If you’re reading the reviews of Michael Pearl’s Created To Need A Help Meet, you will know that he recently advised young husbands to track their wives’ cycles so they would know in advance when their wives were going to go all hormonal and ballistic on them—when it was their time of the month. Most of those who commented responded in horror to Michael’s suggestion, and I was horrified too—but in my case I was also struck by the familiarity.
My father tracks my mother’s cycle on his own personal calendar.
This is not okay.
My father seemed to think he was doing my mom a favor. This way when she got “hysterical” he could assure himself that it was just because it was “her time of the month”—and this way he would know what day of the month to stay out of her way or be especially sweet, lest she go off on him. But it always came across to me as incredibly condescending, and I vowed I would never let a man do that with me.
When a woman is upset, she does not need her partner concluding that it must just be “her time of the month,” she needs to actually be listened to and supported. Sure, sometimes women have outbursts about what turns out to be nothing, but men do that too. And as for being especially sweet, is there any reason men shouldn’t treat their partners with kindness and value every day of the month? (And vice versa, of course.) And if someone is having a hard day, yes, give them extra grace, but again, everyone has hard days. Indeed, while some women do have mood swings that may be connected with their periods, others don’t—and the effects of estrogen are far more complicated than the simplistic explanation I see constantly wielded. And then, of course, is the problem of confirmation bias.
But this is something that goes on far beyond a man actually tracking his wife’s circle. It’s rather pervasive. Women are dismissed all the time for just being “hormonal,” and “it must be her time of the month” is a common response to a woman’s anger. In fact, there was a time men argued women shouldn’t be elected to political office, because of their periods. Do women’s hormonal cycles sometimes make them break down crying or get angry for no reasons? Perhaps, but guess what? Everyone has hormones, not just women. Everyone has bad days, not just women. And you know what? I’ve seen this “she must be on her period” line used to dismiss women’s actual needs and actual concerns.
For the record, Sean has never tried tracking my cycles—though as a science geek, he thought it sounded like a cool idea when I told him about my dad tracking my mom’s cycles. (I set him straight on that quite quickly, though he still mentions it sometimes—for science!) How about the rest of you? Do any of you out there have stories of being dismissed as just being “emotional” because it’s your “time of the month”?