Pool of Blood

It’s been a little while since I had a bit of a snarky feminist rage on this blog. Apparently the universe thought I was overdue, because the other day, I saw this:

The idea of restricting the movements of women – and the trans men and NB people who also menstruate – because some people (who are generally cis men) are afraid of periods isn’t new, but it’s not a discussion I’d expect to be having in 2016. Just kidding, it totally is, because people keep proving time and time again that they cannot deal with body parts and bodily functions that 51% of the world’s population experience.

Why would it be a problem for someone to swim while having their period? Sure, if you see a woman paddling around in the pool with a wide red mist fanning out behind her, you might want to get the lifeguard – but I’ve been a swimmer for my entire life, and I’ve never seen anything like that. That may be because these days, we have these nifty things called tampons, which mean you can swim without having to freebleed.

Okay, so if seeing blood isn’t the issue, is it bacteria? Well, if that’s your problem, I hate to break it to you, but if you use a public pool you are already swimming in all of the bacteria that hasn’t been killed off by the chlorine. And menstrual blood isn’t the only potential source of bacteria you’re going to encounter when you swim.

If you’re swimming in a pool frequented by children, then, I’m afraid, you’re swimming in pee. “But urine is sterile!” you cry – nope, sorry. And it’s not just urine – all that water washing around people’s junk is going to dissipate some genital-dwelling bacteria across the rest of the pool. If you’re going to ban people who are menstruating, it’d be logical to also ban anyone who’s peed that day – so, everyone.

Moving away from that end of the body – it’s not just urine you have to worry about. Every single swimmer in that pool is sharing their saliva. It’s near impossible to swim without getting a little water in your mouth and spitting it back out – a public pool is basically an enormous puddle of backwash. Should we ban dribbling in the pool? The only way to do it would be to force everyone to awkwardly hold their heads out of the water the entire time – which would certainly make the Olympics a lot slower.

But all this is a moot point. Remember that chlorine I mentioned? Well, it won’t kill every last bacterium in the pool – but it’ll get rid of most of them. If you’re swimming in a well-maintained pool, you’re going to be pretty safe, even if every swimmer with a uterus is trying to exercise away their cramps.

Obviously, there are some body products that should never end up in the pool: vomit, since it’s a fairly major symptom of severe illness; faeces, because the bacteria found in those is seriously dangerous to human health; and semen, because you really shouldn’t be doing that in public. But there’s absolutely nothing unhealthy, unhygienic, or anti-social about swimming on your period. Trying to limit people’s movements because of a benign and natural bodily process, though? Now that’s gross.

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About Alice Nuttall

Alice Nuttall is a caffeine-guzzling knitter who divides her time between Oxford and the various worlds in her head. She is the author of a YA fantasy novel, Spider Circus, and three webcomics, Footloose, Cherry, and Black Market Magic, as well as several short stories.
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