_
_
_
_
_
internet challenges
Columns
Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

The female urge not to take that pill

There is a corner of the internet where women challenge each other to suffer without painkillers. Such videos are the dark flip side of the stupid ads for sanitary pads

Alison Oliver
Alison Oliver as Frances, an endometriosis sufferer who initially refuses medication, in the adaptation of the novel 'Conversations with Friends.’HBO MAX

There is a corner of the internet where women share their willful ignorance of painkillers. They call it the “monthly challenge” and it’s already a sub-genre on TikTok. A montage of a young woman agonizingly holding her belly on a couch with the text “POV: when you don’t take medicine for your period cramps because you think it builds your ‘pain tolerance’” superimposed on it has racked up two million likes. Another fast-paced montage of a teenage girl writhing in pain in what looks like her family room, accompanied by the text “You see me trying to endure period pain without medication as a personal challenge,” has garnered half a million likes.

This visual tangent of female body horror — because there are hundreds of videos similar in form and message — always repeats the same jingle, a sound that recognizes and groups specific challenges. Only here you don’t hear a catchy pop song a la “Bizcochito.” What we hear instead are robotically altered shrieks, like in those videos from the old internet that we were taught to be afraid of because they included a final otherworldly scream that made us jump out of our chairs. That’s how we feel when we see those girls kicking under their blanket as a sinister, mechanical roar unsettles us. They are the dark flip side of the stupid commercials for sanitary pads.

Each social media website applies its semantics to the ordeal of facing menstruation without painkillers, no matter where it is watched or written. “The female urge to not take a pill when you get your period to see how much pain you can endure,” says a viral tweet on X (13,000 likes). A female Argentine tweeter’s post “Do me a favor and stop putting up with your ovarian pain and take an ibuprofen” received 12,000 likes. They all touch on the painful curse of the good sickness: the one that has made us believe that we will be more worthy if we reject the warm embrace of chemical pity.

“A good woman is one who performs just as well when she is menstruating,” laments Bibiana Collado Cabrera in Yeguas exhaustas (Exhausted Mares), an auto-fictional work about declassification in which the author explores the influence of her roots on the mystique of femininity. In it, she shares that she did not understand that she had her period for the first time because she was not writhing in pain, which is what she saw happen every month with her older sister. She was not vomiting or doubled over on the couch, so that spot of blood on her panties must have been a simple scratch. If it didn’t hurt, it didn’t exist and didn’t deserve to be told.

Collado also confesses that she came to hate her high school classmates who sat still in gym class because of their menstrual cramps; she saw them as “slackers.” Her inherited peasant imaginary — ”a poor woman cannot afford to rest or stop working a single day of her life” — prevented her from empathizing with those she felt were lazy and somewhat posh.

The artist Johanna Hedva has also delved into the sanctity of the poor’s suffering. Researcher Núria Gómez Gabriel refers to that in her essay Traumacore, in which she notes that Hedva repoliticized the archetype of the suffering diva and succeeded in differentiating between the convalescent romantic myth of the “sick woman” — upper-class and white — and the scorn heaped on “the sickening woman,” which is applied to the other bodies (non-binary, trans, racialized) of the working class. “Sick Woman Theory is for those who are faced with their vulnerability and unbearable fragility, every day, and so have to fight for their experience to be not only honored, but first made visible,” Hedva wrote in her manifesto. The women in pain on TikTok, those who are reformulating the mystique of the “sick woman,” should know that their agony does not sanctify them, and it won’t make them more worthy. And they should also know that the urge to take that pill is indeed appropriate.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition


More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_