann: You know I don't really do baths. I mean I love a tincture. I feel like this is a perfect split. We're going to try all the products.
Aminatou: Ann, I just had the perfect vision of you trying to take a bath in a Trump hotel, like ginormous tub.
Ann: Oh my god, don't . . . we stayed at Ivanka's dad's hotel and I took maybe the first bath of my life there.
Aminatou: Yeah, you have to explain to people your aversion to bath's. It's not like you're a weirdo; it's like this is a real -- it's an engineering problem.
Ann: It's an engineering problem. If you are a very tall woman and you have primarily rented places that do not have deep, luxurious bath tubs -- I mean I do not live in luxury -- it is cold.
Aminatou: You live in emotional luxury, booboo.
Ann: I do. I do. But, you know, in terms of amenities.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Also, yeah, those Trump hotels are nice. Whew.
Ann: Exactly. So anyway, the bathtub there was deep enough . . . god, this is going to sound like a Trump endorsement. We are not endorsing Ivanka's dad for his tubs.
Aminatou: We are not endorsing Ivanka's dad but the man makes a fabulous hotel.
Ann: It is true.
Aminatou: Also they smell so good. Oh my god.
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: You know, I'm like don't be president. Just be a hotel mogul. Like how many more hotels do we have to give him so he stops wanting to be president? Maybe that's the solution.
Ann: It's true. It's like a bratty infant. You're like do you want three more hotels? Three more hotels and you'll stop?
Aminatou: Yeah. Obama should give him some hotel stimulus money. It's like give him the money and go home.
Ann: [Laughs] Well I was very stimulated by the bathtub in Trump's hotel. But at home not really a thing and therefore the bath soak or whatever Whoopi is selling, not my jam.
Aminatou: Yeah. I really want to try these. Ugh, okay, Whoopi and Maya. Stay tuned. Maybe we'll review some for you.
[Music and Ads]
Ann: Okay, in other political menstrual news have you heard what's going on in Indiana?
Aminatou: Ann, when is something with period news not going on in Indiana? Because Mike Pence is the worst -- the governor of Indiana is the worst human. The worst human.
Ann: A truly terrible human.
Aminatou: Like so awful. He's so awful. I am livid all of the time any time I see his name in anything. The man doesn't believe in science. That's just like baseline what you need to know. And he hates women.
Ann: So most recently he signed an anti-choice bill that basically says doctors -- and not only doctors, but women -- are liable if they have an abortion because of the fetus's race, sex, or diagnosis of a disability. And not only that, requires that the fetal remains be cremated or buried even if it's from a miscarriage.
Aminatou: And it's so infuriating because, one, it's just trying to criminalize lady behavior. But two, miscarriage is a serious, emotional thing as is an abortion and they're just preying on your feelings in that moment to make you feel like shit. It's like essentially you could pass something that is an enormous blood clot which some miscarriages look like and they make you do an entire ceremony for it and make you feel like a criminal. They're awful humans.
Ann: Well, and to be clear, and this is what's always infuriating about this stuff, it takes people who are opposed to the law pointing out that this is totally absurd. Like do you really expect that everything that could be a miscarriage, that we're going to hold a funeral and bury it in the backyard? People who actually pass these laws, I'm like did you think this through? Is this a joke? Are you putting this out there just to make us angry?
Aminatou: Yeah, no, it's so crazy. And it's like when you read some of these bills, right, the language is so vague. And Mike Pence, people like him, they always pretend like they care about women. I'm like who are all these Hoosier women that are petitioning their governor to talk about all of this stuff? You know, it doesn't exist. It's policing women's bodies.
Ann: Well, and so of course brilliant, brilliant women in Indiana and elsewhere are taking this legislation super seriously and are calling Governor Pence's office to report that they've gotten their period which, let's be real, might contain a super, super tiny infantile embryo. We don't know. We don't know. And the results are pretty hilarious.
Aminatou: I know. Some of these are really funny, i.e. "Good morning. I just wanted to call and let the good governor know that I'm still not pregnant since he seems to be so worried about women's reproductive rights. Irritated lady on the other end of the phone: and can I get your name, please?" Ugh, I love calling government offices because they have to take your name to report it. And she answers "Sure. It's Not Pregnant Laura."
