By Megan S.
Dear Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Everywhere,
It is time for you to do what so many fear. It is time for you to earn your Red Badge of Courage, to acknowledge Aunt Flo, to welcome the crimson tide, to embrace Shark Week, to speak of the curse that musn't be mentioned. Yes, that's right, boys and girls, it's time for you to publicly recognize those five to seven days a month women of childbearing age have to endure.
It's time for you to stop making menstruation taboo and start writing about your characters getting their period.
I have never met a woman who likes getting their period. It's inconvenient, it's messy, it's uncomfortable, and that's if you're lucky. Sloughing off one's uterine lining is a fact of life and it makes absolutely no sense that it is rarely if ever addressed in genre fiction. It's absence can actually create gaping wide plot holes when your kick-ass heroine's time of the month isn't mentioned if it's relevant to the storyline.
How is it relevant, you ask? Blood is often a major plot point in our favorite genre. Look at Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series. Kate is constantly worried her secret will be discovered if someone gets ahold of a blood sample, so much so that she burns all of her used bandages. SO WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS WHEN SHE HAS HER PERIOD? Or how about Twilight? Edward flips out when Bella sheds a drop of blood. If she's a healthy young woman, she's losing a whole lot more than that every 28 days yet this somehow never comes into play. Even when blood isn't a major part of the story, it's still pertinent. Just think about every post apocalyptic novel where women are traveling in desolate areas for months at a time like in Ann Aguirre's Razorland. Unless they've reached a state of prolonged starvation, they're menstruating. Think about it. Heroines experiencing menses in a desperate situation can actually add to the drama.
I can think of only one instance anything related to a period was ever addressed in relation to a typical scifi and fantasy heroine. In the campy Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, cramps signaled that a bloodsucker was near. How fantastic and funny is that? I certainly wish my period came with superpowers.
There's no reason mentioning a character's period should be taboo. We don't force women to retreat to red tents any longer, so why do we treat it like it's a shameful subject? This, by the way, is exactly what you're doing when you omit it from storytelling if and when it's relevant. Your continued silence strengthens it's illicit status. Is this really what you want?
Dear authors, it's time for you to grow a pair of ovaries and start talking about periods.