It’s about so much more than just cheap drinks.
Would you tell a bartender you had your period if it meant you’d get a discount?
Located in Tel Aviv’s Jaffa neighborhood, AnnaLouLou is a bar/cultural center noted for the fact that Jews and Arabs, as well as queer folks and people of all ages, hang out there. And in October 2017, the bar did something else revolutionary when it established Bloody Hour, a happy hour for people on their period.
Here’s how it works: You go to the bar on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday nights (or, you know, all of them), tell the bartender that you’re menstruating, on your period, or whatever language you use, and you get 25% off your bar tab for the whole night. The 25%, according to Anna LouLou’s owners, is because people who menstruate do so for 25% of their lives.
“The whole idea is to give a discount, attention and a treat to someone, to say ‘we recognize you, we’re aware of the special situation you’re in right now, and hey, we want to do you a favour,” Anna LouLou co-owner Moran Barir told Haaretz.
The fact that Bloody Hour is predicated entirely on self-reporting is a big deal. It’s not just because folks are using their own words to describe the experience of their periods (as opposed to being told what language is acceptable), but because people who menstruate, particularly those who present as femme, are typically regarded as being unreliable and untrustworthy, being told that what you say will be believed is significant, even if we’re just talking about a bar tab.
Period stigma is alive and well, and the existence of Bloody Hour is a significant step in combatting it. At AnnaLouLou, people who menstruate are not only talking about it, but they’re being visible during menstruation, or PMS, or whatever period experience that’s being had. We’re taught to be silent about our periods, to hide them, and to be ashamed by them, especially when they’re seen by others. (In spite of myself, I’m still embarrassed about the time I bled through my jeans without knowing it, and was informed about it by a woman on the street. In retrospect, thank you, stranger.) We’re even uncomfortable about talking with our doctors about our periods.
The messages that we get about our periods are complicated, although not in a good way. We’re not supposed to be vocal about it, lest we creep out others, specifically men, about this mysterious bodily function. Talking about menstruating, especially mentioning the details of the experience, like cramps and bleeding, is taboo, so we’re supposed to act as though nothing is going on.
“Because women suffer in silence every day people assume it’s a non-issue,” said Kiran Ghandi in an interview with The Lily. Ghandi finished the London Marathon in 2015 while free bleeding – not using pads, tampons, or other menstrual products to absorb blood flow.
The creators of Bloody Hour regard it as a reward for enduring menstruation, and that public acknowledgement is daring (as sad as that is in 2017). The result is not just a discount tab, though, it’s a gathering of people who are menstruating. Chances are, you’re going to Bloody Hour with your friends, who might also be menstruating, and then there’s a whole bunch of you who are going to be reporting and talking about your periods for at least some of the time you’re enjoying your cocktails. This is important, since periods are so stigmatized, we’re not even necessarily talking about them with fellow menstruators. Bloody Hour can play a big role in prompting these and other conversations about reproductive and sexual health.
If you’re trans, or someone who presents as non-binary, periods can be a complicated part of your gender identity, and you might not feel so safe telling someone you don’t know that you’re menstruating. There’s no reason why you should, and that’s why it’s not as simple for bars to offer a situation like Bloody Hour without also being willing to demonstrate support for folks who don’t fit the traditional (narrow) idea of what a menstruating human should look like.
It is worth noting that in the context of Jewish law, menstruation isn’t necessarily a private affair. Because menstruation is so important to fertility and notions of purity, people who are religiously observant must monitor their periods and visit a ritual bath (a mikveh) at the end of their cycle before they’re permitted to have sex again. Modesty also plays a significant role in the matter, since going to the ritual bath is something you’re not supposed to notify everyone about, with the exception of your husband. Given all this, the fact the Bloody Hour is debuting in Israel isn’t insignificant.
The owners of Anna LouLou hope that Bloody Hour will take root in other cities. “Time for a revolution in the nightlife scene, time for a revolution in our day to day,” they wrote on the Facebook invitation to the first Bloody Hour. Thus far, it doesn’t look like it’s happening outside of Israel, or if it is, it’s not being reported. So, attention bar owners: you can do this. People will come, and it will make a difference.