Ann: Ugh. I feel like I want to change all my lady friends' names in my phone to like Not Pregnant Amina, Not Pregnant Gina, Not Pregnant Sarah. [Laughs]
Aminatou: [Laughs] Let's be real, we already do a dance every month when everybody checks in that they're not pregnant. So oh my goodness, I just cannot . . . Ann, Mike Pence is like top five humans that irritate the ugh out of me. I just can't stand him.
Ann: I know. I mean . . .
Aminatou: Men with no upper lip, don't trust them.
Ann: [Laughs] I mean it is a pretty good . . . I can't even call it a rule of thumb. Rule of lip. [Laughs]
Aminatou: I know, it's a thing. The only person in my no upper lip that I let slide is Aidan from Sex and the City. That guy has no upper lip.
Ann: I mean everybody loves John Corbett.
Aminatou: I know. But sometimes I worry. I'm just like is it because we don't know enough about John Corbett?
Ann: I know. You know what? That's the problem with celebrity crushes, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Aminatou: I know. I've been waiting for the John Corbett other shoe to drop for ten years and it's so far okay but I do worry because the upper lip rule is very -- so far, so good. It has not failed me once.
Ann: Right. So if anyone feels like calling Mike Pence to report a probably miscarriage or possible miscarriage, a.k.a. your period, I highly encourage it. A lot of these transcripts don't contain graphic descriptions of exactly what's happening. My personal point-of-view is anything chunky should definitely be supported.
Aminatou: [Laughs] I'm going to send pictures. I'm going to send pictures and be like "Did you get my email?"
Ann: "What do you think, is it a miscarriage? Wasn't sure whether to report." Photo of the toilet bowl.
Aminatou: I know. These people are so despicable. Not okay.
Ann: Also, yeah, it's also so rude to women who have actually gone through the experience of having a miscarriage that is very, very painful to them emotionally and physically and trying to politicize that experience in order to restrict all women's rights is just doubly grotesque to me.
Aminatou: No, no. To me that's the heart of it, you know? It's really making a farce of people's very serious lived experience is emotional and just doing that under the guise that you care about all women.
Ann: What if we could get Mike Pence to fund the tampon of the future to scan for any size of pregnancy?
Aminatou: Oh my god, if we could turn the tampon of the future into a weapon that neutralizes Mike Pence I would also be happy to do that.
Ann: [Laughs] Yeah, I love it. Don't pull the string. You don't know what . . .
Aminatou: I know. Then he's just trapped in a bubble, like forced to live among blood clots for the rest of his life.
Ann: Ugh, yes. Like floating in a giant vial.
Aminatou: Yeah, I'm like hello, you live in the endometrium now. Good luck.
Ann: The Endometrium, a horror film about Mike Pence's future.
Ann: Okay, well, in related news -- and this is just kind of a footnote -- many wonderful listeners tweeted at us this underwear that has a photo of Ted Cruz's face printed in the sort of crotch area so you can menstruate all over it. What I could not glean from this article is whether it's actually period underwear or whether in order to menstruate on Ted Cruz's face you actually have to wreck your clothing and sofa.
Aminatou: It looks like it was an attachable face, the blood dumpster.
Aminatou: It's like an attachable, like there was a Sarah Palin one, there was -- and I was like I can't handle this. Or no, never mind. I'm looking at the thing now. Oh, what's attachable is a heat pack. That's genius. You should patent that, lady. Oh, Ann, the heat pack, is it on the front or the back? Doesn't matter. Feels good.
Aminatou: And then the blood dumpster is the one that has a face of a politician on it, which I don't know, this is still too much work.
Ann: I don't feel like I want to spend money on a sticker of Ted Cruz's face even to menstruate on it but I can understand how someone would get a thrill.
Aminatou: Yeah. Also the idea of menstruating on someone as an insult to them.
Ann: Ooh, yeah.
Aminatou: I'm like not onboard for that.
Ann: It's true. I menstruate on myself and loved ones regularly.
Aminatou: Yeah, I'm like I free bleed out of love. Sorry. This is . . .
Ann: It's true.
Aminatou: Hard pass on this product for me.
Ann: Ted Cruz doesn't deserve my precious, nutrient-rich, I don't know, genetic material heavy period blood.
Aminatou: Yeah, but also how mad would he be? That's the best part, because he's so grossed out by it. Catch-22.
Ann: Ugh, I know. No right answer, which you feel . . .
Aminatou: [Laughs] That's right. Do what you feel with your period blood. Personally I'm saving it all in a jar.
Aminatou: What else is going on? Oh, another fun thing that people send to us that I know we shared on social media is this amazing kid from Occidental College, Chance Ward, who wrote this really great note on their Facebook about having tampons for the ladies in their fanny packs and it was really funny to me.
