When it comes to time-travel adventures and women, Hollywood has decided they're very much against it. Unless you're a Time Lord's companion, Jennifer Garner, or Girl Terminator, the past and the future are boys' clubs where women are roofied on arrival.
And that's if women get invited at all. Rachel McAdams, God bless her, has starred in three different movies about time travel and has time traveled in zero of them. Females, apparently, are incapable of handling the pressures of every moment but the present.
Practically speaking, Hollywood might be right for once. As crappy as women have it today, the past suuuuuucked for ladies. And traveling to the future sounds like a blast until you arrive in the charred remains of our once-habitable planet. Possessing a vagina isn't going to help you swim better in a waterworld, and your boobs aren't going to help you breathe whatever passes for air in the distant future.
But for one minute and the sake of this article, let's imagine a future universe where time travel is safe and reliable and no one is worried about climate change because we figured that mess out. Good news, future Lady Chrononauts! I've already written the manual addressing the special problems you (we?!?) are going to encounter as we violate the natural order of time itself.
Let's address the bloody elephant in the room right off the bat. When God, in all his sadistic wisdom, blessed women with monthly hemorrhage sessions, he probably wasn't thinking, "Ha-HA! Now I've done it! Women will never face combat or swim with sharks again! SUCK IT, WOMEN!"
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Even after way more than enough time than necessary to contain periods, if not erase them from our bodies altogether, the best period-related technologies the modern world has come up with are cotton vagina noodles and panty diapers. The word on the street is that there are reusable, environmentally friendly menstrual products out there, but I'm hoping I start menopause before I'm guilted into washing out my own insides every month. Here's my truce with the planet: I'll start using environmentally friendly lady-day products if you, as the people of the Earth, let me reenact a crime scene from The Wire every time I get my period. Deal?
There's a problem for women of childbearing age who want to time travel to the past: You can't bring your preferred blood-handling technology with you.
For one thing, unless you're traveling to a developed country in the last few decades, you're going to a world without modern plumbing. Nothing gets flushed away into the underground water park that is the miracle of sewage systems. Your monthly notification that you aren't pregnant has nowhere to hide in the past. And you can't bring your modern tampons and pads, because that technology doesn't exist yet. We all know that the second rule of Time Travel Club is that we don't leave our modern implements behind. Unless you plan on carrying your used, blood-soaked tampons back to the present with you, there's nowhere to hide them in the past. You can't throw them in the trash; there is no trash. Well, there is, but you can't leave your cardboard applicators and dry-weaved synthetic winged panty liners behind for confused anthropologists to discover among pottery shards later. Which means only one thing: You have to study the period technology of the ... period.
Depending on where and when you land, you can plan on shoving papyrus or sponges up your vagina, walking around with fabric wadded up between your legs, or getting sent to a segregated menstruation hut so you can bleed into the ground like the world's grossest farmer. If you land in your great-grandmother's day you can look forward to wearing something called a sanitary belt, which was a pad that hooked to a belt that you wore around your waist, like this:
At this point the question you, as a time-traveling woman, need to ask yourself is this: Is time travel even worth it? If the wonders of what you're seeing in the past are tainted with the memory of chafing wads of grass in your hoohah or constantly squeezing your thigh muscles together to contain wadded up linens so you could go watch the Lincoln assassination or whatever, is this whole game of "hide the blood" worth it?
The more adventurous, Sally Ride-ish among us will say, "YES!" and take on periods as women throughout history have handled them, with dignity and strength and as much discretion as culture requires. The rest of us need to be realistic about how comfortable we really are with handling our own blood and stick to the history books for a glimpse of the past. Ain't no shame in not wanting to sit in the Menses Hut for a week.
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All time travelers should take a vow of celibacy, no questions asked. "I (state your name) will keep all genetic materials in my body so as not to make past or future babies who will Butterfly Effect the universe into oblivion." Easy. Put your name on the dotted line and go have some nonsexual fun.
