These days, it's easy to split your private life open and display it online. The art of over-sharing is so suited to social media that it's hard to remember how we coped before Twitter existed; what did people do pre-internet when they wanted to share obnoxious details of their intimate lives with total strangers? Talk really loudly on the bus, probably.
For one feminist comedian however, online over-sharing has turned into a political tool. Comedian Gráinne Maguire has been encouraging Irish women to tweet the glorious, messy details of their period to Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny in protest at Ireland's archaic abortion laws.
Irish abortion laws are amongst the most restrictive in the world, described by Amnesty International as "violating women's and girls' rights to life [and] health". The law states that abortion can only take place if a woman's life is in immediate danger. This can mean denying women access to necessary medical treatment– sometimes, at a terrible cost.
Comedian and pro-choice activist Maguire has been live-tweeting the details of her period at Kenny to campaign against a system she believes denies women basic bodily autonomy. She also tags her tweets with #repealthe8th, the specific part of the Irish constitution that bans abortion.
"The campaign started as a bit of a joke. I'm a professional comedian, so I always think if you can make people laugh, that's the best way of communicating to them. Irish abortion laws have always made me so ashamed and angry. But sometimes, when you're angry about something, it's hard to find the funny in it," she said. "And men don't want to listen to angry women, anyway. I thought about abortion for months, trying to get a funny angle on something that's so heartbreaking and serious. Then, suddenly, I got it."
For Maguire, tweeting the details of her period at the Irish government made perfect sense. After all, if male politicians believe they have ownership over female bodies, shouldn't they know all the gory details? Maguire tells me that "since the government feels so comfortable passing laws that impose on my body, they should know all the facts."
Whilst Maguire only started tweeting at Kenny on Monday, she's been overwhelmed by the support she's got from fellow women and pro-choice campaigners, and has been covered as far afield as in the Japanese press. I ask her whether she's running low on blood puns, and she tells me she's lately taken to tweeting Kenny to ask what absorbency tampons he'd recommend. So far, the Taoiseach has not responded to any of the tweets. "These are the women he's supposedly representing, and he's not replied to them. It just shows he doesn't care."
Humour aside, tweeting your period in its bloody, panty-staining glory at your government helps to break down the cultural taboo that exists around women's' bodily functions. "It's like at every stage in a woman's life, you're made to feel ashamed of your body," Maguire said. "If you've got your period; right, you need to be embarrassed about that."
Her tweets confront male squeamishness about the female body with disorderly, anarchic glee. "It's so great seeing all these women tweeting at these po-faced serious men, going, 'I'm on the rag this week, my bedroom is covered in blood like that final scene from Carrie.' The men are like, 'This is so unladylike,' and the women are totally owning it—it's brilliant."
We say, 'If you [the Irish government] are so involved in our bodies—well, here are the details. Strap in.'
I asked Maguire her views on the recent tampon tax debate in the British Parliament, in which MPs discussed removing the punitive 5 percent luxury goods tax rate currently levied on tampons and sanitary towels in the UK. The debate attracted headlines in the British press after MP Stella Creasy demanded a male colleague stop using the euphemism "sanitary products," and say the word "tampon" (he did).
"It's so immature and pathetic," Maguire says. "But that's what happens when there are so few women in political life! These are the people who decide maternity leave, childcare, welfare reform. And they won't say 'tampon' in public. It's laughable."
Talking about the female body is, to Maguire, a political act. " Women are fed up with being told our bodies are gross and embarrassing and we can't talk about them. You can't talk about your body, and you don't have any power over it—whether it's your period, or a choice to carry a pregnancy to full term or not. Your body is gross, and embarrassing, so shush. We say, 'If you [the Irish government] are so involved in our bodies—well, here are the details. Strap in.'"
I tell Maguire that some of the tweets I've seen online are heartbreaking, including one from a woman forced to give birth to a stillborn baby after being denied a termination.
"I find this to be an issue that's so upsetting, you can either laugh or cry. The thought that something could happen to my sister who lives in Ireland, because of what a load of men think—it makes me so angry. It's not safe for women to be pregnant in Ireland right now. Doctors have to check legal statements before they can decide how to treat you. It makes me ashamed to be Irish; it makes me ashamed to come from a country where women are still treated like second-class citizens. It's horrifying."
For Maguire, legalizing abortion isn't just about politics—it's about life or death. "It's more than a joke. Some of the Irish women tweeting about this online could die as a result of these abortion laws. This is 21st century Ireland; we're a member of the EU. But we have this shameful secret."
Rest assured, however. Until women live in a society where their basic reproductive rights are assured, Maguire will continue to fight the government, one bloody tampon tweet at a time.