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The invention and legalization of the Pill in the 1960's and 1970's created a revolution in sexual attitudes. Along with the possibility of having heterosexual sex without making babies, people also opened up about almost all aspects of sexuality, except menstruation. However, products that help women manage their periods have greatly improved.
Menstruation, Always an Awkward Conversation
If your grandparents or great-grandparents or maybe even great-great-grandparents were growing up in the 1930's, the conversation about menstruation in school might have started something like this:
"Why is it that when we refer to nature, we always call her Mother Nature? Maybe it's because Mother Nature manages so much of our living quietly that we never realize that there is a woman at work." The message here is, of course, to be a woman, make sure no one knows when you are having your period. Then girls would have to ask their mothers or sisters or friends what to do when their first periods arrived, but one dared not ask in public.
By the 1940's and 1950's, conversations about menstruation were a little more open. A teacher might take all the girls in a classroom into another room and put up black curtains over the windows so none of the boys could peak in. Then she would hold up a picture of a uterus and explain that most of a woman's eggs pass through the fallopian tubes without being fertilized. When this happens there is no use for that built-up tissue in the lining of the uterus and it is expelled as waste. The message was, of course, when you're pregnant, you don't menstruate.
In much of the world, most women were only able to afford cosmetics after about 1960. An advertisement for a kind of menstruation product that looks something like a cross between garters and an athletic supporter for men might mention the product name but show a woman powdering her nose, with the message reading "It's smart to keep looking smart." The implication was obvious. Just buy the product. Use it. Be very sure to use it.
In one black and white film of the 1960's, a teenage girl asks her mother if it would be OK to go swimming after a picnic. "It's not a good idea to go swimming the first two or three days after your period," the mother says, "You might get chilled and catch a cold. Then the girl calls her friend to say she can't go and adds indignantly, "I don't know why you asked. You knew I was having my curse."
Menstruation Products Very Different in This Century
The kind of "sanitary napkin" used in that era was a curse in itself. It wasn't until about 1975 that there was a new kind of pad that didn't need belts (two in front, two in back), pins, or thick cloth to absorb blood from a woman's period.
In the twenty-first century both women and men have a basic understanding of menstruation. However, there are still women who from time to time try products more appropriate to another century.