Michelle Wolf, everyone but Maggie Haberman's new favorite comedian, may have had a good week last week after her viral performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, but this week started off with what I can only assume is the nexus of every comedian's career: an interview with Terry Gross.
Wolf appeared on Fresh Air Monday, where she was predictably unapologetic and hilarious. She is, no surprise, not sorry she mentioned the fact that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has eyelids at the White House Correspondent's Dinner, although apparently that was very anti-feminist of her—at least according to a bunch of people who think abortion is wrong but purity balls are just fine. But the part of the interview that really made me think wasn't about the WHCD at all, and it occurred right after Terry played this clip from The Daily Show, where Wolf is a writer:
If you aren't in a safe space for television watching right now, Wolf is talking here with Trevor Noah about the Congressional committee that debated the Republican healthcare bill last year. As one might expect in 21st century U.S.A., there were approximately zero women on the panel.
"Thirteen white guys and no women," Wolf says. "They were able to get two Mormons but no women, which is weird for Mormons because normally they want more women." She then points out that those 13 men were debating a bill that would designate things like pregnancy, irregular periods, breast cancer, and endometriosis "pre-existing conditions," which would allow insurance companies to declare people with those conditions uninsurable. Do these guys hate their moms or what?
"You've done a lot of humor about what men don't understand about women's bodies," Terry Gross said to Wolf after the clip. "How did you start using that as a topic for humor?"
"I just think it's so laughable, the fact that there are these things that happen to women constantly, on a day-to-day basis, that we just don't talk about because men think they are icky," she said. "Periods are a thing that women are dealing with all time, not just when they have their periods. ... And we just don't talk about it."
She's right. And this is a problem. For vast numbers of women (and I know not all people who menstruate are women and not all women menstruate but I'm generalizing here so don't @ me), a fourth of every month is spent in physical pain or discomfort. Most men just don't get this very simple fact of life, and while I would love to blame them entirely for their ignorance, I think it's also women's fault. As Wolf says, we shield men from the truth. And the truth is that when you are bleeding, sometimes the only thing that will make you feel like your insides aren't being rung out like an old towel is bong rips, unhealthy amounts of ibuprofen, and, if you are even able, taking the day off and eating chips.
For many women, periods are a regularly (or irregularly) recurring nightmare, and perhaps if more men were aware of what we're going through, work and school and society would be more accommodating. As it is now, they are not. Take, for instance, Noble Charter schools in Chicago, a network of schools serving over 12,000 students that recently made news after it was revealed that they strictly limit when students can take bathroom breaks. To the school's credit, when girls inevitably bleed through their pants, they let them violate the usual dress code by tying shirts around their waists. How humane.
It's been said thousands of times, but if men had periods, period days would be mandatory days off. But they don't, and so women suffer in silence, at home, at school, at work. This is bullshit. Half the population bleeds every month and not only is physically uncomfortable, unlike other necessities, tampons, pads, and other sanitary products are taxed.
This needs to change. Not just the tampon tax, but the whole goddamn system. Alas, until there's a major shift in who is in power in our country, I doubt we'll see women making political decisions about women's health anytime soon. But there is something closer to home we can all do: We can talk about it. When it's that time of the month and your belly is swollen and your is skin breaking out and your mood is the toilet and your uterus is cramping up, talk, and talk loudly, to the men in your life. It may seem unthinkable now, but if you need to take a sick day to deal with Aunt Flo, don't lie and say you've got a migraine. Tell it like it is. Say, "Hey boss. There is blood leaking out of my body and the only thing that makes it feel better right now is popping pills and taking shits. I'm gonna stay home and do that." Ok, maybe don't say that, but make the men in your life understand that women's health issues deserve compassion, respect, time, and, at the very least, insurance. They won't figure it out on their own; we've got thousands of years of experience to tell us that.