Sexism: There’s an App for That

Iphone sunset in the AndesThree things women just love to hear:

  1. She’s PMS-ing.
  2. Is it that time of the month?
  3. Are you on the rag?

Not. So. Much.

But men say them anyway, even if not to women’s faces.

And now, thanks to a couple of iPhone apps, they don’t have to say it out loud – they can just think it and still feel superior.

PMS Buddy is an app which allows its users to keep track of the menstrual cycles of women they know, in order to “to minimize negative encounters between those with PMS and those close to them”.

Say what?

Let me back up for a minute.

First of all, PMS doesn’t affect all women. Yes, for those who suffer from it, it’s real. But it’s been so overplayed in the media by those selling ‘relief’, it’s become a cliché.

Second, I’ve known women that have decreased any PMS symptoms they did have through changing their diet and lifestyle. Yes, what you eat and what you put on your body and how much physical activity you get does affect you.

Third, menstruation is one of those unspeakable topics in modern society, and because of it, many girls grow up without any clue as to how their monthly cycle relates to fertility and pregnancy. I’ve met plenty of women (who have not had a baby) that don’t understand it – it’s kind of a mystery to them. Plus, among all the women on birth control right now, how many of them even know how their cycle really works?

My wife and I have had four children, and all but the first were conceived using natural family planning (the rhythm method) – the first was a surprise, as first babies tend to be. She tracked her cycle with a thermometer and a chart, and I learned about the relationship between ovulation and menstruation through that process. It’s not a mystery to us.

Now that our daughter has reached that milestone, she’ll be taught about the amazing power of her moon cycle, as we call it. It’s not a period, or a monthly curse, or a ‘female problem’ to cope with. It’s an incredibly sacred thing – the woman’s ability to bring forth life.

But these PMS apps reduce menstruation to an annoying thing to be avoided:

“Since discussing PMS is not exactly welcomed dinner table conversation, and may lead to dinner plates being hurled across the room, we want to take the unexpectedness out of this recurring occurrence so that those affected by PMS can be prepared and aware.”

And you just gotta love their slogan: “Saving relationships, one month at a time.”

Because the sign of a good relationship is avoiding open communication, right?

Or maybe because people who can afford an iPhone and service simply don’t have the time to talk about those kinds of things…

According to TechCrunch, over 100,000 people use the PMSBuddy service, either on the web, or with the iPhone app or Facebook widget. And the BlackBerry and Android versions are coming soon.

Here’s one more example of how messed up this is: The website has a page for “Stories”, and here’s one recently posted (by a man, obviously):

“What PMS really stands for: Pounding Mens Scrotums”

Yeah, that sure helps… Sheesh.

And of course, if you consider yourself a real ladies man, there’s this one: iAmAMan “will help you with your private life planning … by tracking several girls.” Because of course, men have their choice of more than one sexual partner every night, eh?

What do you think about these PMS apps?

Image: Gonzalo Baeza Hernández at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

17 thoughts on “Sexism: There’s an App for That

    • Derek Markham

      Yeah, right? But the 100K people already using it probably think we’re the freaks. Hahaha! I’m ok with that.

  • Wow … just wow. Thank you for a truly enlightened male perspective. I have to admit I was one of those women who didn’t really understand the whole process myself, until a friend recommended a book about natural family planning. It changed my life. (Although, I have to disagree with your equating it to the rhythm method. The RM assumes that all women have a 28-day cycle, where as fertility awareness involves the charting that you mentioned to identify the exact date of ovulation.) Unfortunately, a lot of men would probably rather just use an iphone app than take the time to learn about exactly what is going on.
    .-= Karen Eisenbraun´s last blog ..Guilt-free avocado-chocolate mousse =-.

    • Derek Markham

      Karen – Woops! You’re right, I shouldn’t have put rhythm method there, but it seemed more recognizable than NFP to me at the time.

      Thanks for reading!

  • LOVE this blog entry! Favorite line, “….because the sign of a good relationship is avoiding open communication, right?” Hilarious! I love that you get the value of understanding and talking about her cycle, and that fertility is a gift, an awesome power we have to use responsibly, not to suppress like it’s a disease (and to what effect?). However, we NFPers/ FAM fans are forever trying to distance ourselves from the Rhythm Method, which methodologically is VERY different from modern NFP/ FAM, so please don’t use them synonymously…thanks 🙂

    • Derek Markham

      [blushing] I’m properly chastened – I won’t mention the two methods in the same sentence again. Haha! Thanks for reading!

