Friday, April 12, 2013

Broken Fact: The Infamous Period Police

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping tells one of the most outlandish tales on Page 254:
At our school, officials confirm that all female students were menstruating each month by checking their sanitary napkins. When they discovered that some women were cheating by bringing in their friends' soiled pads, the officials began inserting their fingers directly into our vaginas to check for blood. 
The Changed Story:
After being widely criticized for the implausibility of this story, Fu Ping "volunteered" a clarification to Didi Kirsten Tatlow of the International Herald Tribune:

In the interview, she volunteered an example of an error: a widely criticized account of the "period police," the authorities who checked a woman’s menstrual cycle to ensure she wasn’t pregnant in the early days of the one-child policy. To stop women substituting others’ sanitary pads for inspection, they were sometimes required to use their own finger to show blood. Through a misunderstanding with Ms. Fox, Ms. Fu said this was portrayed as the use of other people’s fingers — an invasion of the woman’s body.  
Ms. Fox “wrote it wrong,’’ she said. ‘‘I corrected it three times but it didn't get corrected.’’ Women used their own finger to show blood, she said, but the mistake went into print anyway. 
The Debunking:
It would be interesting to know who exactly dropped the ball on the correction for an error of this magnitude, as the original story describes a sexual crime regularly committed to young women, some of whom were virgins.

But even the modified version is not believable at all. A lot of bad things happened when the one-child policy was imposed, checking female periods wasn't one of them.

There were indeed sporadic tales of period-verification in some memoirs of the Cultural Revolution era. The purpose of those was however to make sure females did not falsify them as an excuse to escape hard work or study sessions.

But to check period regularly as a means to detect pregnancy is just impractical, as Fang Zhouzi had pointed out in one of his blogs: Female students did not have their periods synchronized. These officials would have to keep detailed records for each student and perform such checks on weekly if not daily basis. That's just unthinkable.

Furthermore, although "unauthorized" pregnancy was of course discouraged, the enforcement of the one-child policy centered at after-pregnancy: forced abortion. Therefore, there was no need to know if a student had missed periods. If she was pregnant, she wouldn't be able to hide that fact for long.

No comments:

Post a Comment