Oh, the Outrage!
Philippa Willitts // 29 July 2010
Certain newspapers are renowned for creating outrage and horror out of the smallest things, but this example had me howling with laughter. That might be related to the painkillers I’m currently on for an excessively painful period, but that just makes it all the more relevant.
It appears that somebody on the set of Emmerdale thought it would be funny to add ‘jam rags’ and ‘pile cream’ to a blackboard shopping list in Marlon Dingle’s kitchen. I agree, I think that is quite funny.
I had actually never heard the term ‘jam rags’ for sanitary towels before, so I’ve learned something new. And it highlights the fact that just as characters in soaps are rarely seen going to the toilet, they are also rarely seen as having periods. Funnily enough they never watch other soaps, either.
The Fail tells us:
Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch, said: ‘Clearly whoever wrote that knew exactly what they were doing, and they certainly didn’t need to.
‘It’s not a particularly helpful phrase to refer to sanitary towels as “jam rags” , and it is unnecessary.
Sharon Kennedy, 26, from Kingstanding, Birmingham, said: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when it appeared on screen – it’s not the kind of language you expect to appear in one of our oldest soaps.
‘I had to cover my young son’s eyes because I didn’t want to have to explain that kind of crass language to him at such a young age.
Mother-of-two Jean Walker, 38, from Lichfield, Staffs, added: ‘I was stunned when my son, who is only seven, turned around and asked me what a jam rag was.
‘It’s not the kind of thing you want your kids seeing, so it was disappointing to see it on a programme like Emmerdale just after dinner.
‘You hear phrases like that used in the street or in the pub sometimes, but to use it in front of millions as part of a TV soap is a pretty silly thing to do.’
These people don’t appear outraged, or scared for the moral health of their child, regarding the current storyline of a murdered man’s body being found in the woods, or an older woman’s admission of graverobbing, or the sad death of the chronic alcoholic pictured in that screenshot that very night (yes, I watch Emmerdale!). But a mention of sanitary towels in slang terms – UNACCEPTABLE!
Oh my. Somebody think of the children!
I use medical terms and slang terms to refer to periods. I try and avoid overtly negative ones like ‘the curse’, despite my endometriosis and PCOS making me feel quite cursed on days like today. When I lived in France, periods were often referred to as ‘les Anglaises’ – nobody quite knew why, but one theory was the shade of red that white Brits turn when they holiday in sunny France, and another was to do with the red coats that the guards of Buckingham Palace wear.
So I’m on the blob, I’ve got the painters in, Liverpool / Arsenal / Man U are playing at home, I’m menstruating, I have my period. There’s nothing offensive about that, it’s a fact of life, and talking about it shouldn’t horrify anyone.
Because I’ve always had problems with my periods, it is something I have had to talk about regularly. I also had to come to terms with the fact that periods weren’t shameful. Buying sanitary towels as a teenager might have felt mortifying, but now I barely notice doing it. There really is nothing to be ashamed of.
The Onion has a nice collection of euphemisms for menstruation, my favourite probably being It’s ‘that time of the month’ where ‘I’m not at my best’ because ‘my vagina is bleeding’. The Museum of Menstruation has the most comprehensive collection of words used to describe menstruating I have ever, ever seen. That site is actually endlessly fascinating, with extensive information on anything and everything to do with periods.
So, what are your favourite period euphemisms? Do you prefer to use less euphemistic language? Would you be horrified to see ‘jam rags’ on a shopping list? Or is any mention at all of our ‘monthlies’ offensive?
ETA: Some great new euphemisms are already coming in! I will update the post with them all in a day or two.
One day on, from the excellent comment thread, we have the following menstruation terminology!
What we call periods
Being on t’blob
The Communists are in the funhouse
I’ve got the bleed
Riding the silicone pony
Bleeding profusely from my vagina
Aunt Irma is visiting
Fallen to the Communists
Evacuation which commences on D-Day
Touched by the goddess
Auntie Flo is visiting
My visitor’s here
It’s jam week
The anarchist flag is flying
Hunting for the red october
I’m on my period
Surfing the crimson wave
Les Anglais ont débarqué
Special Lady Time
Uncle Tom’s (T.O.M.) staying
Erdbeere Tagen (German: strawberry days)
Waving the red flag
What we call period pain
What we call sanitary towels / pads
Crime scene tape
What we call tampons
Rocket launchers (the applicators)