I know this sounds like it’s going to be aimed at dudes. Not all dudes. That dude. The crass, unsympathetic guy who can’t help but ask if you’re PMSing the second you exhibit an emotion that somehow displeases him. Note the way that knowing smirk sneaks across his face as he realizes it’s that time of the month. Watch in his eyes as he discounts everything you were upset about in an instant based on that fact alone. Oh, how we all hate that guy.
But this isn’t about that guy.
It’s about us.
Ladies, for the love of all that is holy, stop blaming PMS when you fly off the handle.
Now before you jump down my throat, hear me out. I’m not saying your PMS isn’t valid. It totally is. I get it. I do. PMS is a thing. It affects some of us more than others, and I have found myself crying at the drop of a hat for seemingly no reason. I, too, have been more bothered by something than I thought I should be, only to look at a calendar and go, “Ahhhh, that makes sense now.” I hear people in my daily life, and see posts on Twitter, Facebook, etc. about how unstable someone feels and them chalking it up to PMS. Someone at my work just ripped someone a new asshole, and shrugged if off like the fact that it was PMS made it OK.
We hear this constantly.
“I know this is probably just PMS, but…”
“Sorry, I’m just PMSing pretty hard right now.”
I’m asking you to stop.
We live in a world right now where women still have to fight for any leadership position they attain. Women are not automatically seen as leaders. More often than not, women need to strip themselves of their femininity to be seen that way. We need to be tough (but not too tough, lest we be bitchy), attractive (but not too attractive, lest we be seen as slutty or distracting), and far more capable than the men seeking the same position. And, perhaps more importantly, in control of our emotions to the point of not exhibiting any. But that’s not why I’m asking you to stop.
I’m also not saying it’s right. I’m saying it’s the fucked up reality. John Boehner can cry openly with little to no provocation, and aside from some minor teasing no one questions his efficacy because of it. Powerful men showing emotion are seen as stronger, more caring. They’re respected for it. At the same time, women are being kept out because we’re too emotional, soft, sensitive, can’t be seen as powerful by the rest of the world, and can’t be trusted with the Big Red Button. I mean, fuck, it’s being questioned publicly if Chelsea Clinton being pregnant will effect Hilary’s potential 2016 run, because, you know, women stuff.
I’m not using political examples to be political, they’re just easy examples.
The point I’m getting at is that we’ve been fighting for a long time to be seen as the equals that we are, but there are still people out there who don’t see it that way. There are still people (read: men) in the world who think that we, as women, are not as capable of being leaders, of being in control of important situations, or doing anything of real global importance.
Let’s go back to our hypothetical insensitive dude from the beginning of the post, shall we? Because he’s why I am asking this of all of you. Every time we excuse an emotional outburst because PMS/hormones, we are reinforcing the belief that we are more emotionally unstable than our male counterparts. We’re telling them that a biological function of our perfect bodies renders us incapable of rationality for a week out of every month.
How is that helping us? That one week a month adds up to three solid months out of the year. Twenty-five percent of the time, give or take. If we expect to be given a free pass for three whole months worth of whatever because we just can’t control ourselves, it’s no wonder that some people have a hard time taking us as seriously as they should.
I think of every time that I’ve used PMS as an emotional get out of jail free card. Every time I’ve ripped someone’s head off and jumped right down their throat and halfheartedly apologized later by mumbling something about the fact that I was PMS-y. And when I’ve done that, even if it may have been true, it’s always been because that was easier than owning my responsibility in the interaction.
It’s way easier to blame something “out of our control”. Because that means I don’t have to do anything differently. I don’t have to try. It wasn’t my fault. Stepping up and apologizing sincerely inherently implies that wrong was done. That I did something I wish I hadn’t, and will try to avoid it moving forward. And I get that it isn’t always easy to do, but I’m saying that’s what we need to start doing.
I’m not asking you to ignore yourself for the greater good of feminism. I’m not asking you to stuff your emotions or ignore them. I’m not implying that you can instantly become totally in control of every aspect of your emotional experience. I get that this whole post makes me sound like a giant dick, or a shitty feminist.
And that’s fine. I haven’t really pissed anyone off yet on here. Maybe this was just the right time to start.
We need to be gentle with ourselves, but we also need to hold ourselves accountable. Stop apologizing for your bodies and the way that they function. Your body is perfect. The things it does are perfect. But we aren’t perfect. Don’t apologize for your PMS, apologize for your actions when it’s called for.
We can’t change the way others talk about us without first changing the way we talk about ourselves.