Ann: Basically it's a case for why people who don't menstruate could potentially carry menstrual products and be supportive to people who do menstruate because what is the big deal?
Aminatou: Also having a fanny pack at the gym, like top three boss moves. I'm just like that's genius.
Ann: Yeah. They set the scene by saying "I'm getting my life together to Truffle Butter on the elliptical and wearing a fanny pack." I mean wow. Inspirational.
Aminatou: I know. Ugh. Also I just love the line "Me being me, I hit that girl with girl, you Gucci, before reaching down into my fanny pack and giving her one of the tampons I keep in there. By the look on her face you would've thought I did a magic trick and pulled 36 titty-tasseled bunny rabbits out of the damn bag." I was like thank you Chance Ward, MVP 2016.
Ann: Ugh, yeah. I really hope when I read things like that, I start to sway and think I believe the children are our future.
Ann: I want to live in the Chance future where this is just not at all controversial and if you are a generally decent person who doesn't menstruate you're just like yeah, I'm not grossed out when my friends menstruate.
Aminatou: I know, that's what Chance Ward said. He's like "Why don't y'all love y'alls friends that menstruate?" And I was like put that on a t-shirt.
Ann: I know. I know.
Aminatou: Put that on a t-shirt and send it to Mike Pence. "Why don't y'all love y'all constituents that menstruate?" Why?
Ann: [Laughs] Oh my god, we have some power lady contacts in Indiana who could make that happen.
Aminatou: Oh my god. Ugh.
Aminatou: That's the thing, right? It's that in all of these states that are so awful for women some of the best women live.
Ann: Oh my god, completely. And that's what's so horrifying, you know? It's like it's not like the one woman who's quoted in favor of the bill. It's like no, people like Chance live in states like Indiana.
Aminatou: Ugh, who are champions.
Ann: Who are champions, yeah.
Aminatou: Man, so much period news to catch up on. What else is going on?
Ann: We honestly went to put together the agenda for this episode and we were like wow, it's 100% period news. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, let's just talk about periods today. I love it. We're going to lose the like 72 dudes that listen to this podcast. [Laughs]
Ann: They didn't make it far enough to feel guilty after hearing that anecdote about Chance. If they made it that far I don't think we'll lose them.
Aminatou: I know, but I'm going to say this: if you're a dude that has hung in this far, you're also the real MVP. So, you know . . .
Ann: The few, the proud, the 4% of our listening audience. Men. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Literally 4% on the survey.
Ann: I know. We took a survey. We know. You're just like you are . . . yeah. I don't mean to give pats on the back because we all know this is just basic but dudes . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, that's right. But I'm just like you know what? Hang in there. Hang in there. Also here's the thing. You know, when the revolution comes, like we're shooting people and sending them to the endometrium, it's like a place . . . it's like only men who know . . . like when our feminist Mad Max scenario comes in, it's like the only men who will survive are the men who know about this stuff. Let's be real.
Ann: I know that everybody interpreted Mad Max as pretty feminist for a mainstream action film but I was still like I want to see the version where the dictator and the party in power is women. It's hard.
Aminatou: Ugh. Maybe that'll be the third installment of Mad Max. But it was pretty good, I'm not going to lie. I enjoyed . . .
Ann: I mean Mad Max Utopia 2017. I can't wait.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Please, it took that guy 20 years to make a movie. You're not getting the all-lady Mad Max for like 20 more years.
Ann: We'll be here, like episode 600-something, being like "Have you seen? They finally made Mad Max Utopia." [Laughs]
Aminatou: Anyway, let's bring this back.
Ann: Bring it back.
Aminatou: I'm just like, Ann, my body is so tired.
Ann: Okay. Well I'm going to make it easy on you and read an email we got from a listener.
Aminatou: Okay, tell me.
Ann: Okay. Megan wrote to us and said "During my monthly drug store pilgrimage I opted to seek pain medication for PMS-related cramps." Wow, she sounds like a drug commercial already.
Ann: Opted to seek pain medication. Real talk. It's like for me it's more like growl-stumbling to the pain relief aisle. Anyway, she says "I noticed the major brands and generic brands of targeted medication for PMS include symptom relief for 'irritability.'"
Aminatou: Stay woke, girl.
