November 03, 2005


Alison, your rant about PMS was so convincing that I'm going to go ahead and steal it for this post...

A recent survey shows that misconceptions about PMS are surprisingly widespread. For instance, 78% of men surveyed believe that PMS is a normal part of the menstrual cycle, 21% of men surveyed believe that PMS can be inherited, and a very confused 6% of the men surveyed believe that PMS is contagious.

More worrisome was the result that almost one third of all adults surveyed believed women 'suffering' from PMS were irrational and unstable, while fully one fifth believed they were less creative and incapable of making a rational decision. One fifth of men also believed that women with PMS were unattractive and less sexy, which possibly explains why those same women acted "hostile" towards them.

One tenth of all adults claimed that a world without PMS would be "like winning the lottery", and a further fifth believed that a world without PMS would be a happier one (!!!!!!).

All of this would be very compelling if it weren't for the fact that PMS isn't even a real damn thing! Modern biomedicine, with its irritatingly overzealous tendency to explain everything through physical pathology, created the idea that women are affected by a mysterious and unexplainable ailment prior to their period, despite the fact that in many women the so-called 'symptoms' of PMS are not related to any physical changes in the woman's body.

Instead, the suggestion that such a syndrome exists leads women (and men) to selectively explain any behaviour they perceive as 'abnormal' in the week (or more) leading up to their period by invoking PMS, regardless of any epidemiological evidence or lack thereof. I need hardly point out that all human beings can be unexplainably moody, hostile, and irascible at any time of the month, and in most cases this has nothing to do with any kind of medical problem. The idea of PMS merely provides a convenient and spurious framework for explaining irritability when women don't act as they're expected to.

Furthermore, by establishing irritability as a medical pathology (do you see how ridiculous this sounds?), the onus is on women to (a) 'fix' themselves (by never being in a bad mood), and (b) submit to any number of bizarre and completely unfounded treatments proposed by their doctor to 'cure' the 'syndrome' that they don't even have! When men are in a bad mood, do they have to go the doctor? Are they told there is something physically wrong with them? Of course not!

(Besides, if somebody told you that all your behaviour was completely baseless and irrational for a quarter of every month, you'd probably be in a bad mood more often, too.)

In the meantime, women are actively blamed for reducing world happiness, because of a presumed medical problem that doesn't exist and that, in any case, they are told they have no control over (because it has few clear causes or treatments).

So enough of this bullshit, already, okay? Women have every right to be in a bad mood at any time of the month, as they see fit. It doesn't mean they're incapable of rational thought or physically malfunctioning, it just means they're in a bad mood. Jeez!

[Edit: I should add that this argument doesn't only apply to behavioural changes: women experience many of the physical 'symptoms' of PMS at other times of the month, too. Bloating, especially, can occur in men and women at any time, for no apparent reason-- but PMS arbitrarily pegs off a week or more of every month and labels any bloating that occurs during that week as symptomatic of a larger disorder. Because of the idea of PMS, women who get bloated before their period one month will think "Oh, I must have PMS," even if they're really bloated because of bad Chinese food. Then, the following month, even if there's no bloating, the woman is more likely to think, "Oh, I had PMS last month, so I'm probably in a bad mood this month because of my PMS," even if the woman never 'had' PMS in the first place!]


PS. Immoral.


At 3/11/05 17:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew, you are a real ubersexual. This post made me so happy you have no idea. women finally are getting some un-der-stan-ding. I feel like dancing... here I go...

At 3/11/05 18:26, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, since Andrew used my name in this post, I feel I should clarify something. I wrote a paper on this last year in which I attempted to show that studies done on PMS are not as scientifically rigorous as they are believed to be. A lot of the data is based on questionnaires that require women to remember how they felt during their last period in order to chart symptoms of PMS. More importantly, in order to determine which phase of the menstrual cycle the research subjects were in, women simply counted back the number of days since their last period. Problem 1: What if their memories were inaccurate? Problem 2: The women in the studies were assumed to have a 28-day period (Not true! It varies from woman to woman). So in the end, the symptoms reported could not reliably be attributed to a specific phase of the menstrual cycle because it was not actually known which phase the subjects were in at the time of the study.


At 7/11/05 15:39, Anonymous alice said...

What!? How can you possibly say that PMS does not exist? I may not get it every single month, but I definitely do feel the same emotional and physical symptoms with regularity. It's bullshit for people to discount my emotions because of it, but it's also bullshit for people to discount it's very existence.

At 10/11/05 16:31, Blogger Andrew said...

"I may not get it every single month, but I definitely do feel the same emotional and physical symptoms with regularity."

Yeah, me too, but I don't have a uterus.

My point is, it's bullshit to attribute medical pathology to a 'condition' that doesn't meet even basic criteria for medical pathology, namely:

(a) No proven physical cause (cf. Alison's comment).
(b) No consistent cause/effect relationship (most women don't 'get it' every month, despite the presumed cause— the menstrual cycle— being present every month).

There are any number of reasons why you might get certain symptoms pre-period, some of which may exist precisely because PMS has been defined as a condition. If you're worried about getting PMS (which you wouldn't be if the medical community didn't keep telling you it was a real thing), you will have higher stress levels, which can cause symptoms like irritability, bloating, and most of the other supposed symptoms of PMS (not to mention the issue of somatization, which can also cause the sort of vague, on-again-off-again 'signs' of PMS).

I appreciate the irony that I am one man, telling you that other men are trying to control your body by equally denying your own impressions of it. But would you rather you had some douchebag telling you your body is broken and causing irredeemable misery to those around you, or some douchebag telling you that you have one less make-believe 'disease' to worry about? That doesn't mean you can't have emotional and physical symptoms from time to time, only that they can be explained in more accurate and helpful ways than through the ever-inscrutable PMS.


Post a Comment

<< Home