How many guys do you think won’t read this post, simply because I mentioned my period?
Today is International Women’s Day and this entire week I have been completely obsessed with justice for menstruation.
Let me tell you about when I first got my period. I was in grade 5 at the time (11 years old), I remember feeling super hot, and just different, and I could tell something was going on so I threw my hand up in the air and asked if I could go to the bathroom.
I remember the bathroom I was in and the exact stall when I looked down and thought “oh sh*t, this is really happening.” Naturally I had no pads or tampons with me, so I wadded up some toilet paper and went back to class.
I didn’t say a word to my teacher or anyone else.
Then the bell rang for recess. Rather than waiting back to talk to my teacher I very awkwardly and cautiously headed outside with the rest of my class. I remember walking straight ahead, sitting under a tree with my arms wrapped around my legs and just watched the other kids play.
After the bell rang signaling that recess was over and it was time to head back to class, I went back and counted down the minutes until I could go home.
When I got home I went to the bathroom – grabbed one of my moms pads, and hid in the basement watching tv until my mom got home. I remember the look on my my moms face when she got home and found out… she was beaming and ecstatic for me. I instantly started bawling my eyes out.
For many years following I can recall the intense anxiety I felt every time I had my period. Spending what felt like hours in the bathroom at home trying to unwrap pads with such delicacy so that my sisters wouldn’t hear the rip of the adhesive.
Leaning into my bag or purse while at school and stealthily sliding a tampon or pad up my sweater sleeve to sneak it out of the classroom and into the bathroom – and there was no way I was taking my bag or purse with me because then people would know.
Panicking in the bathroom at friends’ houses because they didn’t have a garbage in their washroom and I had no idea how I was going to sneak my garbage out without someone noticing.
Or realizing that I got my period while at a sleepover and lying awake all night staring up at the ceiling and praying that I wouldn’t leak.
Not to mention the constant anxiety over whether a pad was showing and asking friends constantly if I was still “okay”.
When I got a little older – the anxiety seeped into intimate relationships – how the hell am I supposed to say I can’t have sex because it’s “that time of the month”, without actually saying “it’s that time of the month”.
The anxiety came and went every single month. And for the majority of my life I never questioned where that anxiety came from, or even acknowledged the shame that was attached to my own menstruation.
What I know now is that I did not create that shame. And I know that my mom did not create that shame. In fact, I grew up in a home that has always been open (maybe sometimes too open ;)) about bodily functions.
This shame and anxiety came from the world around me.
This shame and anxiety around our periods and everything that goes with it was created, and continues to be perpetuated by a patriarchal society (don’t roll your eyes) that has decided that because the bodily functions of a woman makes BOYS and MEN uncomfortable that we need to make every effort possible to pretend that it’s not happening.
Don’t believe me? Hear me out for a second
Many of the injustices that women have experienced for generations has been based on the assumption that we are less than, simply because we are women. I recall previously reading a paper that talked about how inequality between the genders is deeply rooted in a history that suggests that because women have the ability to bear children and menstruate, they are more closely connected with nature, and men, a product of the higher, civil society are therefore more evolved and of greater superiority.
But, as always with women, there is a dichotomy that suggests that despite our “less evolved physical state” we must refrain, restrain, and act like “ladies”. What does this mean? Hiding everything that comes natural to us including being horny, shitting, burping, farting, and of course, bleeding. Excuse the crass language 😉
Nine out of ten times women have no problem talking about their periods with other females. And I think nine out of ten women would likely agree that their period is not “inappropriate”. We don’t hide our periods because they should be hidden, we hide it because we are taught to… because it makes some people uncomfortable. And gentlemen, let me tell you, each time you make a face, walk away, plug your ears or make jokes, you are reinforcing these ideas.
If you still don’t think our society has a problem with periods, do some research on the feature image for this post (owned by Rupi Kaur) and find out what happened.
Every time we create products that are “easy to hide!” we are teaching girls that their period should be hidden. Every time we whisper about our periods we are teaching girls that their period is inappropriate to talk about. Every time someone makes a face when they hear the word period we are teaching our girls that their natural body is gross. Every time that damn cashier suggests that you should hide your tampons in a bag we are teaching our girls to be embarrassed about their bodies. And every time social media platforms remove a picture like the one Rupi Kaur posted, we are teaching our girls that there is something wrong with our inherent nature.
Now, for a second, I want you to imagine how freeing it would be to not have to hide your period. To speak about it openly. To yell across the office for a tampon. To complain about your cramps. And to not have to hide your period underwear – my god, the FREEDOM!!!
I don’t know about you but I am about ready for change. I don’t care if my talking about my period makes you uncomfortable. Deal with it. I will no longer whisper about my period like its a dirty word. And when I have cramps and you ask me how I feel you are damn well going to hear about it.
Unfortunately, like any change in society, we can’t just flip a switch and expect instant transformation. But here are a few ideas that I think will help create the cultural shift that we need.
Change your language
Nothing will ever change if people are afraid to talk about – let’s stop using terms like “aunt flow”, “that time of the month”, “feminine hygiene products”, and whatever other cutesy or publicly ‘appropriate’ words we use.
Let’s call it what it is. I’m bleeding and I need a tampon. Boom.
Stop hiding it
If you don’t need a bag when you are purchasing, let the cashier know (it’s better for the environment anyways).
Stop sneaking tampons/pads or trying to hide them – carry them proudly! We will hide our tampons NO MORE!
Start talking about it
Let’s just all agree that we don’t have to whisper about it just because a guy is around.
*WARNING – STEREOTYPE AHEAD*
If guys can talk about shitting, farting, burping, and other bodily functions, I think they can handle a little period talk.
Talk to your daughters about it… our school systems are starting to catch up but we need to make sure that our girls aren’t feeling scared, embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs a moon party (although I feel like I want to throw a belated one for me and my best friends…how awesome) but make sure that they know that their body is something to be proud of.
Talk to your sons about it. Normalize it. Because it is just that, normal. Teach them not to fear the tampon.
And guys – please stop making faces. It’s very unbecoming of you.
Just talk about it.
I’m not saying you need to scream from the rooftops about how much you love your period – I remember one of my friends being over the moon about it and singing about “becoming a woman” – if that’s your jam then go for it. But if you’re like me, and you don’t really feel like being all lovey-dovey about the beast trying to tear you from the inside out every month, then don’t. But respect the power of that beast, and be proud of what your body is capable of (regardless of how you choose to use it).
And last but not least, own it.
I am proud of being a woman. I am proud of my body. I am proud of every woman’s capability to create and nurture life.
My blood, is recognition of that.
And I am proud to say that despite the power and truth in the above statements, my period does not define who I am.
I am not my period. But I do menstruate. And you better believe I will scream that from the rooftops, because I am owning this part of me, and I hope you will to.
And to the guys out there reading this, I’m not about to leave you behind. Take a vow, right now, that you will never, ever, fear the tampon again.