Ann: I know. "Perhaps it's because I haven't bought targeted medication for a long time but it struck me as not just irritating but rather infuriating that a reasonable, measured response to extreme discomfort is being cited as a medical symptom this pill can cure. Am I wrong in thinking these claims are reflecting value judgments and essentially policing how women should react to discomfort?"
Aminatou: Girl, you're not wrong. You're not wrong.
Ann: Preach. I mean, yeah, what man would not be irritable if it felt like there was a baby wolverine in his abdomen?
Aminatou: [Laughs] Trying to claw out.
Aminatou: We've already litigated on this very podcast that if men got periods they would give you serious drugs for this stuff.
Ann: Serious drugs. But it's funny too because obviously I hear those drug ads too and irritability is not something that I'm on feminist alert for. I'm just like ugh. Anyway, props to Megan for calling this out. And she continues. She says "I ended up buying generic acetaminophen but probably would've been happier with the diuretic and antihistamine they throw into the PMS products." Wow, she's really on top of it. "Not add three dollars happier. Not no longer irritable happier. But at least more comfortable in my body."
Aminatou: This lady is so woke. Like so woke, it's kind of crazy. In fact this reminded me of another listener mail that we got a while ago by this awesome lady who said that she's a certified pharmacy tech. Rachel -- I won't say from where because maybe your job is really important -- but Rachel who is in a very embattled state right now for women . . . [Laughs] She said "In its plain Jane form, as it's listed in the drug facts on the box," so this is Midol, "it consists of three things: acetaminophen or your friendly neighborhood Tylenol, caffeine," and this thing I can't pronounce called Pyrilamine maleate which is a first-generation antihistamine and a cousin of Benadryl. Midol is $10.99 for 40, for like 40 pills at the local three-letter chain right now, which is 27.5 cents a pill." Ugh, love your pharmacy tech. "Or you could get a 200 count bottle of generic Excedrin which contains two of Midol's active ingredients but with the added bonus of aspirin for $12.99 which is 6.5 cents a pop and have a stockpile of pain reliever goodness for periods to come." Like they're always trying . . . the lady techs, they're always trying to bamboozle us. It's like they put the shit in a pink box, make it like ten dollars more, and they're like "This is what you need."
Ann: I mean I've got to say shout out to generic Excedrin which has gotten me through pretty much every cramp disaster and every truly catastrophic hangover I've had in probably the past ten years. It's the best.
Aminatou: Oh my god. Also remember maybe last year there was that great article in the New York Times about the woman scientist who I forget what her course of study was but she was studying PMS. She said that amazing thing about how maybe those days that you have PMS and you're irritable and you're upset, that's your real self.
Ann: Oh yeah.
Aminatou: Then just think about how the other days in the month you're just accommodating assholes in your life. [Laughs] I was like that is so real.
Ann: I mean totally, totally plausible. Or you could take the interpretation that listener Megan takes which is that you're irritable because you're in physical pain and discomfort which totally makes sense and talking about it like it's a separate symptom is so infuriating.
Aminatou: Yeah. You're like there is literally a wolf trying to come out of my body. Of course I'm irritable right now.
Ann: I just heard a Shakira she-wolf a-woo as you said that. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Wow, Shakira reference. Deep, yo.
Ann: I mean it just happened. I can't explain.
Aminatou: Oh my god, okay, now I really want to hear that song. That's perfect.
Aminatou: What else is going on in the world of periods?
Ann: I mean there's always . . . I feel like there's always news.
Aminatou: I'm currently experiencing a very awful period so I'm also just . . . I think that also colors how annoyed I am about everything right now.
Ann: Maybe that's why you're sluggish.
Aminatou: I mean definitely. It's like there's no iron in my body. Also I just remember that in a moment of stress today I made an Instagram account instead of taking a nap. [Laughs] It's all coming back to me now. I made a Hillary Clinton Instagram account that I may or may not keep up. It's going to be really funny.
Ann: Oh my god, did you make it public?
Aminatou: Uh, yeah. What did I call it? Where's my phone? LOLs. Instagram.com/foreverhillz with a Z.
Aminatou: It's pretty good, Ann. Check out the couple posts. It's pretty good.
Ann: I cannot wait. You know I love . . .
Aminatou: That was my stress moment for the day and I just remembered it.
Ann: I definitely went through a phase where I stress created Tumblrs but I don't think I've ever stress created an Instagram.
Aminatou: Oh man, remember when we used to sit on so many Tumblr properties? [Laughs] Just squatters.
