I’ve had many of the links for this post for over a year. Unfortunately, I was sure the issue would come around again. It did.
Last week, Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon while letting her period flow freely. Yes, free bleeding is about women refusing to use sanitary products during their periods. (And no, it isn’t a hoax. I will address that claim in a minute.) These women argue that sanitary products are expensive and that women are forced by patriarchy pressure and shame tactics to use them. While I agree that women should not be ashamed or embarrassed about periods, shame isn’t why women started to wear sanitary products.
As any woman who has done her own laundry can attest, blood stains. Tampons might be more expensive than some think they should be, but they are certainly cheaper than rapidly replacing clothes that are stained or worn from scrubbing. Furthermore, which creates more environmental waste, trashing some compressed cotton bullets or a monthly assortment of spent clothing? Furniture presents a problem, too. Under the free bleeding plan, women will need to spend at least five days a month avoiding sitting on un-wipeable surfaces (or they’ll have to add scrubbing upholstery and linens to their already overbooked days).
Then, we have the sanitary concerns, which should be evident in the name of the products. Blood carries all sorts of biological hazards. If women bleed freely, then what are the health implications of public seating in classrooms, offices, airports, movie theaters, and public transport? Officials post public service signs about hygiene to stop transmission of germs and viruses. Next to the the “wash your hands” and “cover your cough” signs commonly found in public spaces, will officials need to post requests that menstruating women not sit down anywhere?
In the storm of protests that those public health recommendations would start, what would free bleeding women expect? That all public facilities create some safe and wipeable space for women on their periods? While women across oceans are trying to break away from their Red Tents, we would demand them! Free bleeders’ efforts to remove the shame some women feel about menstruation would end up feeding it.
Or perhaps free bleeders would simply expect the facilities’ janitorial staffs to clean up their blood? And at home, they would have their housekeepers spend hours a month scrubbing their couch cushions. And so, onto all of the other nonsense that is free bleeding, free bleeders might add a perfect example of how trendy western feminism only serves elite, progressive, usually white women.
That is probably why some panicked about 18 months ago when the idea started to trend. They tried to bury the idea by calling it a hoax.
Free bleeding is folly all around. But it isn’t fake. It isn’t even satire.
Early in 2014 some of the players at 4chan (think Reddit without any rules) tried to get #freebleeding to trend. They have a long history of running false flag campaigns, making some of our culture’s more ridiculous ideas go viral. They want to expose the ridiculousness to the general public and discredit the ideas and their cheerleaders. 4chan members made tweets and blog posts calling for women to stop being period shamed into using sanitary products.
The tweets started to trend. Young western women have been so well trained to think of anything exclusive to women as a weakness encouraged by patriarchy that free bleeding feels like a meaningful rebellion to many. But it is such a colossally bad idea (see above) that a few saner feminist pundits knew they had to stop the all the “likes” and “shares.” As soon as they realized that 4chan was seeding the trend, panicked articles popped up, like this one at The Daily Dot or this one at the Australian young fem mag Birdee, calling the #freebleeding movement a hoax. But buried at the end of the posts or in the comments, readers would learn that 4chan is publicizing actual ideas. According to Know Your Meme:
The concept of free bleeding has been discussed online since the early 2000s, with the earliest known article on the topic posted by the women’s reproductive health blog All About My Vagina on March 31st, 2004.
4Chan created the hashtag #freebleeding, not the idea. In August 2012, Feministing posted, “Letting ourselves bleed.” 4Chan lifted many of the photos from earnest sites, such as a May 2012 “There Will Be Blood” photo art collection. Since the 4chan false-flag play, I’ve found a Spanish protest involving white pants. In March after complaints, Instagram apologized for removing an art project photo of a woman who had bled through her pajamas and onto her sheets. The complaints stated that Instagram had removed the pictures, not that Instagram was feeding into a hoax.
The idea of a hoax still persists. It really was the best defense the more reasonable feminists could use given how feminism has laid waste to the critical thinking skills of modern western women. Unfortunately for them, the idea of free bleeding is popular enough that Cosmopolitian published one of their writer’s experiments with free bleeding earlier this summer. (She decided against it for the hassle reasons and general discomfort, which was probably exacerbated by the fact that, according to her commenters, she was using the menstrual panties wrong.)
It seems many have forgotten the thanks we owe to the inventors of the tampon. And it seems many cannot see the absurdity of demonstrating against sanitary products while girls in the developing world need those same products so that they can stay in school and begin to achieve the equality that we take for granted.