If the normalization of the period is a feminist issue, then the effort to normalize it for everyone, guys included, reflects a broader feminist realization: that its concerns are matters not just for women to contend with, but also society. Whether it’s wage equity or cultural representation, things will improve more quickly if women’s issues have male supporters. The Daily Show’s and Broad City’s period jokes—which are coming on the heels of similar jokes from Amy Schumer and Jenny Slate and many, many other comedians— are recognizing that. They are treating the de-stigmatization of the period not just a lady thing, but as a culture thing.
“For the first time,” Newsweek noted in a recent cover story on, yep, periods, “Americans are talking about gender equality, feminism, and social change through women’s periods, which, as [Gloria] Steinem puts it, is ‘evidence of women taking their place as half the human race.’” And that place-taking, the newest round of jokes suggest, will involve men—the guys who make laws and policies about women’s bodies; who manufacture tampons whose ingredients don’t currently need to be listed on boxes; who advertise maxi-pads using blue liquid as a sanitized stand-in for menstrual blood.
And so, onto Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate” and The Vagina Monologues and Menstruation Barbie and PJ Harvey’s song “Happy and Bleeding” and Ani DiFranco’s “Blood in the Boardroom” and all those period-related quizzes (“How Metal Is Your Period?” “How YOLO Is Your Period?”) on Buzzfeed—cultural products aimed for the most part at normalizing periods for women—is grafted another kind of message, a message that explains rather than explores: Men, this is what it’s like to have a period.