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  • Writer's pictureDavid Linton


There’s a long history, dating back to the story of Rachel and her father in the Biblical book of Genesis, of women using a sort of menstrual jiu-jitsu against men in times of conflict. In Rachel’s case she reversed the menstrual power dynamics in order to save her life.

Male use of menstrual tropes and stereotypes has usually been a means of dismissing women with some version of, “It must be that time of the month.” But a new take on menstrual politics was recently reported in the New York Post (August 13, 2019, p. 18) in a story about a former professional basketball player who was sentenced to 31/2 years behind bars in a New York court for illegal possession of weapons.

The defendant, Sebastian Telfair, who was a point guard for the L.A. Clippers, pleaded with the sentencing judge for leniency on the grounds of his daughter’s pending menarche: “I am 34. I can play in China for six years and take care of my family. I’m waiting for my daughter right now to get her period. Real mental illness because I wasn’t around. . . She hasn’t even gotten her period yet.”

There are several ways to view his statement. Is he pleading for compassion so he can be a responsible modern father and care for his daughter’s menstrual transition? Or, is he exploiting a stereotype of the helpless woman getting a period who needs a man during this time of emotional and physical disruption? Whatever he was thinking, it is certainly a unique courtroom gambit. And, it is also noteworthy that the newspaper chose to include this detail in its coverage. Perhaps the editorial perspective on the story and the menstrual plea is best expressed in the large headline: “Desperation shot.”

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