Premenstrual stress (PMS) runs the gamut of minor inconvenience to severe life-disrupting distress. So is the packaging for a range of “ice-cream that understands PMS” created by a 21-year-old American graphic designer funny, offensive, or something else entirely?
Emblazoned with the declarations “I need some more”, “Don’t come near me” or “I think I’m dying”, PMS ice-cream is available in Rocky Road, Strawberry Swirl or Mint Choc Chip. But it asks its consumers to break the seal only in “extreme cases of PMS”.
The work is the brainchild of Texan Parker Jones, who says she:
wanted to do a project that showed a humorous side of PMS … how it affects women and what we really want to say when we just don’t feel good.
Blood, art and anger
And Instagram recently banned a photographic representation of menstrual blood leaking from a reclining woman, showing some things never change. We’re not supposed to break the silence and secrecy surrounding women’s bleeding bodies.
Women’s monthly mood change is a different matter; PMS is openly discussed, usually stoking myths of the premenstrual witch. Fear of the premenstrual woman has been used to sell milk to men, who are told that calcium cures PMS. And YouTube is rife with depictions of the premenstrual monster.
PMS ice-cream is relatively innocuous in comparison.
Some young women embrace PMS as a part of their lives and would probably be happy to indulge. In our research, we have interviewed young women who openly express irritation and annoyance premenstrually, with no sense of shame.
Others channel premenstrual emotions into creative work, or celebrate feeling sexual, as well as cranky, at that time of the month. They all reject the notion of premenstrual mood change as an illness, unlike American psychiatry, which categorises severe premenstrual mood change as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
Women in their 30s and 40s express more ambivalence about premenstrual moods. Some feel bad about irritation or anger expressed at partners or children premenstrually. Others feel guilt about their desire to be alone and escape family demands.