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  • Hey, I’m an iPhone user – we’re not all jerks- and neither are men (or women) who choose to have more that one lover at once. Love the tone of this article generally and it makes an excellent point about communication between men and women and I totally agree about PMS- I’ve never had it and neither do most of the women I know who are healthy and exercise regularly, though it does impact a small number and for those it’s pretty sucky. Just keep in mind though that not everyone wants (or aspires to) monogamous, long-term relationships and children and the whole family thing and as long as they’re open and honest about that, that’s their prerogative. A few of your posts have felt quite judgey about those of us who might not fall into the ‘let’s get married and have babies and be together forever camp’ which doesn’t work for many people for many reasons. And if we all had four kids, our overburdened world would be even more so, so I for one am quite thankful for the advent of birth control, though I also agree that in it’s present formulation/use it is problematic. But better than millions more unwanted children running around this packed planet, no?

    • Derek Markham

      Wow, Starre – not sure where the iPhone jerks comment comes from. Perhaps you can read the post again, without jumping to the conclusion that I’m judging you. I was ripping on the app, and how dependent people become on tech to manage what the body does naturally, not your choice of smartphone. Or the number of partners you have… (in case you missed it, that sentence was directed at the stereotype of men as sexual sportsmen).

      So you don’t think that a man tracking your ‘potential’ PMS timing on his phone is sexist or demeaning?

      I’d rather see people be really open about their sexual cycles – after all, gettin’ nekkid together is a pretty open thing to do, right? So how come fertility and the connection to the female cycle isn’t understood or talked about? “Yes honey, let’s get it on, but let’s pretend that sex isn’t related to procreation at all, ok?” I understand that people don’t have sex solely for reproduction (obviously, or I’d have a lot more kids), but denying that the two are connected is another modern unnatural habit.

      As far as the number of kids per couple/population/resources argument – I think it’s a lot more complex than that. Our family has lived with as small a footprint as possible for the last decade, supporting local organic farms, growing our own garden, eating all organic, and we don’t buy new clothes very often and we don’t travel. I’d be willing to wager that a family my size, living consciously, uses less resources than a childless couple who are ‘eco-adventurers’. And those kids of mine? They’re growing up to be the next generation of Earth-Keepers. So I’m OK with it. If you don’t want to have kids or be together, that’s your trip – I’m not wishing it on anyone.

      I guess if I wrote a blog called ‘Natural Single Guy’, my posts would read a lot differently. But because I am a man and a dad, I call ’em how I see ’em.

      Sorry you feel judged by my opinion – but then again, I imagine when I go see you at your bloggy home, I’ll feel the same sense of judgment (’cause I’m not single, and I’m not into fashion or clothing – at all). I’ll try not to leave any comments there denouncing eco-fashion (or the fashion world in general) as a consumerist popularity contest which uses women as objects in order to sell more stuff. Or calling something ‘natural beauty’ which is based on adding something extra to the human body (make-up and clothes), as well as taking something away (imperfections, body hair).

      • Right here: “Or maybe because people who can afford an iPhone and service simply don’t have the time to talk about those kinds of things…” You make the direct connection between people who have money being the type of people who don’t have time to talk. I don’t think I’m reading much into your comment there. Read your own words again.

        I use and iPhone app to track my period and it’s great- I’m super regular and I get reminders about when the next one is due (I always forget and because I don’t have PMS and not much physical warning sometimes I get surprised). Also it helps me see how travel and illness affects my cycle quickly and easily as I can compare recent cycles to those from months or years ago to see what’s changing. Very useful and easier than writing it down in a book which I may or may not have around when needed and doing the calculations by hand.

        And please – people have been removing hair, adding color to their cheeks and lips (both men and women), cutting their hair into shapes, lining their eyes and generally decorating their bodies since there have BEEN humans. It’s actually part of what makes us different from animals. If you have a problem with commodification of beauty, or how it’s represented, fine. But decorating yourself is quintessentially human- if you don’t like to, that’s cool, but most people do and that’s as natural as natural can be if we’ve been doing it since time immemorial. By eschewing shaving (removing hair has an extremely long history too), specific types of clothing or makeup, you’re actually making a style statement too.

        And yes, it’s a personal choice, but sorry- four kids is WAY over replacement level and not environmentally responsible whatever way you look at it- I don’t care how you raise them, dollars to donuts they will be the people that they grow into being (if you’re doing a good job parenting and I bet your are) and if I know anything about human beings they won’t all follow your super low-impact footprints. I have several friends make this argument to me and it’s nonsense. How many of the people you know are completely different from their parents? Yes it will happen to you too, with your kids. Maybe one of them will even grow up to be a Republican Capitalist! Please explain to me HOW in the world having so many of your own children can be low-impact? If you had adopted kids or something, that would make sense, but to me, it’s the ultimate indulgence (in these times) to create so many new human beings.

