Washington Post reporter plagued by PMS

Can a candy bar cure him?

Published July 13, 2006 9:36PM (EDT)

In today's Washington Post, staff writer David Segal debunks a dubious product; it's a chocolate bar called the Wonder Bar, which allegedly soothes the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. The Wonder Bar from Ecco Bella is a worthy target for scrutiny, since, as Segal reports, the hyped ingredients, such as chaste tree berry, have not been proven in any reputable study to work as a treatment for PMS.

Yet Segal treats the subject as an excuse to joke about PMS-ing chicks stuffing their faces to relieve their monthly misery: "It's pretty clear that what you've created here is a candy bar that gives women license to pig out to their hearts' content," he concludes. Segal winks to the guys: "If your wife or your girlfriend is on her fifth bar of the day and gobbling her way to a couple saddlebags' worth of extra poundage, she can say, 'Honey, I'm doing this for you. Either I eat another Wonder Bar or I berate you irrationally and then burst into tears. Take your pick.' Checkmate! A man will have no choice but to sit back and gawk in horror as the little missus turns into a Greyhound bus."

Broadsheet is sitting back and gawking in horror already, though what we're wondering is how those last few sentences made it past a single sentient editor at the Washington Post. We're not the only ones, judging from the reaction from readers on the newspaper's Web site, who express shock at the story's "incredibly chauvinistic tone" and dub it "unpleasant and uncalled for." One reader quips: "Now, if they would only come up with a product to give male reporters original ideas instead of relying on misogynist cliches about women's biology." Another posts: "I have a problem with the writer's obsession with his partner's appearance over her emotional and physical well-being. He seems the sort of guy who might tally his wife's caloric intake at restaurants and place restrictions. This man is clearly a symptom. I am appalled. I am male."

Segal -- sort of -- realizes he has crossed the bounds of good taste: "And maybe it's a little ... uh, unseemly for men to nitpick anything that brings relief to women suffering with PMS," he writes. Um, no. It's not unseemly to debunk products marketed to women based on their suspect medicinal value. That's a public service. What is unseemly is larding such a story with idiotic PMS humor.

"You can hear the ladies now: Dudes, go score us a few cartons of Wonder Bars and shut your yaps," Segal jokes. Personally, I have no interest in sampling a Wonder Bar, much less a case. Instead, I would very much like to see one David Segal reincarnated as a woman who suffers from really vicious PMS every month from age 12 to 50, seeks relief in a chocolate bar and is ridiculed by a catty man for packing on the pounds.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Katharine Mieszkowski

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