And besides, the name attached to this latest Oregon House Bill goes way beyond putting lipstick on a pig. This is formal satin ballroom attire with pearls, corsetry, cage crinolines and a bustle. Somebody else’s whole job is to stuff you into it.
It’s not the legislation itself. I’m fine with that. Oregon has just passed a law requiring public schools at all levels to provide free menstrual pads and tampons to students, no strings attached. Plenty of people put in a plug for it. This bill was in the works for quite a while, but then it got wings, and finally gushed out in June. The problem is that many students cannot afford to purchase sanitary products and might even stay home from school rather than leave their home toilets.
All this is well and good. But calling it the Menstrual Dignity Act is just plain trying too hard. Menstrual and Dignity do not belong in the same sentence. I know, I know, every generation since the ’70s has seen an effort to dress this situation up and waltz it across the stage, but all such efforts fail in the face of stark reality, and that is that although this biological circumstance should not be shameful, there’s really no hallelujah about it either. Period.
The language involved has undergone the usual modern torture. One of the beauties of English, I maintain, has been its spare quality, its efficiency, its flow if you will, such that our pronouncements don’t have to get larded up with clauses like we’re French or something. Until recently we could refer to “homeless people,” for instance, although now that has become “persons experiencing homelessness,” which means exactly the same thing, except it purportedly suggests some kind of temporary condition and not an innate character flaw, which (for my money) “homeless people” never implied in the first place.
So now we all have to be French about it and can’t get to the end of our sentences in a timely manner without causing an uproar. Sure enough, the text of the Menstrual Dignity Act refers to “people who menstruate,” and just as I was getting my eye-roll going, I saw the following sentence from its proponents: “One in five menstruators in the United States cannot afford the price of menstrual products.”
Clean, spare language be damned! Maybe the sentence has a certain flow, but I can’t say I love the word “menstruators.” Like “educators” or “legislators,” it suggests a degree of calculation I do not believe exists. Nobody signs up for this crap.
Absolutely, we should provide free tampons and pads in schools. Sure, some Republican-run school board in Wisconsin is going to rag on that kids getting free tampons, what a treat, are going to be spoiled. That’s a stain on them. But I don’t want to call this the Menstrual Dignity Act unless there are reparations involved. In which case, sign me up. As I’ve mentioned before, this crap was forty years of pointlessness and laundry.
“Not so,” they’ll say, terrified of owing reparations to so many. “There was a point to it. You were being entered into a monthly lottery for a brand new human being.” Hell. I’ve met lots of human beings. They’re not all of them the big prize they’re made out to be.