Periods. Yep, I said it. I’m slightly uneasy writing it, you’re probably a little uncomfortable reading it. But it is a totally natural process. One that somehow elicits these feelings of being wrong, shameful, or like you’re speaking out of turn for just mentioning the ‘P’ word out loud.
So why am I writing about menstruation at all if it’s such a shameful and taboo subject? Because period-shame is something a lot of women feel, but periods shouldn’t be taboo.
Earlier this year, that thing that causes so much worry happened to me …
Yep. Absolute horror of a nightmare. I leaked! Whilst wearing light blue jeans, I literally soaked right through – mortifyingly – onto the chair I was sat on at my friends. And ever since the ‘incident’, my recently heavier and heavier periods have lead me to feeling this deep panic that I will leak again.
So on top of tampon replacements every couple of hours and double protection in case the tampon fails. I’m feeling this need to talk about my periods more with whoever I’m spending time with over that week (lucky them). Because I’m generally in a state of concern throughout that time. So all in all, the usual shame surrounding my period has intensified.
Periods are loaded full of shame
And that’s the thing, periods are loaded full of so much shame and I didn’t really recognize the extent of it until recently. Whether its referencing menstruation out loud. Discussing visual shame – which is one of the things women worry about the most. Or just saying or doing anything that suggests that women do in fact have a period on a monthly basis.
There is a hell of a lot of shame surrounding this natural process. And at a time where I’m more concerned than ever that I’ll leak through again, I’m suddenly becoming intensely aware of how much women are expected to just kind of not speak about it. And preferably, pretend periods don’t exist altogether.
There is a real stigma surrounding women and their periods
Periods aren’t spoken about, because this normal biological process is socially seen as dirty. Girls really are taught to maintain a silence about menstruation. There is a taboo that makes it socially unacceptable to talk about being on a period. And if you do have to speak about them – refer to them in socially pleasing language please that god forbid doesn’t offend anyone. And a massive fucking HELL NO for mentioning anything to do with the fact that girls and women menstruate, in front of a man.
This really is all fact. And the even more crazy thing? It’s like Nona Willis Aronowitz from TeenVogue says, “At least half the world’s population either does or has or will menstruate, making it even less logical that any of us are walking around feeling bad about menstruation in any way..”
According to Plan International UK, “Even though at least 800 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating right now, we’re still not talking about it.”
And I totally get it because I didn’t talk about it either, not really. Like I might have made the casual reference of, ‘It’s my time of the month’, if I’d spent longer in the bathroom than usual. But I didn’t really go into detail ever. I’d prefer to say I had stomach flu over citing my period as something causing me so much trouble that month that I needed a day off work to handle it. And it’s always a careful positioning of ‘hide the tampon’ up one’s sleeve when out in public heading to the bathroom.
But now I have to speak about it. Because it’s a real concern that I’m going to mistime it again. I have to duck to the toilet every half hour for about a week before I actually come on my period, and talk to people about it. Explain why I’m worrying. Apologize if I sit on a chair during my period and seem to get up every ten minutes just to casually check the chair cover. And then there’s the asking my friends to do ‘the check.’
7 in 10 women have done ‘the check’.
You know, those times where you ask a friend to have a quick glance at your behind and make sure nothing has leaked through. I mean they do it without another thought, because we all must worry about periods right?
Every one of us must have had that panic and concern that this tampon is going to the one to fail. Or felt shitty as shit, and had a bout of diarrhoea for the first day just to add to the shittiness. The crappyness of a face full of spots. A stomach full of bloat. And legs that feel as if they aren’t your own anymore. The shame of feeling like you can’t explain to people why you’re feeling highly emotional. Accompanied by the desire to eat six chocolate bars back to back with a need to go the loo six thousand times – because you gotta make sure nothing has damn well leaked through.
It’s a period – They pretty much affect your whole mental, physical and emotional state
Now I’m not totally hating on the period itself here by the way. I mean getting your period is literally a sign that your reproductive system is working as it should – hurrah! But it’s difficult to celebrate it when you’re dealing with cramps and concerns. And even more so when you feel like you should be ashamed about all of it.
I mean I still hide a menstrual product on the way to the bathroom. Feel uncomfortable talking about it out loud. Worry hugely about the possibility of leaking because let’s face it, it’s that feeling that people would judge you for it if you did. Even the terminology people use makes people uneasy. Because according to a study by THINK, 62 percent of people admit that they have felt irked simply by using the word “period.” And almost half of women use more socially pleasing terms for their periods, such as ‘time of the month’, or ‘monthly visitor’.
48% of girls in the UK aged between 14 and 21 are embarrassed by their periods
I’ve intentionally not used socially pleasing terminology here. I want the full bloody, messy, gory, uncomfortableness of talking about my period leakage to really be brought to life (you lucky lot). Because until we talk about it honestly and openly, and the very things we worry about the most, we can’t help one another or the next generations. Girls and women will continue to suffer in silence. Feeling as if it’s something to be hidden away rather than spoken about naturally. Because this really is the thing, it IS a natural process. We can’t stop it (until peri-menopause / menopause hits). So we need to be able to talk about it, without shame or stigma.
Periods shouldn’t be taboo
THINX said: “Period-shame is something a lot of women feel, starting with their very first cycle, which can occur as young as eight years old. Those feelings of embarrassment and self-hate are then reinforced by society, which tells women that their bodies should be clean and tidy. And if they aren’t, well that’s not something to be openly and honestly discussed. By anyone.”
Plan International UK is fighting for a period emoji. Because with emojis actually becoming one of the fastest growing global languages, something as simple as a period emoji icon would set an example that this is something that CAN be talked about. And should be. Shahed Ezaydi believes periods can be destigmatized by having more open conversations with men. Even just by saying the words, “I’m on my period,” to help break the taboo.
And yep, here I am writing a blog about my period leakage – game changer I know!
But seriously, how could I advocate for stopping period stigma if I’m ashamed of talking about mine?. And how do I contribute in any way to breaking the period taboo if I can’t have a little more conversation about it?. So I’m allowing my period her moment and starting to openly talk about it.
I’ll also not treat menstrual products as black market goods to be smuggled up my sleeve on the way to the loo from now on. Because the more we can try to destigmatize the subject and normalize the conversation, any which way we can. The sooner we can break the taboo.