A Female Problem

So about once a semester, I have one female student who asks to be excused from a class… it’s usually a very conscientious student, and she comes to me and says that she’s not feeling very well and would like to go home, if that’s okay.

As a friendly sort of professor, I usually inquire as to the student’s illness, thinking I’m being nice, and finally, after a few moments of hemming and hawing, I realize that it’s that time of the month and she is dreadfully embarrassed and not willing to tell me. This time, she and her very good-natured friend were talking to me and one said, “She doesn’t want to say that it’s… a female problem? Is that correct?” I agreed that this was a euphemism I’d heard before, but that “feminine problem” is also sometimes used. That a more vulgar way of saying it — though not uncouth, just less euphemistic — is to say that it’s “that time of the month.”

The student’s friend observed that in Korean, it’s an extremely embarrassing word, and nobody likes saying it. I said it was a little bit like that in English — that women tend not to speak directly about it outside of close circles, at least not with their male professors anyway.

“It’s really weird, isn’t it, how a word like that can be embarrassing? I mean, every woman in the world experiences is, and yet it’s a word nobody wants to say. You know, if men had that experience, it’d be a word we could use in public conversation, wouldn’t it be?” They were amused and agreed, though on second though, I’m not sure. Maybe, maybe not. I wonder…

(And no, I don’t wonder enough to write a novel about it, though if anyone else wants to, go ahead.)

6 thoughts on “A Female Problem

  1. I don’t know, dude.

    I’ve seen some women in some serious fucking pain from their menstrual cycles. I’ve known women who were out of commission for like a day, until they went onto medication which messed with their cycles (and caused other weird biochemical effects, in a couple of cases).

    So, yeah… I do consider a bad period day as a valid excuse for absence from class… as valid as, say, severe diarrhea or a family emergency. Unless of course the student is emailing the excuse two weeks beforehand. But if it’s a few hours or half a day ahead, it might well be a very valid excuse. Or would be, in my books, anyway.

  2. I’m a woman blessed with the right genes, yet even I have had a handful of days in my life where I wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed and hope the pain would go away soon.

  3. I’ve had bad days with it, know women who have REALLY bad days with it. I missed a day of school here and there. (It’s the nausea that comes with the really bad cramps that’s the worst. If you’re barfing your guts out all day, then no, you really shouldn’t be in class. I only barfed that badly once, and that was a Sunday, but didn’t go to school the next day because it had been such a drain on my body.)

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