Dear frankie magazine,
Usually we love you. But in your latest May/June issue you published a selection of shallow, smug and frankly ignorant pieces, some of which actually perpetuate the ugly stereotype: that at worst periods are an unremarkable nuisance and at best a great excuse to stay on the couch. For many women with Endometriosis your coy “monthly visitor” is in fact an embedded, violent terrorist.
At first we were delighted that you feature a four page special on … um….“Female Trouble”. We guess that headline should have been a red flag (excuse the pun) but we were sucked in by your adorably sweet illustration: the iconic Iced Vovo.
At EndoActive we are delighted to discuss periods because we believe that not talking about them is one of the reasons why Endometriosis takes so long to be diagnosed. Girls having their first experience of menstruation are often too embarrassed to compare notes with their friends and so it can take years before they realize that it’s not normal to bleed heavily for weeks or months on end. When they get their period they might miss sport or school not because they want to but because they are literally on the floor with pain so excruciating they can hardly breathe.
So frankie you invited 4 writers to “consider their monthly visitor”. OMG what’s with the euphemisms? Are you embarrassed to call Auntie Flow a bloody period? You had a perfect opportunity to shatter the myths of menstruation and you blew it.
Writer Samantha Prendergast is bemused that despite painful cramps, she hardly bleeds at all and is looking forward to returning “to normal”. Lorelei Vashti was blessed with 20 years of troublefree times of the month: “my period and me, we were besties”. Michelle Law laments that there is still so much mysticism surrounding periods but then “If you ask me,” she says confidently, “periods are as neutral and commonplace as getting a paper-cut”. (Count on us Michelle – we wouldn’t dream of asking you.)
And Helen Razer not only has “regular” and “painless” periods but she wishes she could swap her healthy uterus with “your week of premenstrual syndrome and your days of uterine stress” so she could turn them to her “pathetic advantage” – by which she apparently means she’d have a good excuse to lounge around eating chocolates. (BTW Helen since you’re so keen why not donate your uterus for transplant?)
frankie, if you thought you were offering us a useful or amusing sample of the experience of menstruation, you could have tried harder. One in ten women (500,000 in Australia) suffers Endometriosis which probably will not be diagnosed for at least seven years, by which time she may have had to leave high school early or may have been fired from her job or lost her friends and relationships because of her chronic pain and out of control bleeding. And she will always suffer the very real fear of infertility.
Girls as young as eleven are suffering indescribable agony from their first few periods but are told by teachers, doctors and even their mothers that “this is normal, don’t make a fuss”. Check out the letters from women that EndoActive regularly publishes on Facebook for a more realistic description of what menstruation means to many of us.
frankie we invite you to correct your unbalanced and insensitive portrayal of menstruation.
Lesley and Syl Freedman
Co-founders of EndoActive
THE RESPONSE FROM FRANKIE
Hi Lesley and Syl,
Thanks so much for getting in contact with us. (And glad you (normally) love us!)
I’m sorry you don’t feel represented by our “Female Trouble” story. The frankie Writers’ Piece has been around for about 10 years or so now; it’s one of our regular articles. But it has never been intended as a comprehensive overview of a particular topic. In this case, we had four writers present their own, personal relationship with their periods.
All we require from writers in a story like this is that they have something to say, they’re honest and (sometimes) funny – thus all the ridiculous old-fashioned euphemisms, since we’re not above going for cheap laughs. (And John Waters references.) We don’t believe four women talking honestly about their own experiences can be described as smug or ignorant. As it happens, most of them had reasonably trouble-free periods to begin with, but all acknowledge their luck.
Their tales – of chasing pregnancy, of pregnancy scares, of childhood embarrassment, of the irony of fertility when you’ve decided not to have kids – are relatable for large sections of our audience. Of course they can’t be directly personally relatable for all. But we think it’s always good to share people’s stories.
Lots of us in the frankie team have close friends and family who suffer from endometriosis, so we understand (as much as allies and close friends can) the condition. We may even cover it in future. Since this was not a medical story (or a comprehensive overview of periods) we did not feel compelled to cover it in “Female Trouble”.
Again – sorry you were not in love with this story. Hopefully it won’t stop you reading us in future.