Periods Aren’t Gross and Eggs Aren’t Periods
🐓 The following feature appears in Issue 04 of Selva Beat. Grab your copy here. 🐓
“Don’t eat eggs. Period.”
👆That’s the slogan of a PETA campaign designed to stop you from eating eggs. You know, because eggs are a chicken’s period and to eat one is thus positively gross. Not only is it obviously gross, it can be compared to something out of Carrie, The Exorcist, or a Halloween prank gone wrong. It’s “nasty.” Oh, PETA. Where do I begin?
How about with the fact that this is in in fact, not a fact. Yep. I realize I might well have just devastated some vegans who have been trotting out this argument as part of their repertoire and rallying cry to join the movement for some time, but heck, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it properly. Put simply, chickens are birds. Humans are mammals.
A mammal gives birth to live young who have developed in a uterus lined with soft tissue. If no egg has been fertilized, this lining sheds: hello period. The amount this happens varies between mammals, and this lining isn’t even shed externally for most mammals who aren’t primates — they reabsorb it back into the body. Birds, however, don’t have a uterus, which means they also have no uterine lining and, of course then, no ritual shedding of this lining. Ergo, they have no period.
Now that we’ve clarified this argument as invalid from the outset, let’s move swiftly on to the more subtle problem within this argument: the fact that it hinges on people’s disgust of the menstruation cycle to shock them into not eating eggs. Without even realizing it, in using this “argument” to validate the moral pillar of veganism we want to uphold, we’ve smashed to smithereens another pillar made up of equality and self worth. Urgh.
Quite simply, this anti-feminist rhetoric shames a natural process most women experience and proclaims it as “nasty” and absolutely unpalatable, and I for one am not OK with that. I mean, women: can you raise your hand if you have ever had experiences where you have felt shamed by the natural process your body goes through? I sure have and I’m confident you’re all there with me. School is a prime breeding ground for this kind of shaming. Segregating girls from boys to discuss the in’s and out’s of the “red lady” that will soon visit us regularly. Having to make sure no one sees you take your pad out from your school bag before slipping it into your pocket or up your sleeve and rushing to the toilet in the desperate hope that you made it in time. It takes such work to undo the shame we’ve been taught to feel around our feminine body and yet in a moment, if we use the “Don’t eat eggs. Period.” argument to encourage someone to become a vegan, we undo it all.
Leaving aside the battle we face to reclaim our body for our own in our Western context, there are places around the world where the challenge is greater still. Where women are seen as ritually unclean and actively segregated from their community while they menstruate; where they are unable to be touched or engage in community life while they bleed. When we use this argument to prop up our veganism, we keep a system that has silenced and made this natural part of womanhood ‘unnatural’ propped up too, and we swiftly undo the work of women (and men) around the world who are fighting to reclaim our bodies as inherently sacred and worthy.
Language has power and it’s in the subtleties of the language we use and in the stories we tell that we create the narrative we live within. For ourselves, our immediate community, and society as a whole. What I’m talking about here is an active process of carefully choosing language that describes the human body’s natural processes, for all genders, as exactly that — natural. Not shameful. Just normal, you know? Absolutely acceptable. I could go one step further and ask us to consider language that doesn’t just normalize these normal processes but celebrates them. Language that conveys the magnitude of these perfectly balanced systems that keep us alive. Like with the case of menstruation as an example, I could talk about the power and sheer magic this ritual holds. How its very existence in our body allows for the existence of others. How this uterus we shame in the use of this argument is the same uterus that can harbor life. That nurtures it till it can take breath of its own. A system that allows us to be creators. Yeah, I won’t even go there (if you want to though, go watch the Period Poem by Dominique Christina on YouTube now!).
Beyond even all of this, there is a deep irony in the use of this argument to convert. Veganism, unless I got the wrong memo, is about inclusivity. Despite what the media and many others might say, that’s veganism’s raison d’etre. It’s about valuing all life as equal and sacred. Yet with proclaiming eggs as gross because they are equivalent to a person’s period, we have gone and done ourselves a complete disservice, ripping the rug of inclusivity out from under our vegan feet. In an instant, we have dismissed and named menstruating bodies as unequal — as unsacred.
When you deeply believe in something, and you believe it’s for other people’s/animals’/the planet’s best interest, too, you want others to know about it and join your tribe. I get that, I really do. But it is mightily important to not be clumsy in the language we use or the stories we tell in our effort to invite people into the tribe. That sometimes manic will we can have for people to experience the benefits of a vegan lifestyle shouldn’t override the roots of respect for all living things that veganism is built upon.
What if instead of brandishing around claims that are designed to shock and disarm (and which perpetuate the negative stereotype of shouty vegans for one) we told the truth about the positive value a life of veganism brings? We don’t have to disarm, shock, and ‘gross’ people out in the hope they’ll become passionate about the same things we are. The best ‘tactic’ we have to bring people over to veganism, if that’s what you want to do (baring in mind someone is much more likely to stick to it if they got there themselves), is to forget about tactics all together. Can you remember a time when you were converted to a lifestyle or belief system because someone paraded shocking and aggressive arguments that reduced your way of life to ‘nasty’? Didn’t think so. You know it yourself — you are so much more likely to join a movement based on a story of positivity and genuine tangible benefits than one that is rooted in negatives, let alone if that negative is one that pulls down the sisterhood.
This lifestyle we have chosen is one rooted in equality, that sees all life as valuable. If you do it, you’ll be part of a story that sees less animals suffer, that reduces your carbon footprint, and where you’ll likely discover improved health. The positive vibes that come from a life of veganism are loud enough that we don’t need to frame the story around one of shock that reduces the feminine to something less than wholly magnificent. Period.