Monday, January 3, 2011

Girls Should Just Settle Down. Period.

Remember those educational Disney films you saw in school? You know, the ones that were on the tape projector? Well, I'm not sure if this one was shown in schools, but I doubt it is something you would expect from Disney.

So, what did you think? Is this a liberal representation of menstruation, or at least liberal for 1946, when it was released? To the older women out there, how did you find out about menstruation?

When I first saw this video, I was shocked that Disney would release something like this at all, especially over 60 years ago! I was impressed that Disney used the word "vagina" in a film. But I watched it again tonight and really noticed that it isn't really all that informative and enforces some disempowering rhetoric to impressionable young girls. Not to mention other telling things: all the girls featured in this video are white. "Most of your daily routine" involves cleaning.

The narrator describes the symptoms of menstruation as a mild problem. There's no reference to the intense pain and intense mood swings that so many of us experience. Way to minimize my experience, Disney. Then she says, “You’ll find it easier to keep smiling and even tempered” as the crying girl's mirror image poses cutely.

Then the scene breaks to the girl slow dancing with a boy, smiling politely as the narrator explains that during their periods, girls can do "practically everything" they normally do. Then the music changes and she and the boy start to swing dance.

The narrator says “Come now, we said practically everything.”

The narrator then tells girls to take “common sense care of yourself.” Translation? “Be ladylike. Calm. Quiet.” It’s almost as if girls are being trained to think they should hide their period and not talk about it.

I’m not sure why vigorous activity is not recommended for girls during menstruation here, but it seems to me that menstruation was thought of as something that made women weaker. Something that made them difficult to deal with. The emphasis in this video is on women looking pretty and acting pleasant during their period. That bothered me.

I did like the discussion of the biological process of menstruation, though. The simple animations made everything that much clearer.

However, in this film there is no explanation or description of the process that causes the egg to be “impregnated, which happens when a woman is going to have a child.” If anyone knows what this missing information is, please explain it to me.


  1. How interesting. I think it was probably radical for its day. People didn't talk about such matters back then, in movies and sit-coms men and women were not depicted as even sleeping in the same bed. They had twin beds. Also, the timing of the film is interesting in that, 1946 was that era that gave rise to the 'baby boomers'. Also, in that time in the culture, all media was white-oriented, unless it was a show like Amos and Andy, where 'black' people were depicted as comic idiots. In commercials about 'cleaning', women were shown doing their household chores in lovely dresses, pearls, and high heeled shoes! In many cultures today, women are still depicted in rather primitive terms. Submissive, and under control of Patriarchal rule. And even today, in 'so-called' modern societies there is talk of the 'glass ceiling' as something quite difficult to break. In an early campaign for women's rights came the 'Ban the Bra' slogan. Along with it, (a play on the proverbial 'Strike while the iron is hot') was another one about women taking a rightful place in the work world and politics, "Don't iron while the strike is hot!'.

    Good post! (My word verification here is 'revolo'...a texted slang for revolution, perhaps.)

  2. I wondered about impregnation, too. There didn't seem to be any clear explanation of the function of the uterus, either.
    Nonetheless, it was an interesting film for its time.

  3. Very interesting.

    They'd should've featured Minnie Mouse running around with a kitchen knife and some Cadbury's, yelling at people for no reason then bursting into tears. :)

    I imagine they'd have to have some education on menstruation back in those days since people just didn't talk about these things openly as they do now, but it's still surprising to see a film like that as you tend to think of those times as anything to do with sex or bodily functions as taboo.

    I do remember, when complaining about tampons and ultra thins with wings, my mom telling me about in the fifties and sixties when they had to wear these giant brick-like pads that attached to a belt during your period, which sounded medieval to me. I can only imagine what they did in Victorian times. Yikes!

  4. Oh, that narrator's voice could make me join a cult.

  5. Is it just me, or is that one creepy-looking baby? I have to say, I think this depiction of the menstrual cycle is more positive than the film I had to watch in 5th grade!

    I think The Vegetable Assassin hit on why the film discourages vigorous activity--tampons or menstrual cups weren't commonly used, so it was probably a leak-preventive issue rather than necessarily a weakness issue, although that probably comes into play as well.

    Although today the girls wouldn't be portrayed as all white or only doing housework, that was pretty standard practice for 1946. I suspect it was also to avoid controversy. Can you imagine the backlash against Disney in the still-segregated South had there been minorities depicted in this film? Also, after World War II, women were urged to get out of the workplace so that returning (male) GIs would have jobs available to them. Thankfully, society has progressed!

    I have to say I'm really not as put out by the "put on a happy face" exhortations as I thought I would be. I think it was more in a "fake it 'til you make it" vein. Besides, sometimes being determined to feel better actually works! Honestly, who doesn't need to be reminded to be more pleasant? And stand up straight?

    At least this video doesn't spout some of the nonsense of abstinence-only programs that are alive and well here in the United States in the 21st century. Amazing.

    P.S. Great post!

