Are you surprised, or incredulous, that there are 28 songs about the menstrual cycle, nevermind 28 good songs? Your skepticism is wise. This menstrual song cycle has been condensed to a Top 2+8 List. Honestly, I'm impressed I dug up more than three!
I bothered to hunt these up at all in the name of curiosity, and of raising awareness. A question from Karen Houppert's book The Curse has stuck with me since I first read it. “What does it mean for a girl, or woman, to say simply, ‘This happens to me’ and for society to say ‘No it doesn't.’ Not in movies. Not in books. Not in conversations.” I wanted to see which menstrual songs have been sung, to better know which ones haven't. And, to see if one of them might have a new and interesting idea that I liked. I'm a bit of a menstruation nerd.
1. My I.Q., by Ani Difranco
“ When I was 13 years old
I woke up one morning
Thighs covered in blood
Like a war, like a warning ”
This song covers learning and activism amidst social pressures, and presents menstruation as evidence of added value and thus, perhaps, vulnerability. Lyrics.
2. Menstrual Tango, by Jamie Anderson
“ I was twelve when it happened
This mysterious thing
Overnight, my hips grew
And my uterus started to sing (ah-ah-ah-ah-ah) ”
This silly, engaging little ditty about the experience of menstruation includes such phrases as “stick to my pubes.” MP3 download.
Thankfully I'm not much for the medical divisions of the menovulatory cycle. The bleeding phase is really the only part of the hormonal experience to get much attention from songwriters. However, the songs I managed to dig up are happily quite diverse!
3. Blood in the Boardroom, by Ani Difranco
“ I didn't really have much to say the whole time I was there
so I just left a big brown bloodstain
on their white chair ”
Ani says she wrote this as a funny song, but it still strikes terror into the heart of many a woman. Mess often tops the menstrual complaint charts, but in this song it is offered as a special power, a twin of the power to get pregnant. That could be a bit airy-fairy except that it involves the power to make a mess. Lyrics.
4. Happy and Bleeding, by PJ Harvey
“ Fruit flower myself inside-out
I'm tired and I'm bleeding for you ”
Where Ani sings about fertility as power, Polly Jean combines desire and bruised fruit to make much moodier fertility imagery. Lyrics.
5. Raining Blood, by Tori Amos
“ Raining blood
From a lacerated sky
Bleeding its horror
Creating my structure
Now I shall reign in blood! ”
Was this bound to happen? Metal bands could only write so many songs about blood and destruction before Tori Amos covered a dark fantasy by Slayer and turned it into a period piece. The melody lines are still distinctly metal-tastic, and, hilariously, the eerie operatics and rumbly piano in Tori's version are entirely appropriate to both her own style and Slayer's. Lyrics.
6. Period Piece (The Rag Song), by Mary-Lynn Hammond
“ since we women have no choice about it
let us bleed and suffer
then we’ll hand the whole mess over and we’ll let the menfolk rinse ”
Mary-Lynn Hammond is something of a Canadian folk legend, but I had no idea she got this, err provocative (goofy?). I'm pleasantly surprised that someone has immortalized cloth pads in song! Lyrics.
The luteal phase follows after the follicular and ovulation phases of the menovulatory cycle. Unlike those sonically neglected middle phases, the luteal phase encompasses the rather famously infamous phenomenon known as PMS. Consequently, rather more songs fall under this phase.
7. PMS Blues, by Dolly Parton
“ Got those treat your kids bad, don't you talk back
Gone ballistic, unrealistic
Awful lowdown, bitch to be around
PMS blues ”
This is a straight-up, playful, totally negative rant about The Curse Of Eve, inna country-blues stylee. Lyrics.
8. PMS, by Mary J. Blige
“ Understand where I'm comin from
Feelin' really bitchy yeah ”
To the casual listener, this could be a fairly pleasant, moody R'n'B number, but it gets hung up on the clunky PMS lyrics. Mary J. really does convey her pain, though, so I could almost forgive her. Lyrics.
9. @#%!, by Lunachicks
“ Got any advil?
Got any chocolate?
I need good fuck! ”
Punk rock produces another take on PMS country is teasing, R'n'B is sad, The Lunachicks are angry. Or at least loud. (Poorly transcribed) lyrics.
10. Everybody Knows, by Peggy Seeger
“ At that certain time, a woman is prone
To indisposition and it’s not unknown
For her to be touchy, a little bit slow,
So we can’t entrust her with running the show. ”
There is a lot of controversy about whether PMS is a normal or pathological experience, and about the ethics of prescribing expensive drugs when almost any placebo seems to be effective. It was surprising, then, that this was the only song I turned up that contemplated the problems with labelling women hormonally unstable. Lyrics (scroll down).
See also Menopause! The Musical for as much menopausal humour and celebration as you could ask for.
Even counting the entire cast of that musical, which currently runs in several cities, something is remarkably absent from this list, besides egg cells. You have probably already noticed the total lack of boys and men in my menstrual song cycle. Truthfully, there are actually several rap songs by guys about the evils of PMS, and that abysmal Menstral (sic) Album. Each of those is approximately as negative and hateful as the Dolly Parton number, and since they tend to be very similar lyrically, I've decided to let Dolly represent all of them.
If you've got a line on a remotely positive or original menstrual song that I've missed, by all means please let me know. Hopefully we can use the appendix to top up this list to 28.