Ann: Oh my god, I told someone recently how many Tumblrs I had registered and it was like an Internet civilian. It was not someone who was playing deep with registering lots of random URLs.
Ann: And they could not believe. I was like "Yeah, like 40 or so."
Aminatou: Yeah, I went through my Marie Kondo for my Internet presence and when it got to deleting all those Tumblrs or removing myself from admin of them it was maybe the funniest day.
Ann: Ugh, my god.
Aminatou: Like I am here forever. You know who else does that all the time is friend of the podcast Rembert Browne. Like maybe the number one Tumblr squatter in the universe.
Ann: Sometimes you just want the name.
Aminatou: He'll have a one-word idea and he's like "Black Yelp? That should exist. Blackyelp.tumblr.com."
Aminatou: [Laughs] And they're just all . . . it's like every day his inbox is a new notification for "Your Tumblr blah, blah, blah turned one year old today." [Laughs]
Ann: And you're like whoa, that's what the Internet was doing a year ago.
Aminatou: Oh my god, yeah, no, it is crazy. What else is going on?
Ann: I found more period news while we were chit-chatting.
Aminatou: Oh my god. Tell me what else is going on in the world of periods?
Ann: It's an article in Refinery 29 about a tampon alternative that is meant to make period sex less messy.
Aminatou: What? Oh! This is the thing that all the tech people were upset about the other day and it did not click. Explain to me why we're upset about this.
Ann: I don't know why we're upset. I'm just going to read you the description right now. It says "This soft, disc-shaped menstrual barrier wants to save you from the mess of period sex by blocking off your cervix. You can wear it for up to 12 hours and with its sleek packaging and one-time use it bears a stark resemblance to a condom but it's really more of a soft period cup that is meant to make period sex more like regular sex." What?
Aminatou: The reason . . . okay, I clicked on the website for this and first of all this is a bad website for a tech company. Like wrong.
Ann: It's also called flex.
Aminatou: There's so many problems happening. More importantly there are pictures of people laying in bed. There's pictures of the product. They don't show you anywhere how it works. Like this is going to fail.
Ann: I mean from what I can tell it just blocks your cervix so you don't bleed all over somebody's penis or hand or whatever is up there.
Aminatou: Um, you know what? No. I do not support this product.
Ann: I mean I feel like this goes back to . . .
Aminatou: Also, Ann, this website is so bad. If you go into the shop it's a thing called sacred uterus and all they're selling is American Apparel tank tops. Is this a joke website or is this a for real website?
Ann: Is this what mainstream feminism hath wrought?
Aminatou: I don't know. I'm sorry. There's too much menstruation stigma to now add a product that's like "Here, cover your cervix with this little cervix burka and you can have sex now." Period sex is messy. If you don't want to have it, don't have it. If you want to have it, lay a towel down or do it in the shower. That's how it works.
Ann: Nature's lube. What is your problem with that?
Aminatou: Ugh. I just can't handle it. Also doctors say that period sex may or may not help with alleviating your cramps so just saying.
Ann: I mean it can't hurt to have those muscles working in a way that feels good as opposed to a way that's painful.
Aminatou: Oh my god. Also I just like . . . I don't trust the people who made this website to put anything safe inside my vagina. This website is so bad.
Ann: I mean, okay, I get that the website is bad . . . [Laughs]
Aminatou: Ann, I'm sorry. This is just my professional advice. I'm so angry about this because of how much press it got. Hold on, why were people genuinely . . . I saw people get mad about this but I was like you know what I don't need is . . .
Ann: I can hear you furiously typing in the background.
Aminatou: I know. I'm just like -- people were upset about this and I was like I don't need technology humans talking to me about vaginas. What happened?
Ann: I don't know. I think what happened is someone created something that is like the summer's eve douche to cover up vagina smells but applied to periods. Like cover up your period. It's like it didn't even happen, so you can have sex with someone who is grossed out by periods.
Aminatou: Okay, here is also . . . here's the pitch by the founder: Flex is so shockingly comfortable that women tell us they forget they're on their period while they're wearing it. I don't believe that's ever going to be true. Second of all, we've built a product that allows couples to increase their opportunities to have sex by 23%.
Aminatou: The great tragedy of people avoiding sex on their period is that this is really the time when women want it the most.
Ann: [Gasps] Don't use it against us.
Aminatou: [Sighs] And then 25% of the trial sign-ups are from men. Oh my god. If your boyfriend or your sexual partner gives you a Flex to try you should put it over their face.