        I’m not saying I’m perfect, or that I expect you to be- but please be honest about your impact. I am honest about mine- I fly more than is ideal- it’s my greatest eco-sin. I own it and am working in a number of ways to make sure my overall impact is lower, even if it isn’t in that area. All I’m asking is that you (and other folks in the whole ‘natural’ family movement, which is admirable) own up that lots of kids is impactful and stop trying to greenwash it, because you are just encouraging others to do the same and the world does not need any more of us, no matter how ‘green’ we are. We still breathe, eat, and use resources. Just be honest about it! Your three extra kids far outweighs a dozen flights and you know it.
        .-= Starre Vartan´s last blog ..Eco Chick Giveaway: Gift Certificates to Spirit Beauty Lounge =-.

        • Derek Markham

          “Or maybe because people who can afford an iPhone and service simply don’t have the time to talk about those kinds of things…” = I was being facetious, not attacking you or anyone else’s choice of communication device. You may not think it’s funny, but it doesn’t say you’re a jerk.

          The point of the post was not about women using something to track their fertility. Good on ya for tracking it. What it was was about was stereotyping women (and men) through playing the PMS card, especially when it can now be ‘tracked’ with an application.

          And I did say, “I’ll try not to leave any comments denouncing…” at your blog, because I let you bait me, and I should not have responded. I know better than that, but did it anyway. I was merely contrasting your comment here about the ‘judgey’ tone of my writing with my non-comments on topics you write about (and that I may disagree with). I *don’t* come to your house and call you on the carpet.

          As far as the number of kids I and other ‘natural’ parents have and how it relates to ‘replacement level’ and not being ‘environmentally responsible’: Give me a break. If you manage to read anything at all about me or how I live my life, you’d understand how our lifestyle is low-impact. No, I don’t live in a cave by myself, but a family of five living consciously makes choices that have a much smaller impact than another family which chooses to live a mainstream lifestyle. Contrast a family of five vegetarians (and no, soy isn’t a big part of our diet) living a minimalist consumer lifestyle with that of the average US family that doesn’t give a rip about how their choices play out in the world.

          “Your three extra kids far outweighs a dozen flights and you know it.” – Nope, I sure don’t. But I’m not getting into a pissing match with you.

          By the way, we have only three kids, as one of our children died when he was less than a year old – so is three kids ‘ok’ in your book?

          Wait – don’t answer, ’cause I think this flamewar has gone far enough.

  • I’m just curious how a user would know when a woman is menstruating in order to enter than info into the app? Of course a husband or live-in boyfriend would almost certainly know, but it seems like the app is meant for charting a larger group of women than just your partner (who needs an app to keep track of one woman anyway?). How is the hypothetical male user of this app supposed to know when his co-workers or friends are menstruating?

  • Sexist? you MUST be joking!

    Menstrual cycle affects EVERYONE. Men even has their own cycles too, but are not that ‘obvious’. If your man would know when your cycle is at which point, it will help him understand you. There is nothing more to it and it will just make everyone’s life better. I’ve used this kind of app with most of my five women of my life and I have gained so much good out of it.

    Of course all people are different and even each month we can be little different just due to dietary options we have taken during the last month. But menstruation starts for almost all women, at least at some point of their life. And just the idea of it starting might get at least my wife bit nervous and it’s so much easier for me when I know it’s not me who is causing it 😀

    • It’s not the app that’s sexist, it’s the advertising message. It’s condescending, mocks women’s bodies and perpetuates tired stereotypes about men and women. But it’s also a reflection of how a lot of men/boys treat women’s menstration–like it’s a weird, gross thing to make stupid jokes about. I think more than perpetuating sexism it perpetuates a sense of immaturity in guys that is rooted in sexism. It would be great if the advertising was more in the vain of DON’T be like this, DON’T be archaic and in the dark about your woman’s body. Use it to be in tune with her.
      .-= melanie´s last blog ..Sigourney Discredits Bigalow’s Win, Needs To Shut Up =-.

  • Karen

    Great post! It’s always the same isn’t it? I appreciate your insight. Thanks for your post. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I stumbled upon yours. I think they offer some good points and laughter about the topic:

    Thanks for the post! I’d like to see more like it.

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