Query Letter to Rolling Stone Magazine
April 30, 1999
Rolling Stone Magazine
1290 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10104-0298
Dear Rolling Stone:
Yes, it’s the ‘m’ word: menstruation. As in The Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health (MUM for short), founded in 1994 by Harry Finley and located in his Washington, D.C. area home. Availing myself of the MUM collection, I am writing ‘Come Together Over Me(nstruation),’ in which I tackle a question which has yet to elicit a single insightful answer, and, in its power to generate streams of empty but well-meaning phrases, ought to be asked only of beauty pageant contestants: why aren’t there more women in the music business?
In 1926, Virginia Woolf pondered "...what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith..." Woolf imagined Judith finding herself "with child" by a stage manager, and then in despair "kill[ing] herself one winter’s night." I instead imagine such a sister for John Lennon: Let us call her Jane, a female musician who finds herself not "with child," but "with periods," and in a band with Paula, Georgia, and (?) Ringa.
In the 1980 Playboy Interview, John Lennon described the Beatles’ "early days":
"...the four of us sleeping in the same room, practically in the same bed...living together night and day, eating, shitting and pissing together...doing everything together."
Putting on our rose-colored (menstrual) glasses, we see that Jane and the girls would most likely have all bled together as well, as predicted* by Martha McClintock’s groundbreaking 1971 study, "Menstrual Synchrony and Suppression," in which she observed that "menstrual synchrony is often reported by all-female living groups and by mothers, daughters, and sisters who are living together." In a later study with K. Stern, she demonstrated that it was "odorless compounds from the armpits of women," or pheromones, responsible for menstrual synchronicity.
Certainly our Fab (female) Four would have had plenty of opportunity while "eating, shitting and pissing together...doing everything together," to get a whiff of the odorless compounds emanating from each other’s armpits. We can further imagine a studio session in which Jane, being the same "loudmouth lunatic poet" her brother was, announcing once again she’s on her period, to which her bandmates reply that they’re all on theirs too. Being the wonderfully gifted musicians they are, they recognize this 12-times-a-year menstrual cycle as a rhythm, and, exploring this musically, they release an album whose first words are:
it was 20 years ago today
that Aunt Ruby taught the band to play
In 1997 then, at Lilith Fair, Paula Cole would probably not have made reference to an "insidious" sexism that "starts early with mothers and fathers not encouraging their daughters to be drummers or electric guitarists." (How many parents encourage their sons to do so?). Nor would she have gone on, while "point[ing] out...the musicians in every backing band are mostly male..." to say with true beauty contestant earnestness: "We need to challenge women to play their own instruments, to write their own music, to be their own producers, to run their own business and develop their own voice and not be so lazy."
If Aunt Ruby’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had ever existed, women today would probably be doing all these things in numbers equal to that of men. If you would like to visit the Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health website yourselves, the address is www.mum.org. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find there: The New York Times described it as "odd, funny and well-researched." To contact Harry Finley, founder and director of the museum, he can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions for me, and/or (hopefully) a suggested article length and deadline, I can be reached at email@example.com, or the address below.
Have a bleedin’ day,**
**As Daisy Decapite, editor of The Curse (Available Monthly) likes to put it.
*There may be some problems with the study this letter is based upon: Read Menstrual Synchrony or Menstrual Overlap: What Difference Does It Make? to find out more.