Ann: I mean this is the perfect opportunity to play No Flex Zone.
Aminatou: They know better.
Ann: I mean you know better, right?
Aminatou: Oh my god. Like ban all of these people.
Ann: Also I will only accept this once someone has created something that's like a semen catcher to reduce the mess. Just plug his penis so you don't have it all over everything.
Aminatou: I know. Thread it around the urethra.
Ann: Men say they don't even notice they're not ejaculating. Like fuck off.
Aminatou: Oh, the only thing that we didn't talk about is that a million years ago this UK company started offering menstruation leave as paid leave.
Ann: What? I missed this completely.
Aminatou: Yes. Somebody -- like a couple of people, I think even one woman who works there, emailed us. But yeah, it's called the Bexter Company in the United Kingdom and they -- yeah, it's like their policy kicked in in March. What did they say? They're like -- oh yeah, at Coexist we are very understanding if someone is in pain, no matter what kind, they're encouraged to go home. For us we wanted a policy in place that recognizes and allows women to take time for their body's natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness.
Ann: Oh, cool.
Aminatou: Are we all working on our UK work visas? [Laughs] Because I'm ready to move.
Ann: I mean that just sweetens the deal if we have to move because Ivanka's dad wins the election.
Aminatou: I know. So apparently, according to this article that I'm looking at but I'm also a little tired so do your own Googles, companies like Nike and several companies from China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea also do this.
Ann: I mean it's also interesting too. The language matters so much of being like "Ew, it's gross, stay home," versus like yeah, if you're in pain and need a day, take it. I don't know. Somehow the policy language surrounding it really made me love it more.
Aminatou: I know. It's great. They were like the purpose of this policy initiative is to create a positive approach to menstruation and the menstrual cycle that empowers women and men and supports the effectiveness and well-being of the organization to restore the menstrual cycle as the asset it is. What? This is crazy.
Ann: That's so incredible.
Aminatou: It's so incredible I feel like I'm almost getting trolled. Like what? Ann, this is a lot of period talk. How do you feel?
Ann: I mean I feel . . . it's really funny. Obviously we are very pro-period but I feel a little worried that we're going to alienate our non-period having audience, not just people who identify as men, but generally . . .
Aminatou: That's real. No, that's real. Not every woman menstruates and menstruation is not a sign of being a woman. I think that's fair.
Ann: Right. So I don't know, I feel like I obviously care about it. I feel political -- it's politically important to talk about menstruation in a way that is just like whatever. This is just a thing that happens. And yet a whole episode, I'm a little bit like hmm, was that okay? [Laughs]
Aminatou: Listen, I think that it was okay, especially seeing that now we have this very thoughtful caveat that we didn't even plan at the end.
Ann: Well it's because you asked me how I felt. [Laughs]
Aminatou: [Laughs] Tell me your feelings. Yeah, I'm just bleeding all over everywhere. In the words of Donald Trump, "There's blood coming out of her everywhere."
Aminatou: Yeah, I'm like this is why I care.
Ann: Right. And I'm out of wine so I'm irritable.
Aminatou: Oh my god, do not run out of wine. That's a problem.
Ann: We've got some brief announcements for those of you who are coming to our D.C. show on Sunday, April 10th. The first is super exciting which is that we're going to have a very special guest. Congresswoman Donna Edwards will be joining us onstage for some real talk about being a woman in politics and about her primary race which is happening right now. Ugh, so excited to geek out with her. The other thing that's going on is some fabulous listeners are going to be collecting menstrual products to donate to women in the D.C. area who are homeless or otherwise in need of these things. So if you are coming to the D.C. show please bring some tampons, pads, etc. to donate to that cause. It would be so awesome to be able to leave D.C. knowing that we've given this huge supply to the women there who need it. So yeah, shout out to Donna Edwards, bring some tampons, and we cannot wait to see you on Sunday.
Let's talk about other things like where to find us on the Internet which is callyourgirlfriend.com. Go to our website's survey and take the survey and tell us what you think about everything and tell us about yourself. We want to get to know you. You can also find us on Twitter -- we've tweeted it -- that's twitter.com/callyrgf.
Aminatou: Yeah, we're very active on the Twitter. You can find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/callyrgf. You can find us on Facebook, you can look that up yourself, and . . .
Ann: And this podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.
Aminatou: Gina Delvac.
Ann: Gina D.
Aminatou: See you on the Internet!
Ann: See you on the Internet.