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Let your flow go

by Lindsay Richardson March 4, 2014
Let your flow go

It seems that modern day menstruating feminists have an agenda: painting the town red

Graphic by Jenny Kwan

This week, IX Daily posted an exposé debunking the feminist concept of “free bleeding,” complete with pictures and tweets from angry women who are supposedly tired of hiding their monthly cycle from the public, primarily male, gaze.

“Free bleeding” implies that a woman abstains from using any kind of sanitary product during their period—no pads, tampons, or extra absorbent underwear. Menstrual blood, according to feminists, is meant to flow freely from the body and onto thighs, clothing or furniture.

Skeptical Internet audiences claimed that the concept was a hoax, only brought to light by a user from the website 4chan.org, attempting to give female activists a bad name. However, the concept is very real, and not entirely new.

Free bleeding has been subject to both controversy and intense discussion online since the early 2000s.The blog “Feministing” was among one of the first online forums to discuss the concept, which they claim is “more of a mindset than it is an action.”

In 2012, photographer Emma Arvida Bystrom published a series of photos on Vice.com entitled “There Will be Blood,” depicting women doing everyday, mundane things with menstrual blood fully visible, staining their clothes and freely running down their legs. The photos were meant to provoke thought and discussion about what is consistently considered to be “taboo.” This concept of menstrual activism, also known as menstrual anarchy or radical menstruation, aims to discuss and expose periods in a way that isn’t fetishized or highly stigmatized.

The feminist argument stands that throughout history, men have manipulated woman to be ashamed of their bodies and all of the natural, inherent, “empowering” feminine functions they perform. Today, the options and resources to “control” or “hide” menstruation are endless, and it is essentially the rejection of this control that inspires a woman to assert herself and experiment with her period.

More radical, outspoken women have taken to Twitter to express the belief that tampons are actually a patriarchal innovation imposed on women by societal norms, and using them is perpetuating a cycle of “oppression” and “self-rape.” The concept of allowing oneself to bleed freely, while daunting, is considered a means of social and sexual expression, a means to expose the concept of “period shaming,” normalize the sight of menstrual blood, while rejecting male control.

Activists consider it to also be an eco and wallet-friendly alternative to using tampons and pads. Others argue that free bleeding reduces a woman’s risk of suffering from side effects related to sanitary products, like toxic shock syndrome, a severe, potentially fatal blood infection that can be contracted by leaving a tampon in for too long.

To many woman, using sanitary products is a hygienic, considerate method to deal with the so-called “crimson wave.”

“[Time] has given us humans the advanced technological know-how to invent specific products to make our monthly easier to manage, in a more clean and discreet manner,” said columnist Adora Bull in a free bleeding rebuttal published through Modern Women Digest.

However, reactions from the public have been mixed. Female bloggers and their audience have either praised the concept, or denied its credibility and practicality.






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