Bleeding isn’t dirty, it’s essential to life

Why is menstruation still a taboo subject? We're joining the revolution to break the period stigma!

The Period Stigma

For generations, we have used euphemisms – ‘time of the month’, ’women’s problems’ – whilst excusing ourselves to the bathroom with a tampon stuffed up our sleeve, praying that nobody around will catch a glimpse of the dreaded implement and cotton on (pardon the pun). My first experience of period stigma was in secondary school, when it was commonplace for girls go be embarrassed at the presence of their period and the boys either freaked out or made fun, often using one of the delightful euphemisms that we’re so used to – ‘on the rag, are you?!’ thus feeding the embarrassment around the subject and highlighting menstruation as taboo.

Bleeding is Essential to Life

Menstruation is a necessary biological function experienced by 50% of the population. For too long, periods have had been thought of as a figurative stain on femininity, going against its ‘tidy’ image. Euphemisms are unnecessary and unhelpful and feed the misogyny from which period     stigma stems, labelling menstrual bleeding as messy, untidy, therefore anti-feminine. A study conducted by the International Women’s Health Coalition found that there are about 5,000 slang words used to refer to menstruation in 10 different languages [1]. Many of these are derogatory, further feeding into stigma and misogyny as a tool to belittle and disempower people with uteruses. It is dangerous and damaging to teach young people of any sex that this natural function of the body is unsightly and dirty, something to be hidden or even ridiculed, as was regularly the case at my school.

Another example of how anti-period our society is is the fact that the period emoji, a simple droplet of red blood, took 2 years to be approved! [2]And we all remember the clinical blue liquid used in sanitary pad adverts for decades, sterilising and reinforcing the unsightly nature of menstrual blood. And it isn’t just a Western issue, period stigma if deeply rooted into cultures worldwide. Research from Berkley University found that in Kenya and Venezuela women are forced to hide away in shame during menstruation as it is seen as unclean a form of weakness. A lack of education, menstrual products and suitable toilet facilities in rural Africa means that girls often take time off school when menstruation, jeopardising their education and undoubtedly effecting mental health [3].

As if periods weren’t inconvenient enough, menstrual products are also taxed at 5% VAT and are classed as ‘non-essential luxury goods’. That’s right! Luxury. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I love more than spending my hard-earned money treating myself to a new box of tampons or a menstrual cup, and being texted for the pleasure. Fortunately, in the UK this tax is finally going to be scrapped at the end of 2020, but this is after 20 years of campaigning [4].

Period Pride

The female body is amazing, and fortunately there are now a wide range of period products (soon without 5% VAT – woohoo!) including eco options so that people who menstruate can decide how they want to menstruate and even care for the planet as they do so. There are even menstrual disks which sit towards the top of your cervix and catch your flow whilst still leave space for perfectly safe and comfortable sexual penetration. In the age of social media, it is so much easier to spread knowledge and awareness to all audiences worldwide. Uteruses everywhere must be empowered and movements [5] and Period Con, a convention for women to come together and talk menstrual politics, need to be celebrated for their work in breaking the period stigma[6]‍

People who menstruate are important and powerful, as is the act itself. We must all do what we can to continue empowering people worldwide to be able to menstruate whenever, wherever and however without shame. Menstruating can be uncomfortable enough physically without the addition of a psychologically destructive stigma.

References and Resources:

1, 3)





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