Jo Talks Books: On Periods In YA And Why I Just Don’t Care

Hi everyone! If you haven’t read my YALC wrap up posts yet (and why not?) then I had a blast at YALC, I met all of the authors I wanted to meet and me and my friend had such a great time! Anyway, for today’s topic I’m going to be talking about something that seems to come up a lot in discussion posts and on twitter, Periods In YA. Whilst most people (in fact nearly everyone who talks about this subject) argues that there should be more girls having periods seen in YA, me, being the rebel black sheep that I sometimes am, am arguing today that I really don’t care that there aren’t many girls seen having periods in YA. “But why Jo?” you ask. “Aren’t you a feminist?” you ask. Well yes I am, but feminism means gender equality, I want to see teenage boys and girls being treated equally in YA, yes, but I don’t think that necessarily means I need to want to see more girls having periods in YA.

“But why is that?” you ask. Well I’ll tell you. I get that periods are a major part of girls’ lives, obviously it is. But reading is a form of escapism. I don’t need to be reminded about the mundane, boring parts of my regular, everyday life. I’m reading books about magic and adventures, I don’t really want or need to read about girls getting their periods in the middle of that, unless it naturally fits in somewhere. It’s not like we girls go around talking about our periods all the time, it happens, we deal with it, most of us don’t make a massive deal about the fact that we’re on our periods, so is it too hard to believe that girls in books are the same? That it happens and they deal with it but they don’t make a big deal about it? Do we really need visual or verbal conformation from a female character that yes they have their period? It’s not like authors talk about other bodily functions either, so why is it that periods are such a big deal?

Also in fantasies where there is magic, is it so unfeasible that there could be some kind of magical potion or something that you could take to stop getting your period when you go on a quest or something? I know that if I was in a fantasy world and I had magic, one of the first things I would do is find a way to get rid of my period (I feel like most girls would if they could) when it was inconvenient to have it, so they could do this and it’s just not mentioned because you know, these girls who are saving the world have slightly more important things to think about than their periods. Sure having them there adds a touch of realism to a book but I can’t say I particularly miss it when it’s gone. I’m far more interested in epic quests or girls fighting against their opressive government system than I am about reading about girls having their periods.

If it’s important to the plot then by all means have it in there, but otherwise,  I don’t really see the point. I mean you don’t want it to be put in there just for the sake of it, if I read about a girl having her period in a book and it doesn’t really have any relevance to the plot of the book at all then I’ll be like “Huh, why is that there?”. If it’s relevant to the plot then it’s great to have but otherwise….I can’t say I’d see the point of having it there. It’s not like I go through books wondering “huh, I wonder what she does about her period”.

Yes, girls could learn about their periods from YA books, but it’s not like if YA books don’t talk about it then they’re never going to find out what their period is, there’s the internet, female relatives, female friends, sex ed classes at school, there’s a wealth of information out there, girls just have to look for it (and they will) so I don’t think the onus is entirely on Young Adult authors to teach girls about periods.

And just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. We only get to see characters when they’re doing cool, exciting things, I’m sure the boring minutiae of every day life happens behind the scenes, it’s just not mentioned and that’s fine with me. I don’t need to read about every single little boring detail that happens to the characters when they’re not saving the world or fighting bad guys or solving mysteries or falling in love or going to school or whatever the book is about. I want to know the interesting things! I don’t think periods are necessarily not talked about because they’re embarrassing, it’s just not always necessary or relevant to mention it.

Also I reckon I would probably get bored if YA females talked about their periods all the time. I mean, especially in fantasies (which is what I read most of), if all main female characters talked about their entire journey was how they were dealing with their periods, then it would make for a pretty boring book. I just think that there are so many more interesting things to focus on than periods. I don’t think the first thing that comes to a girl’s mind when she picks up a book to read is that, “Ooh, I want to read about someone else’s period”. My own is quite enough to deal with thank you very much!

I have to say I’ve honestly never found myself curious as to how girls in books deal with their periods, I didn’t even really notice that it wasn’t talked about much in YA books until I got twitter and even then, it’s never bothered me, really, because it’s not something that I personally am interested in reading about. I don’t think it makes me any less of a feminist that I don’t care whether periods are mentioned in books or not, periods aren’t an equality issue, it’s something perfectly normal that happens to girls and I don’t see why we need to make a big deal about it being mentioned/not being mentioned in YA books. There are plenty of things that aren’t mentioned in books and it’s usually mundane every day stuff that isn’t really relevant to the plot, so why do we make a big deal about this not being mentioned and not those things? Yes, periods should be treated as something perfectly normal that happens because it is, but we shouldn’t have to make a big deal about it. It’s not the end of the world if a YA novel doesn’t feature it, it doesn’t make the novel any less enjoyable if it doesn’t have female characters having their periods. I have no problem with authors including girls having their periods if they want, equally, I have no problem with them not including it but I do think I would rather see it if it’s important to the plot than just a flyaway irrelevant mention just for the sake of it.

So over to you. Where do you stand on periods in YA? Do you think there should be more of them? Or are you like me and don’t really care either way? Is it something that’s really important to you and if so why? Let me know in the comments!