  6. It really is progressive for 1946. Still pretty sexist, but considering the time it was made, not as sexist as it could have been.

    Plus it actually explains the process & the body parts involved using their proper terms, which I'm sure was pretty radical back in the day. (Although, Ashley is right, how you get pregnant is still a mystery after this video).

    I had heard about those giant brick pads with belts that they had to use back then, and also I believe for a very long time the Pope banned the use of tampons due to their sexual nature, or making you lose your virginity, or some such crap.

  7. Myth - I agree that in that conservative landscape, this video must have really stood out! I really enjoyed your comment. Thanks for putting this video in such detailed context.

    Jabblog - I'm glad you noticed that, especially about the uterus. I mean, if they can talk about constipation, why not a flipping uterus?! Thanks for sharing.

    Vegetable - Ha ha, yes I also imagined what this video would have been like if classic Disney characters had been integrated. Yes, it does seem too taboo for Disney! Yeah, my mom told me about those pads. Man, how can we ever complain?! Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Bossy - Oh, I know. Isn't she great? I love how she says "matured": ma-toored. Ha ha. Thanks. You're too funny.

    Lauren - Yes, the baby does look creepy. I can't quite put my finger on why.... I hadn't thought about the reason you mentioned for vigorous activity being discouraged. I'm glad the video didn't depict an "accident." Yeah, I didn't have a massive problem with some of the advice in here; I just didn't feel that it was terribly related to menstruation or totally accurate. Thanks for your great comment!

    Linda - Thanks for putting this video in context. This video does seem radical to me for sure.

  8. As one of the 'older women' I can say that although we had one humungous great lecture in the school assembly hall, the smaller kids had no idea what the lecturer (a man in an all-girls school) was talking about and giggled throughout.

    I happened to be away from home when I started and was horribly frightened. Nobody had ever explained anything, not even my mum.

    Mum's and my aunt's excuse was "you are too young, we didn't expect it to happen so soon."

  9. First of all I love these old educational films. I grew up in the 60's when things were beginning to change a bit, but we often got stuck watching films that were pretty outdated. I do remember being told that normal activity was fine in later films, but one of the first I'd seen (dredged up from the 50's) seemed to imply that women may be more "fragile" during "that time".I almost wonder if the "crazy jitterbugging" was supposed to represent or imply sexual activity."Whoa Missy, Men don't go where there's a red flow' lol

  10. Friko - See, it really irritates me that adults tend to mystify natural, normal events. Talk to the children! I hope the lecturer blushed. Thanks for your comment!

    Nanakoosa - Wow, great thought about jitterbugging perhaps meant to represent sexual activity. Thanks for stopping by and blessing me with your brilliance.

  11. I have to rank this right up there with the never aired Minnie gets pregnant cartoon. Never aired because it doesn't exist. But yea, this was something I never thought I'd see in my life. So yea...

  12. Yes, well...ummm...hmmm. I was directed this way via Christopher. Interesting stuff, especially that uber creepy baby.
    Along with the other educational gems such as 'Disney presents: Minnie is having a baby' I would rank this one alongside 'Disney presents: Why is it growing bigger? Mickey gets his first hard-on'.
    But in all seriousness, well done and well contextualised. I think I'm going to have a look at following you.

  13. Christopher - Welcome to my blog!It's shocking, isn't it? So shocking that the Minnie Gets Pregnant cartoon seemed entirely plausible and so I Youtubed it. No dice, though...

    Dan - Welcome to my blog! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, my purpose was to contextualize. I think Donald's First Hard On would be an even funnier cartoon because he doesn't wear shorts or pants.

  14. I am glad that they were trying to do something to educate girls about their own bodies, as I know a lot of older women who were completely mystified or terrified due to a lack of information about what was happening to them. I have to agree that the whole tone of the film was a bit disheartening, if not expected in that time, because the entire message seemed to be centered around being pretty, quiet, and easy to deal with. It would have been nice for them to include a little more information about the reproductive process, too, but for 1946 I think they did as well as could be expected.

  15. I agree with the princess, you have to take it within the context of the time.
    Now schools are struggling to be allowed to teach contraception and safer sex and I'm glad for the push in that area but I also think we need to go a step further and start teaching kids about healthy relationships. I've done some sessions and school presentations with teen girls about dating violence and safety and they were way more receptive and responsive than I'd expected! We actually had some fun with it! I'm working on my own curriculum for "relationship education" someone's gotta do it! Otherwise Donald gets a boner, Minnie is on the rag, a fight ensues and Donald is charged with disorderly

  16. Princess - Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I'm very glad that back then Disney at least partly demystified menstruation. When you're a pubescent girl, your body can feel alien enough to you, with all of the hormones and changes in your life.

    Nanakoosa - Fantastic points! That is a major criticism I have of certain types of feminism: it focuses on women's biology more than anything else. Relationship building is immensely important, especially because so many girls have weak self esteem and both sexes need to learn what constitues abuse, how to get help, etc. There's so much more to teach.

  17. I love crazy old movies like this. Reminds us of how far we have come.