Every woman will get a period. Once a month, she will spend 4-7 days bleeding out of her vagina. In addition to the discomfort of a constant sticky stream, women will endure horrible cramps, bloating and hormonal imbalances. Yet in spite all of these atrocities blessed upon women, society feels the need to pitch in with its own constant stream… of disgust; disgust for periods and shame for those who have them. Why?
Let’s break it down. In between puberty and menopause, a woman will have her period, on average, every 28 days. The period lasts 4-7 days, depending on the woman.
So generally, a woman will be on her period 13 times a year. That is an average of 71.5 days of the year, bleeding down below. That is nearly 20% of the year. A significant chunk no?
Yet periods are never discussed in the media, in public spaces and rarely even, among friends. Why are periods so taboo? What’s the deal here?
We all talk about peeing don’t we? Or pooping? Or blowing our noses? Or breathing?
In the middle of a meeting, a woman, let’s call her “Fanny”, would have no problem saying, “Sorry Boss, I can I be excused? I need to pee.”
Easy. It’s direct and honest. Her natural, normal process of pissing needs to happen and there is no shame in talking about it, no one in the room is uncomfortable.
Imagine instead, if our Fanny asked, “Sorry Boss, can I be excused? I need to get a pad from my desk?”
NOOOO! She talked about her period! Ew! How dare she bring that disgusting and personal information into our meeting? Fired!
This is what fascinates me. Even the really germy stuff, i.e. poop, is discussed among friends, family and the media. We all poop, we can’t help that we do it. It’s smelly but it’s normal. We can chat about our stuffy noses, our sweat, our flossing techniques, our sex habits even – truly, the entire plethora of human hygiene is up for conversation except this one little thing that affects every woman, every month, for 40 years of her life.
The humble period, this entirely natural, entirely not disgusting, intrinsically human process (the most human process actually, it makes more humans) is completely off limits. Why? Speaking to other males, it seems that periods are a “girl thing” and it’s “gross” and that it’s “not my business to hear about it”. Most people (men and women) genuinely find it impolite to speak about it. What is with this public loathing? Loathing, by the way, for a process that is solely female. Can we all agree that hating the period is sexism to the core?
“Okay sorry lagahoo, that’s too far,” you say. “Society doesn’t shame women for their periods. And even if it did, it’s not misogynistic to think periods are gross.” Okay reader, do this quick test. Ask any boy to hold a clean pad – or even an unopened box of pads. Go on, I dare you. They will cower down as if you’ve asked them to taste open sewage. To society, at least in my experience, even an unused, completely hygienic sanitary product is disgusting because it used for periods, the pinnacle of human grossness. Men will touch used diapers (hopefully) without issue, but a clean pad? Absolutely not, that’s gross “girl” stuff, the overriding emotion for them being fear.
If society teaches us that periods are disgusting – a process that every single woman in the history of the world has to go through – by extension, society is saying that women are disgusting. It’s extremely harmful. We don’t need to spend 20% of the year feeling disgusting and hating our bodies, it’s unfair.
Now, is this disgust for menstrual blood accurate? Guess what, it’s not. It’s just blood; blood and a teensy bit of mucus. It’s not poop, it’s not piss, and it’s much cleaner than both. Actually, it has the same amount of germs that normal blood has. So all you manly men who watch action movies, dripping in gore but faint at the sight of one pinprick of period blood in the toilet? Get over it.
Now that we’ve covered just how un-disgusting periods are, let’s talk about the shame. Women are taught from young to be ashamed of their period. Those of us who went to public school know that public toilet paper doesn’t exist; every girl had her own little roll in her desk. Interestingly however, there is ZERO embarrassment in asking a friend for toilet paper – even if you were to roll out a fat wad (implying you need a number 2). Yet, even in this all-girls school, asking to borrow a pad is equal in shame to asking to borrow a toothbrush. And still, in this same all-girls school, every student tries their best to hide the pad away, make sure no one knows that they’re bleeding – hiding a pad in their pocket or a tampon up their sleeve,. Silly right? We don’t hide our handkerchiefs so why would we hide a pad? Do we not want to scare men with our hygienic practices?
That’s the point of this article. I think periods are actually, a really cool process that no one wants to talk about. Women get periods too often to feel embarrassed when it happens. So ladies, stop being shameful and men, stop being afraid. Periods are normal.