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Miss Manners: Smash the patriarchy, but keep the privacy

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a female graduate student in a male-dominated field. While I feel that women are respected, for the most part, at my school, there is a strong bias in hiring and a visible minority of openly sexist students.

A few months ago, I had a particularly painful period, and was faint and nauseated for most of the day. Because it was the first day of class, I went, though I could not concentrate through the pain. After 40 or so minutes, I felt that I was on the verge of vomiting, and left in a hurry. I returned to collect my things after class had ended, but was still feeling so shaky that I didn’t speak to the professor, who was busy with others. I sent an email later that day in which I briefly apologized for leaving class, pleading a migraine.

Later, commiserating with a small group of friends over text, I told the embarrassing story. For the next 24 hours, I was berated for propping up the patriarchy by not marching up to my professor and telling him I was bleeding and would see him next week.

I was also lambasted for my insensitivity to those disabled by migraines but not taken seriously because of all the people who fake headaches to get out of things. I have no “icky” feelings about my period and openly discuss it with male friends, but apparently my commitment to feminism is suspect if I don’t air my dirty underwear to the professional world, as well.

I think it’s entirely my own business, and that unlike my friends’ stories of telling high-school teachers about their periods, in graduate school, this is inappropriate to the point of painful awkwardness. What do you think?

GENTLE READER: Really? You discuss your periods with your male friends? And what do they contribute to the conversation?

What would you expect a professor, male or female, to reply to that graphic announcement? “Congratulations”? “Should I call an ambulance?”

Many people, like your bullying friends, now believe that shame is the only reason for desiring privacy, and that if everything were out in the open, it would all be approved. They discount your valid feeling that you should be able to choose the degree of intimacy that you want in different relationships.

But they are also missing an important political point, which Miss Manners would think obvious to anyone who reads comments on social media: namely, that it is a naive fantasy that total openness necessarily produces acceptance.

Are you and your bullying friends unaware of how that patriarchy has regarded menstruation? Why would you want to supply them with an alert to judge your emotional or rational state at any given time?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We dine at casual eateries periodically with certain friends. One of them habitually excuses herself by announcing, “I need to go potty.”

This has progressed from embarrassing to simply annoying. What is the proper thing to say, or is it too late to say anything? Should it simply be ignored?

GENTLE READER: “Do you need help?” Miss Manners is assuming that your friend has just completed toilet training.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.


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