July 13, 2014
EN 324 Essay One Just as we hear the phrase “like a girl” used in a derogatory way, girls are typically conditioned from the time they are pre-teenagers to think of their menstrual cycle as an annoyance, “gross,” embarrassing, and a part of their bodies that must be dealt with behind closed doors. If anyone dare speaks about menstruation, they whisper and employ euphemisms like “that time of the month” or “Aunt Flow.” However, two female poets turned to writing to express and explain their bodies’ innate abilities. Poet Lucille Clifton and slam poet Dominique Christina use their words – one written and one spoken – to express their own feelings about females’ “periods.” In Lucille Clifton’s poem “wishes for sons,” readers find warm humor that basically is just a wish for empathy from men. Clifton expresses what perhaps most women have thought: if only men had to experience the frustration and pain that walks hand in hand with menstruation. She writes for them to know what cramps feel like, to be in a strange town on the last tampon, and to find no store in sight in which you can buy some more. She wishes for them to understand how it feels to have a period come early while wearing a white skirt or simply how it feels when a period is a week late. Towards the end of Clifton’s poem, she wishes menopausal symptoms on men as well: “later I wish them hot flashes/ and clots like you/ wouldn’t believe.” Being African American and a writer, Lucille Clifton had many wishes in her time. This poem focuses on the wish that men become more conscious about the life of a woman – to understand that another human being does not have the same necessities as them, but is still a human being, nonetheless, that suffers. Clifton challenges men with basic facts and questions about biology and culture such as, “Who is stronger here? And, whose world is this, anyway?” Dominique Christina takes to the stage to teach all of the “dummies” who do not quite understand the power of the period in her poem “The Period Poem.” In response to a male Twitter user who shamed women for menstruating, Christina wrote this poem to her daughter, explaining why she should be proud of her body’s abilities. She goes from a quick anatomy lesson to a tutorial in feminist politics in order to bring appreciation of a period into her daughter’s eyes. In her introduction, Christina says the poem is part of a “necessary conversation that seeks to undermine the shaming that happens to some girls around menstruation.” She talks about throwing a “period party” for her daughter – everyone dressed in red. Her poem adopts the same celebratory, defiant tone:
So to my daughter: Should any fool mishandle the wild geography that is your body, how it rides a red running current like any good wolf or witch: well then, just bleed, Boo! Give that blood a biblical name, something of stone and mortar. Name it after Eve’s first rebellion in that garden. Name it after the last little girl to have her genitals mutilated in Kinshasa. That was this morning. Give it as many syllables as there are unreported rape cases. Name the blood: Something holy...something mighty...something un-language-able...something in hieroglyphs...something that sounds like the end of the world! Name it for the roar between your legs, and for the women who will not be nameless here.
Lucille Clifton and Dominique Christina take a taboo topic and haul it out into the open. Clifton launches menstruation into her writing in search of empathy and understanding from men, while Christina pushes it into the open as an example to her daughter that menstruation can be normal, named, and noble. However, what can a reader learn from these inspiring works?
Douse shame with publicity. Christina will find more success with this than Clifton simply because her piece was performed. By speaking loudly and proudly about a…