My next discussion post will hopefully be next week, but in the meantime, my next post will probably be my new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday (I don’t think I’m going to do a new Thursday Quotables post this week as I’ve already written two very long posts today and I want to read!) so stay tuned for that.

 

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13 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: On Periods In YA And Why I Just Don’t Care

  1. Bookmark Chronicles August 4, 2016 / 9:45 pm

    You know I love your discussion posts! I agree with you. I don’t enjoy my period, it usually comes with a lot of pain, I don’t want to read about it. While a contemporary artist could write a wonderful coming of age story for young women to talk about what it’s like, I don’t want that in a fantasy story. oSome stories just don’t have room for it, Katniss Everdeen doesn’t need to get her period in the middle of the revolution. Nobody wants to read about the Mockingjay’s cramps, we want to read about her kicking ass and saving the world. Basically, I think there’s a time and a place for it. Sure it’s needed, but not everywhere

    • iloveheartlandx August 5, 2016 / 11:20 am

      Thank you! Exactly, I don’t need to be reminded of this very painful and not at all fun part of my life when I’m reading. I agree, in a contemporary novel talking about coming of age of a young woman, it could make a really great story but it doesn’t really fit in a fantasy story. Nope, no one wants to read about the Mockingjay’s cramps, we want to read about the cool stuff! I totally agree, there is a time and place and not all books need to have it!

  2. Briana August 5, 2016 / 6:20 am

    I actually scheduled a post about this for Sunday. 😀

    I kind of get wanting to see a bit more about periods in YA in general. After all, it IS a little weird that a genre that to some extent posits itself as helping teens navigate their lives would not mention something that is such a huge part of so many people’s lives. I can definitely envision someone’s period playing a role in a contemporary story. Periods in fantasy I could take or leave, but I do think there’s a valid question here about how all these heroines kick butt on their periods. It just seems that to be a YA heroine you have to be blessed with an easy menstrual cycle. If someone has one so debilitating they can’t leave bed for three days, that seems like such an easy time for their enemy to defeat them!

    That said, I haven’t ever read a book and thought, “Wow, this would be so much better if the girl had her period.” And it’s not something I think needs to be added to every book. I can envision it playing a role in some books, however.

    • iloveheartlandx August 5, 2016 / 11:26 am

      You’ll have to link me to your post about it, I would be interested in reading your thoughts. I honestly have never really found it weird, I mean you don’t get to see every aspect of a character’s life when reading a book anyway and I’m far more interested in the story at hand than as to whether a main female character is on their period. I’ve never really thought about it a lot to be honest, I figure if you’re in a fantasy book and you have access to all these potions and magic and stuff one of the first things you’d do is get rid of your period when it’s inconvenient (I know that’s what I’d do!). Yes me either. I think if it fits with the story then why not, but I don’t think it should be shoved in every book just for the sake of it. Like you said, it doesn’t make books worse if they don’t talk about girls having their periods.

      • Briana August 8, 2016 / 10:14 pm

        I think it’s weird that, off the top of my head, I can think of exactly two YA authors I have read who mention periods. It’s the absence from the category as a whole that seems startling.

        And while it’s definitely possible to get information on this stuff elsewhere, the fact is that many people don’t. I talk in my post about a 30 year old man I know who doesn’t understand women’s periods. He totally has the capacity to Google it, and he wouldn’t be shy about such things either. He just had no idea in the first place that he was so misinformed he might want to Google it. There are also all the young people who don’t get the sex education they should from school or parents and might get the impression that periods are a thing neither to be spoken of nor Googled. And while I obviously don’t think it’s YA’s responsibility to be sex ed to the masses, I can only imagine good things coming from more information and more open discussions.

      • iloveheartlandx August 10, 2016 / 2:10 pm

        I totally agree that people need to be educated on periods and things like that but I don’t think that the responsibility is entirely on YA authors to do that, the education system has to take some of the blame for not providing a high enough standard of sex ed and sometimes you have to be active and search the information out for yourself, if you really want to know then you will do it, no matter what your parents think. Whilst I agree it would be good to have more open discussions about these things, I don’t think authors should have to put these things in their books if it doesn’t fit with the story that they’re trying to tell.

  3. Got My Book August 5, 2016 / 6:42 am

    I agree, I don’t want to read about that unless it is important to the story. I think that instead of pushing YA authors to include things such as periods & sex in books, maybe we should find better ways for girls to get this information (as you say, there are lots of places they should be getting it).

    My Most Recent Discussion: Goals I Can Control: Creating Community (Pt1)

    • iloveheartlandx August 5, 2016 / 11:28 am

      Thanks! Yes, I think you’re right, there are plenty of ways to get this information, and we should be focusing on making it easier for girls to access it rather than pushing all YA authors to include it in their books, because fiction should not be your only source of information for stuff like that, yes it is a source, but you should have other sources too.

  4. AngelErin August 17, 2016 / 1:31 am

    Yes!! I fully agree. I hate my period and the last thing I want is to read about it. Unless it is VITAL to the story then I don’t want to read about it.

    • iloveheartlandx August 17, 2016 / 10:28 am

      Exactly! We have to go through all that pain in our regular lives, why would we want to read about it?

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