While we all agree men and women should keep it in their pants when exploring the past and future, we also know that the stakes are extra high for women. Chances are, you're traveling to a world without condoms, birth control, or anesthesia. Syphilis you can handle. Come home and get your antibiotics and never time travel again, you nasty horndog. Pregnancy, on the other hand, is a whole can of worms time travel can't unopen. For one thing, you aren't going to find out you're pregnant until you've got a decent-sized fetus growing in your belly. Bringing an unborn out-of-time human to the present feels like something that shouldn't be allowed. If you can't ride a roller coaster while pregnant, you shouldn't travel through time and space while pregnant. That's just common sense.
Which means you're now stuck in the past, facing a childbirth experience where you will probably die. Yes, some of our ancestors survived the childbirth experience to propagate the species and get us here today, but A LOT OF THEM DIDN'T, and don't kid yourself about how hardy you are. Right now there are parts of Africa where one in six women die during childbirth.
No one who helps you deliver the baby is going to wash their hands. There's no such thing as sterile delivery equipment. If someone suggests a C-section, it's because your doctors think you're already about to die and they want to save the baby. The very-best-case scenario is that both you and your baby survive childbirth ... and then what? Come back to the present? NOPE. You can't bring that baby and its caveman DNA here. Are you going to stay behind and live in the past forever? NO. That's going to jack everything up even more. No hot peasant from the past is cute enough to be worth these terrible scenarios, ladies. No sex for you.
In fact, let's just plan on no kissing, holding hands, or mouth stuff, either. You are Columbus and the past and future are a race of people with foreign immunities and diseases. YOU DO NOT WANT TO GENOCIDE THEM. Even their body lice is different from ours. The second you start smooching, you're unleashing a smallpox epidemic on your own ancestors, which means you might disappear seconds later. So let's make like a tree and keep our legs crossed while time traveling. Deal? Deal.
If you're a woman traveling to the past, someone is going to accuse you of being a witch. It's going to happen.
The stench of the future is going to follow you like an egg fart. Your words, no matter how guarded, are going to trigger alarms in the minds of everyone you encounter. "Why is she speaking?" they'll think. And, "What does 'hashtag losers,' 'hashtag poverty' mean?" Also, "How is it possible that this woman, a female, is confident in herself as a person when clearly she is not a person, as she is a female?"
If you are living in a civilization that has figured out time travel, you're also probably living in a civilization where women are A-OK with making eye contact with everyone they approach, which immediately puts you at a disadvantage while interacting with the populations of 95 percent of human history. You've been trained by Dove commercials and Beyonce to exude confidence and speak your mind, and that inner strength is going to shine when you travel through time and see some dummy man dumbing it up like a dum-dum because he doesn't know any better. Your futuristic wisdom is going to vomit out of your mouth, possibly in the form of rap lyrics, and someone is going to decide you are the Devil's Bride. Don't fight it. It's going to happen.
Which is why you need to get up to speed on knots.
Join the Girl Scouts or a sailing club. Read up on Houdini. Do some Shades Of Grey stuff, whatever; this is the time for it. As a woman, you need to know how to get out of bondage-type situations before you end up tied to a stake, so whatever means you want to use to get that practice in your head is fair game.
"Oh, but I don't want to travel to Colonial America or Medieval Europe," you might be thinking. It doesn't matter! The Bible's MOSES condemned witches. Ancient Rome executed suspected witches when their crops failed. The only thing we've figured out about human nature is that humans get crazy when they think a woman is a witch. Practicing the phrase "I am not letting Satan put his penis in my vagina" in multiple ancient languages isn't going to save your skin when you accidentally let it slip that you know your multiplication tables.
You're going to need to know how to get out of every knot imaginable. Then you're going to need to know how to hold your breath underwater for exceptionally long periods of time when you're condemned to trial by drowning. You know what? Let's just hire David Blaine to provide high-stakes escape training to all future female time travelers. It feels gross now, but you'll thank me later.
