But he does not like evidence of my bowel movements. If something does not sufficiently flush, he is upset. If I mention being backed up, he is visibly uncomfortable. If someone brings it up in conversation, he goes suddenly silent.
Though poop, feces, bowel movements are common conversational fodder for men in social conversation and in media depiction, for women they are taboo. In society with men, poop is something we don’t mention unless we’re desperate to shock, desperate for laughs. Discussing it in public is crass and uncomfortable. “Everybody poops. Except for women,” as Sarah Haskins says in one of her hilarious Target: Women sketches.
Women and poop are supposed to stay very far away from each other. We’re supposed to be on opposite ends of the spectrum: uncritical unblemished object Women at one end and messy stinky human Bodily Functions at the other end. We’re not supposed to do it. We’re not supposed to talk about it. Though there’s an entire industry around making us poop - Metmucil, MiraLax, etc - it’s about Fiber or Cholesterol or [Euphemism], as Haskins ablely points out in the video quoted above.
Women are instilled with a sense of shame about a regular, necessary bodily function. Everybody poops, but we’re not supposed to. We’re not allowed to talk about it, even as a measure of our health (especially since the only acceptable measure of female health is demonstrated by falling within the narrow range of “reasonably thin”). Bathrooms are a highly-fraught place, particularly for women at an intersection. Bathrooms were once segregated by race. Bathroom panic is a common expression of cissexism and transphobia. Bathrooms are often inaccessible for women with disabilities. Bathrooms are not easy for women anyway, but the stigma surrounding poop makes bathrooms particularly uncomfortable.
Men pooping is funny and normal. It’s a part of their lives - it’s a little gross, but it’s a common comedic note and point of discussion.They talk about it, they brag about it, they joke about it regularly. How many poop-themed episodes has the male-dominated universe of South Park had? But it’s a shocking, off-putting note for women in comedy. Since we’re not supposed to poop, and unexpected juxtaposition is at the core of comedy, it’s effective - but the effect is to remind women that pooping is somehow wrong. It’s most often paired for shock value with narrowly-defined beauty, as with Jenny McCarthy above. Because the bodily function of sex is on one end, the bodily function of waste must be on the other. When they come together, it’s not funny because it’s part of the human experience, as with the normalized poop of men. It’s funny because we’re not supposed to poop, because poop and women and particularly beauty are supposed to be far apart.
When I wasn’t busy hating myself in high school, I was so ashamed of doing something literally everyone does that I would not poop outside of my home bathroom. Wouldn’t at school. Wouldn’t at friends’ houses. Wouldn’t at restaurants. Though I had the cis and able privilege to use the bathroom easily and safely, I pooped as little as possible in public. Until I got to college, I pooped infrequently and shamefully.
But through healthy conversation with other women, I got over it. My college friends and I started talking about poop. The experience of pooping, different kinds of poop, poop problems, poop remedies. We talk frequently, and lately more and more in the presence of men (who look uncomfortable, but whatever!) about poop, hemorrhoids, skid marks, and other digestive side effects. My pooping is better, my digestion is better, and my conversations are better, all from discussing poop with women.
Pooping is awesome, and I like discussing it without shame or disgust. Men, my boyfriend included, will have to get used to it.