why i sometimes love to free-bleed
Free bleeding is many things, and cheap is one of them. Throughout history, affording the products that stem the tide (sponges, pads, tampons) has always been harder for some than others. Around the world, and here in the United States, so taboo is it to be seen menstruating in public that some will skip work or school when they’re on their periods if they can’t afford menstrual supplies. For unhoused people, the choice might be between a box of tampons and food for the day. Reducing our reliance on disposable period products is obviously good for the planet. And unless you’re buying the hippy shit, most tampons and pads contain bleach and other toxins that I would guess vaginas want nothing to do with.
In 2016, when we thought America might elect a woman as President, free-bleeding got cool. Some free-bleeders got famous. Activist and musician Kiran Ghandi made headlines when she ran the London marathon while menstruating and free bled through her leggings. Instagram took some heat when they removed a photo series by Rupi Kaur showing a woman with bloodstained sweatpants.
But we didn’t elect a woman. So right now, letting my blood come out of me without inserting anything into my vagina to soak it up or collect it, tastes like delicious defiance. Against misogyny, and shame. And Lindsay Graham and his crush Brett Kavanaugh, because why not?
My first periods were exhilarating, because they were novel, and made me feel grown up. But I also remember treating each one like a minor catastrophe. Five to seven days each month of waiting to be mortified by a “leak” at school. Five to seven days of steering very clear of all things khaki. As years passed, the thrill wore off, and I mainly just tried to avoid having to do a lot of extra laundry.
The pressure to be discreet about menstruating is just another way people with vaginas are made to feel bad and nervous about having a vagina. People who bleed monthly know the signals: how to ask for tampons without moving your lips, the flick o’ the wrist to sneak it up your shirt sleeve, eyebrow raises that mean ACTUAL BLOOD IS CURRENTLY SPILLING OUT OF ME, just fyi. What a heady feeling to return to polite society after the private bloodbath that was pouring out my moon cup, then sending her back inside to keep up the good work! Is this what it’s like to know state secrets?
Free bleeding is radically indiscreet. And sometimes so messy. I let the blood flow as a “fuck u” but also as an “oh fuck it,” confrontational or careless, take your pick. Given the way our rights and our bodies are being threatened, it feels great to relax about how my red hot mess of “foul drippings” might upset other people. Yes, I have a vagina. Yes, blood comes out of it once a month, whether I want it to or not. Sometimes it drips, sometimes it pours. It’s just my body’s reproductive system doing its thing. While it still can.
Rebecca Marcyes, Vagina Philosopher
Feel like free bleeding but not ready to stain your favorite white pants? We recommend trying out some of these options:
Want to support a fellow bleeder’s access to period supplies? These rad organizations accept donations and distribute cups, cloths, pads and ‘pons to bleeders who need.