Why do feminists always bang on about periods?




When I was asked that exact question, I laughed. I truly laughed out loud. A man posed the question and I laughed because he just seemed so bloody confused about the whole thing, about the constant vocal discussion from people about having periods.
Not to take anything away from him, I mean, it’s true: a lot of feminists want to talk about menstruation.

So, why is that?

I can only answer for me. Feminism means different things to different people, and everyone’s focus for their feminism can be different, made up of a multitude of beliefs. So, the reason I talk about periods is because people don’t want me to talk about them.
Though I suspect others feel the same.  
It’s the shame, you see, it’s the shame that’s attached (as if with sticky wings) to the forced silence about the topic. The shame is multi-layered and strangling and it comes from a variety of reinforcing sources. It’s definitely getting better, but when I was going through puberty menstruation was seen as something disgusting, and to a degree still is.
Menstruation was coded as shameful or gross in jokes told by men (though these days the jokes I see most often are women and girls making light of their experience which is brilliant).



(https://www.scoopwhoop.com/bloody-hilarious-period-jokes/#.rnovwckwl)

It’s coded shameful in some religions because it’s coded as unclean. Women and girls are sometimes removed from certain religious interactions while they’re menstruating.
The shame is often demonstrated by women. An example from my workplace: a woman I barely knew once hid my box of tampons (I had bought and placed them on my desk, out of the way, and had left for a cuppa) so that “no one would see”. She said it so conspiratorially too. As if they were something illicit- something very shameful to have on my desk.
The shame used to even extend to the way the products we use were sold to us. In the 90s it was always in cool toned commercials with menstrual blood manifested as light blue water, which always made no sense to me as it was not even the right consistency.



Don’t get me started on pads that were perfumed with sickly-sweet fragrances. Luckily there’s less of this now, though granted I don’t watch a lot of commercials these days.
Menstruation is coded as gross: I’ve heard men, even now, say they’re uncomfortable seeing tampons. Just tampons. Sitting in their box. Wrapped up.
And all I can think is that I don’t know what will happen to their delicate sensibilities the first time they have to shit next to a pad bin in a unisex bathroom.

There’s a cost to silence. We lose knowledge. We, (read: men) use bad judgement. Like the infamous example of Sally Ride. Sally Ride was the first US woman in space.


(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Ride#/media/File:Ride_on_the_Middeck_-_GPN-2000-001081.jpg)

When Sally was preparing for her trip aboard the shuttle, engineers asked her if 100 tampons would be the right number to pack. For a 7 day trip. Her response was: That would not be the right number.

If we don’t talk about it, you’ll see policy that makes no sense, like the Arizona prison policy to only issue 12 pads a month to inmates. (http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/12/female-prisoners-get-just-12-sanitary-pads-month-periods-7306847/) or the fact some women and girls right here in Australia can’t afford pads and tampons, and that our tampons and pads are still taxed as a luxury item. On that, one of my favourite groups, Share the Dignity is running #axethetax , you can find out more below.

A feminist writer in Scotland, Vonny Leclerc, recently asked her followers on Twitter to describe a time when their periods caused them shame. The responses are amazing, from stories about women and girls being laughed at or women being asked why they can’t just “hold it in”, to women being told by partners that using tampons was weird.
(https://twitter.com/i/moments/962815523347156997)

Feeling shame about something your body naturally does, doesn’t do anything good for women and girls. Menstruation is healthy and necessary.

If menstruation is coded as shameful, some women will even hesitate to speak to one another about their periods and accompanying symptoms. There are women suffering with endometriosis, for example, who maybe don’t realise what they’re experiencing isn’t the norm.

And endometriosis isn’t uncommon. I thought it was a rare condition but I’ve only recently realised that it affects 1 in 10 women. That’s an alarmingly high number for something that is frequently misdiagnosed and doesn’t have proper funding for research focused on treatments let alone a proper cure.
And why have I recently realised? Because women are talking more about periods and reproductive care!

Endometriosis Australia’s hashtag is literally #EndTheSilenceOnEndo – this is a good thing. This is why we should encourage and nurture discussion about periods, period pain and basically all things related.

And what I’ve written about here are just our first world problems, in other parts of the world menstruation affects women and girls even more so. Just examples from one country: 65% of Kenyan women and girls can’t afford sanitary items (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jan/05/having-a-period-is-unaffordable-in-kenya-yet-no-one-wants-to-talk-about-it), and because there is no education around menstruation (because of the stigma) some don’t even know what’s happening when they experience their first period. A 2015 study revealed the infuriating statistic that “1 in 10 Kenyan 15 year olds are having sex to get money for sanitary ware”. (
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/may/28/we-dont-know-enough-about-menstruation-and-girls-are-paying-a-price) And the stigma affects girls so much they sometimes miss school during their periods or give up entirely.
This shouldn’t happen for a naturally occurring, healthy bodily function.

Why do feminists always bang on about periods?
Because we need to end the silence and the shame. Silence and shame do absolutely nothing for us.





Also: If you have money and/or time to spare, you could consider one of the below!

https://www.thecup.org/ - distributes menstrual cups to underprivileged girls worldwide and provides them with education about sexuality and reproductive rights.
https://www.endometriosisaustralia.org/endomarch-high-tea - Endometriosis Australia is running a series of high tea events in March to help raise awareness, provide education and to raise funds for research.
https://www.sharethedignity.com.au/axethetax/ - details of the Share the Dignity initiative to axe the tax on feminine hygiene products.

(Note: I'm aware non binary people and trans men may have to deal with menstruation as well but I can't speak to their experiences - if you know any good perspectives, please share!")

By: Tee Linden

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