It’s time we talk about something. And that something is menstruation. Ah yes, the period. Aunt Flo. That time of the month. You know, “women’s troubles” (Warning: If just these phrases alone are making you uncomfortable, this may not be the post for you…but it probably should be).
Menstruation (also known as a period) is what occurs when a female’s body sheds the lining of the uterus. This monthly process causes bleeding, which passes out through the vagina, and can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days (want to learn more about the menstrual cycle? Click here). In short, the period is a natural occurrence in the female reproductive system. So, why is everyone so uncomfortable talking about it?
I’m extremely open when it comes to my period – I ask for tampons loudly in public, I carry them to the bathroom with no shame, and I talk about my cramps. I am always taken aback when that seemingly offends people. Recently, I was traveling with a friend when I told him I had to run back up to my hotel room to get a tampon. He looked at me in utter disgust and said “UGH, did you really have to tell me that?” It absolutely infuriated me. I responded that he needed to grow up (my sass got the best of me) and that I’m absolutely not making up an excuse to shield anyone from this natural process that is not only part of who I am but also something we all know exists.
Sadly, he’s not the only one who feels women should keep quiet about the topic. Recently, Instagram removed a photo posted by an artist. It was of a woman wearing grey sweats and a small amount of blood had visibly leaked through her pants and on to the bed. The removal of the photo means that an Instagram user (or likely users) flagged this image as inappropriate. Sigh.
The taboo of menstruating has been around for centuries. In many traditional religions, menstruation is considered ritually unclean. In fact, the Old Testament states that when a woman is menstruating, “anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening.” There are cultural taboos, too. Until about fifty years ago, Italians did not allow women to enter the kitchen while menstruating. In India, women are considered impure, sick, and cursed during their period. Nepalese traditions include banishing women during menstruation, often expelling them to unheated and unclean shelters (such as animal sheds).
Thankfully, there are individuals who are striving to eliminate this taboo. One example is the media campaign, #periodpositive, which challenges negative media representations of menstruation and hopes to encourage menstruation education. Another illustration is derived from the photo and artist discussed above. When Instagram removed her photo, Rupi Kaur did not stay quiet – she struck back. Ms. Kaur explained that the photo series is actually to de-mystify periods and overcome the taboo that Instagram demonstrated. Further, she stated, “I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be ok with a small leak…” Preach it, sister!
There’s no doubt that I strongly support the women and media campaigns that are challenging the negativity associated with menstruation. But what can I - just a normal gal in Sacramento – do to stand in solidarity? I pledge to myself (and this cause) that I will continue to not hide my tampon in my sleeve when I walk to the bathroom. I will continue to be honest about how I’m feeling when I have my period and cramps. I will not be shamed for a biological occurrence that I cannot control naturally. Period.