Reddit Feminist Forum Fights Trolls With Period Jokes

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Photo: Cultura/Frank van Delft/Getty Images

Earlier this week, visitors to the Reddit homepage may have noticed an uptick in “TMI” posts, many of which ventured into the finer, more graphic details of periods.

“The best two discussed the horror of period shits and good names for period clumps. 'Slot snot'! Genius.)" explains user HiFructoseCornFeces, a moderator of the female-centric TwoXChromosomes subreddit. “I read every single comment. It was glorious.”

Period shits weren’t trending elsewhere on the internet, though. The posts were a part of a gross-out protest in response to recent changes on Reddit that made previously hidden subreddits into default homepage fixtures. Before, subcommunities like 2X were visible only to readers who specifically sought them out, and only registered users could subscribe and contribute; now many are automatic subscriptions, and anyone browsing Reddit (with or without a username) can view posts from subreddits.

The sudden public access to a subcommunity that openly discusses women’s issues distressed some fiercely protective 2x subscribers. Many spent the weekend writing and upvoting a handful of posts intending to gross out other Reddit users. The goal was to either get 2x removed from the default list ("For those of you not wanting to see girl-talk on your frontpage because we are 'gross,' you can unsubscribe," wrote the author of the most popular gross-out protest post, "Oh the period shits…”), scare off trolls, or, at the very least, “announce to the Reddit world what the fuck is up with 2x,” she said.

In response, one user timidly asked, “Is this how it normally is around here?”  

Yes, HFCF says, “2X is the perfect forum for that content (and has regularly hosted those types of discussions in the past). This is where the female experience, yes, all of the female experience, is getting a bigger voice. Prior to the subreddit, there wasn't really a place to have those discussions.”

TwoXChromosome was started four years ago, and is a forum for women to discuss anything from the female experience — grody menstrual cycle truths included. Recent posts ranged from a discussion of Jill Abramson’s recent New York Times termination to questions like “Wtf is this thing in my vagina” to serious discussions of abortion and rape. They're sometimes sensitive topics that, if they show up on the homepage for anyone to read and comment on, are now more susceptible to trolling. And the higher profile and sense of public scrutiny could also change the way community members interact with each other.

“Change can be difficult when a community is passionate about its own space,” says HFCF.

But she also acknowledges that it's not necessarily a bad thing. With more people seeing the subreddit, there’s an opportunity for the promotion of important conversations. For example, there's the possibility that “Boys and girls will engage in conversations about consent, and preventing sexual assault, and knowing that period clumps are normal,” she says. Which is probably worth braving a few trolls.