It all started with a cake. More specifically, a period cake. When we first saw BuzzFeed’s story about about the treat that 12-year-old Brooke Lee received to mark her first period, there were, er, mixed reactions.
Brooke started her period today & my family is super extra 😂😩 pic.twitter.com/ed14gNrgKf
— Ahhdum (@autumn1shea) January 10, 2017
“Brilliant,” piped Lauren. “Eurgggggh,” cringed Lily. And so the battle lines were drawn. With Lauren standing firmly in the ‘this is lovely camp’ and Lily committed to the idea that the whole thing is just plain weird.
Here are our best arguments for and against period cake. Let the best woman win.
Lauren says… period positivity? It’s a piece of cake!
I’ll be honest – when I saw Brooke Lee’s viral period cake, my first thought was “mm, cake.”
I love cake. I do not love periods, but there’s very little you could ice in sugar on a nice hunk of carbs that wouldn’t have me reaching for knife and a napkin. So I am ultimately pro-cake, for almost any occasion, including the very first time your uterine lining decides to make a grand entrance.
But once you scratch the buttercreamy surface and look at the idea beneath Brooke’s mom’s menses party buffet, I kind of love it even more. Sure, a period cake is a squirmingly public gesture that not everybody would be comfortable with – but isn’t that just because society still tells us periods are something to be whispered about behind closed bathroom doors rather than talked about at family parties? You have to wonder: if period cakes and period parties became a regular, run-of-the-mill thing, how long would it be before that stigma disappeared and we also felt more confident talking about our cycles, carrying tampons to the bathroom instead of stuffing them up our sleeves, and looking after ourselves when PMS hits instead of forcing ourselves to carry on as normal and then ending up a tired, mopey heap?
And it’s not just girls’ confidence levels. I also love, LOVE, the idea that period cakes and parties might encourage boys and men to get comfy talking about menstruation too, right from the off. We could even withhold their piece of the red velvet until they’re able to discuss the topic without cringing or wincing. “No fatherly advice, no slice!” – that could be the motto.
@autumn1shea I love this omg more parents need to be open and supportive about things like this!! 🙂
— Libra Queen (@marinayeee) January 13, 2017
Some might think that the ‘hoorah!’ element of the period party is weird. You could argue that for something that affects 50% of the population, something that millions of women are just casually getting on with at any given time, making a big song and dance about it is patronising, or missing the whole point – it’s natural, not novel. And I get that, I do. But even if the balloons-out approach isn’t right for every girl or every family, we can’t deny it’s refreshingly positive. At betty, we’re all about find ways to make your period nicer. It’s our whole thing. So why not make a first period a lovely, exciting moment rather than a death sentence for your days of clean pants and stress-free swimming sessions? Wouldn’t we all feel a little less anxious about puberty if our parents’ reaction was celebration, not commiseration?
Besides, maybe if we embraced period parties for a few years, we might get to a point where everyone was so positive about periods that we didn’t feel we needed them anymore. It’s a personal choice – but a little fun and joy can’t hurt, right? Because when it comes to feeling confident about our bodies, we should be able to have our cake and eat it too.
Lily says… it’s not a party, it’s just a part of life
On the surface, I should LOVE this idea. I love cake; I love chocolate cake and carrot cake and if it’s all that’s going, I’ll even take a bite of a fruit cake. And I love celebrations; I can get excited for almost any occasion, cat birthdays, regular human birthdays, 4- month anniversaries, you name it, I’m there in a party hat.
But I draw my line at a period cake. Not a cake made of actual period blood (though let’s be real, it’s probably a matter of time until that happens), but a cake designed exclusively to celebrate a girl’s first period. This is partly because of intelligent, well-reasoned arguments, and partly based on my own personal taste.
Periods are a totally natural part of life. Like cutting your toenails or getting a pimple. These aren’t things that I love, but nor are they things I feel embarrassed to talk about – which, in my opinion, is all that periods need to be.
My period utopia world would simply be a place where women don’t slip tampons up their sleeves or men don’t clam up or say ‘that’s gross’ when someone mentions the word period. I want a world where tampons aren’t taxed as a luxury good and everyone has access to sanitary products. Where my brother is just as comfortable as I am buying tampons at the supermarket and my dad doesn’t use the phrase ‘women’s problems’. Periods are a totally natural and normal part of being a woman, so I think they should be treated with the same sort of semi-fascinated interest with which we treat our first pimple. This isn’t a party, it’s just a part of life. And I don’t think that requires cake.
Those are my sensible reasons. But, just a heads up, my argument is about to veer into “just because” territory. The first thing I thought when I saw the cake was: “If my mother invited my friends around for a party and had a cake made with ‘Congrats on your period’ written on it in red icing (!) I would have disowned her.”
I get that it’s thoughtful and sweet but your first period is a personal thing. I liked telling my friends when I was ready. I liked being able to get used to the concept that I now bled once a month in my own time, without everyone already knowing about it. I liked that my mum didn’t make a big deal of it, but rather handed me a tampon and reassured me that it was nothing to be afraid of.
Cake place: "Blue icing, so it's not weird?"
Fam: "BLOOD RED!"
— Dane Rauschenberg (@SeeDaneRun) January 14, 2017
By turning your first period to a party, I think you’re setting young women up to think that this is going to be a fun experience. But it’s not. In reality periods are a 2-9 day event where you often ruin a pair of your pants and you want to eat your body weight in chocolate. And that’s fine. That’s natural. And isn’t that what this whole thing is about?