"When you’re watching the movie you’re actually feeling what it feels like to go through puberty.”
What was your first period like?
I’ll go first. After two days of screaming and writhing in excruciating pain, to the point that my parents thought I had appendicitis, I woke up to find my underwear looking like something found on the scene of axe murder. Despite what I’d been told in sex-ed this was not a wondrous moment where I’d become a woman. It was the first of many instances when I thought I was minutes from death.
One thing that has surprised me since my first menstruation (almost twenty years ago?) is the fact that, from that moment onwards, periods are something we need to suffer in silence. Everyone knows, or assumes you have a period, yet nobody wants to hear about your clots, cramps, or cups. It’s a secret that we all know, yet we all pretend it isn’t there.
In the same way that we’ve been taught to excuse the effects of PMS by saying we’re “under the weather,” the title of the film Girl Flu makes fun of the uncomfortable situations we all go through during puberty. The movie revolves around a 12-year-old girl called Bird as she faces the strange and confusing time that is adolescence.
In an interview with Film Independent, writer-director, Dorie Barton described the film.
“Girl Flu is funny, it’s frustrating, it’s confusing, and really really awkward. When you’re watching the movie you’re actually feeling what it feels like to go through puberty.”
When Bird starts discovering what getting her period means, her already complicated relationship with her mother, Jenny, also seems to start unraveling. It all gets to the point when the teen goes to a clinic to ask for her fallopian tubes to be tied. It might sound like an outrageous moment that can only happen onscreen. But is it really? I think any woman could relate to wanting to put her menstrual cycle on an indefinite pause.
How are young girls supposed to embrace and love their bodies and themselves when their older peers seem to be far from doing so? Are we in any position to tell someone that menstruation is a natural part of life when we constantly pretend it’s not there? Perhaps the only way to get through this taboo battle is to actually accept it’s there. If we open the conversation towards helpful insights and personal experience stories about our relationship with our anatomy, then perhaps we can move towards a more positive understanding of ourselves.
When Baron explains the inspiration behind the movie she responded with,
“I had a terrible first period, so many women I know had terrible first periods, and it seems like half the human population has this experience. But yet we talk about it like it’s this bizarre thing that should never be talked about.”
It’s not just women who are hurt because menstruation is the elephant in the room. For many men, it seems like periods are a mystical female situation that does not concern them in any way. Why is that? If we agree that menstrual cycles are only a part of the human experience, then perhaps the non-menstruating population should have some grasp on the subject.
Media and artistic representation are crucial in presenting topics that are rarely discussed in the open. Girl Flu has the potential to lead to insightful talks about menstruation, both for young girls as well as for any woman who knows what it’s like to panic when they realize they don’t have an emergency pad or tampon on hand. It also opens the possibility for more movie moments to accurately depict the sensation of living while bleeding.
Just like the Dorie Barton is exploring this aspect of womanhood, there are other artists who are using artistic mediums to counteract the stereotypes and misconceptions regarding women and their bodies. Claudia de Lima is a photographer who uses her self-portraits to respond to views regarding what is appropriate. Shona McAndrew creates sculptures that challenge the perceptions of what it means to be beautiful.