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Wow! It's HILARIOUS how quickly this guide has turned into a dark hole of despair that no woman in their right mind would ever want to master! But onward and upwards, I say!
(White) men who travel to the past can pass themselves off as anything from wealthy men of leisure to your common smithy or donkey puncher, depending on the era. As long as their skin is white and their hair is cut to the appropriate length for the time, no one is going to question a wandering white man making his way in a new environment.
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For the rest of us, we're going to have to get creative when it comes to finding food and shelter. Let's say I want to go back to Bible times to watch Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection so I can settle the "did he or didn't he" question once and for all. Using the Bible as a template for possible careers for earning my living while waiting for the big day, here are my options:
I know what you're thinking. You're coming from the future, so the the only reasonable option is "prophetess." WRONG. From what I can tell the only difference between a witch and a prophetess is that a witch pissed someone off. Getting stoned only became a fun thing in the 1960s, so I'm going to avoid any jobs that allegedly require communion with supernatural forces.
Unless you've made a career out of working at Renaissance Faires, you probably don't have a skillset that's going to translate to big bucks in the past. Sure, there were women who bucked the traditions of the day to become doctors, mathematicians, aviators, politicians, and men, but that can't be you, because you're a time traveler, not a trailblazer. Showing up in 19th-century America as a liberated, pants-wearing career woman is going to get your mug in 21st-century history books, which is so taboo that it's ta-"Boooo!" as in I'm yelling "Boo!" at you for sucking at time travel.
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Surely women can time travel to the future, right? Wage equity will be all worked out, reproductive rights will be settled forever, and ladies of the present developing world will probably be running the whole shebang. Who knows? Maybe someone will have figured out this period thing. There's only one problem with traveling to the future, and it has nothing to do with being a man or woman.
It's that you're going to be stupid.
Imagine a Londoner from the 1600s traveling to London of the 1900s. There's going to be a few adjustments, things like factories, figuring out what America is all about, double-checking on the national religion, etc. But, for the most part, this time traveler would be thrilled that there weren't plague-ridden carcasses lining the streets, and he would easily adjust to Victorian life without much heartache.
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Now, imagine a Londoner from 1900 traveling to today. There's no way a reasonable human could make the adjustment without losing their mind. You don't even have to go back that far -- imagine a time traveler from the 1960s trying to figure out what the crap we're all doing with these tiny black bricks in our faces all day. He or she would have no concept of the Internet, email, GPS, texting, textspeak, Google, Facebook, electronic payments, the cloud, Skype, or camera phones.
And before you even pass that information along, he or she would need a primer on AIDS, because this imaginary person missed out on the '80s.
Next up, someone needs to tell this 1960s person that heroin actually kills people, nobody makes gay jokes anymore, women can be bosses now, we elected a black man for president -- and it wasn't Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, have a seat, because we have some bad news about MLK. And while we're on the subject of heartbreak: Humankind may have irreparably damaged the Earth itself over the last hundred years or so. Oh, and we haven't colonized space yet. But good news! If you're especially nostalgic you can still see The Rolling Stones in concert! One ticket will cost you only about $600! A thousand if you want to see them in Vegas!
We make fun of our grandparents for struggling with new technology, but our grandparents have survived what may have been the fastest technological and cultural shift in human history. And things are only moving faster. The only thing you can count on when you travel to the future is that someone is still going to be fighting over land in the Middle East and you will be an old person struggling with the remote that is the world.
So buckle up, future lady time travelers! I will not be joining you for the reasons stated above. Have fun, be safe, don't screw around, and be sure to research corsets before you step into that time machine. It looks like they suck super hard.
Be sure to check out more from Kristi in 6 Vintage Ads Companies Would Never Get Away With Today and 4 Ways The Disney Princesses Created Modern Feminism.
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This should have resulted in years of therapy.
Sometimes it's just a matter of making the US Department of Defense look, like, REALLY cool.
Actual impending doom like global climate change or mass extinction just makes people bored.