Emma Teitel: Not surprised woman allegedly booted from flight for period cramps
I assure you, airline executives, even on Day 1 of our periods, we make for far less demanding passengers than the average emotional support peacock, writes Teitel.
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What’s easier to get away with? Flying with an emotional support peacock or flying on your period? Apparently neither is a breeze. Last month, you might recall, a woman and her support peacock were refused entry onto a United Airlines flight in New Jersey, after officials said the animal did not meet the airline’s weight and size requirements (sizeism at its worst!).
And this month Emirates airline allegedly removed a passenger from a U.K. flight about to take off for Dubai after a flight attendant overheard her complaining about period cramps. The passenger, 24-year-old Beth Evans, told U.K. tabloid, the Sun, that though she had menstrual cramps, the pain was a “one out of 10” and she was perfectly capable of enduring the seven-hour flight to Dubai. Evans claims the flight staff disagreed and shortly after overhearing her complain of stomach pains, asked her to exit the aircraft. According to the Sun, Emirates issued the following statement about the incident:
“The passenger alerted crew that she (Evans) was suffering from discomfort and pain and mentioned she was feeling unwell. The captain made the decision to request medical support and off-load Ms. Evans so she could access medical assistance. We would not have wanted to endanger Ms. Evans by delaying medical help had she worsened during the flight.”
According to Evans, she did not seek help from flight staff. They heard her complaining and overreacted. I wasn’t on the airplane (I can’t fly without my emotional support turtle) so I don’t know for certain if she invited attention from the cabin crew, but I am a woman who menstruates regularly and I can say with a fair amount of certainty that women do not typically require medical assistance for period cramps. They require Advil and maybe a heating pad. But removal from an airplane minutes before take off?
Not only is this an enormous overreaction, it’s actually counterproductive, because there is no better distraction from aggressive period cramps than seven-hour access to an inflight entertainment system (and I would know as my cramps usually register a nine out of 10 on the aforementioned period pain scale.)
However, I’m not all that surprised by Evans’ experience. I’m not surprised that a menstruating woman on an airplane was allegedly treated like a majestic bird and “off-loaded” for her own protection because despite constant reminders from every corner of progressive society that “it’s 2018!” many people and institutions still harbour pretty retrograde, ignorant views about the female menstrual cycle. This ignorance isn’t only prevalent where you expect it — in poor, rural, religious communities, but in sleek, moneyed, modern ones too. Last year, on a vacation in Osaka, Japan, I bought a box of tampons at a pharmacy and the store clerk insisted I carry it out of the store, Hustler style, in a brown paper bag.
But the problem is also a Western one. In fact, a new study commissioned by Pink Parcel, a British “period subscription” service that works to erode the stigma around menstruation, indicates that stock imagery on the internet of women on their periods is sensational in the extreme. We are depicted hunched over in agony, clutching our bowels like somebody recently took a bayonet to them. Or we’re shown as dishevelled and catatonic, staring longingly out our bedroom windows — the PMS having invariably zapped every last ounce of strength and sanity from our weak bodies.
In the words of Alycia Haynes, a spokesperson for Pink Parcel, speaking to the Independent this month, “It is little surprise period shame is so prevalent when demeaning images are continually perpetuated by the media and society. Our research has proven that this consistent stream of dramatised, unrealistic images is leaving those who experience periods feeling ashamed, embarrassed and reluctant to talk about them.”
This steady stream of images might also give some people — airline brass for example — the impression that female passengers experiencing period cramps are in need of immediate medical attention — rather than a cup of tea, an over-the-counter medication, and a hot towel. Cramps are bad. But they’re not that bad. If women can go to the office, run marathons, serve in the military and fly airplanes all while menstruating, we can certainly survive a few hours sitting in coach. I assure you, airline executives, even on Day 1 of our periods, we make for far less demanding passengers than the average emotional support peacock.