End Period Shaming.

A woman’s menstrual cycle begins when she enters puberty between the ages 10 - 14, but it may occur earlier or later naturally or due to other characteristics such as diet or weight. Either way it is the first sign by the female body to announce its ability to procreate.

Speaking for myself, I got my first period in the fourth grade. This is rather early, and I remember knowing what was happening to me. I remember being self-conscious about it, because I knew no other peer who had started her period yet. In sixth grade I had to ask my teacher for a pad during recess and she was very discreet about it as we stood alone in the classroom. Since that moment, I observed the hush hush of the menstrual experience exhibited by men and other women. Seventh grade to sophomore year I played club volleyball where even in an event center full of thousands of girls, to transfer a tampon by hand was like passing drugs. You know the exchange. Maybe hiding it up a sleeve and certainly hidden by your hand as it transfers hands. In middle school, you absolutely don't want people to know you were on your period and nothing was unimaginably worse for a young girl than a leak. The secrecy of a woman’s period is so ingrained in our society it is even profited off of. In high school, when I would go down to the office for a tampon, they would hand me this package that said “little gift” or “secret surprise” type of phrase on the outside packaging. On the inside, a solid colored box, as to not give away its contents. Under the two layers of disguises were the tampons. 

Even my parents taught me about the propriety of my feminine hygiene products. Today we keep toothbrushes, shampoos, shaving materials, and a bowl for our natural bowel events and the paper to clean it within our bathrooms. People are not unaware of the natural unsightly processes human bodies go through, so then why is the menstrual cycle so covered up when half the population experiences it?

 

I refuse the societal notion that I should be ashamed of my period.

 

What happens to me, cannot offend me. What happens to half the population, cannot offend that half. So why is the other half so offended?

Women are first intimidated out of simply experiencing their period without shame because of how it had been negatively charged by that other half of the population. They do this by making fun of leaks, PMS, and by calling women emotional, hysterical and illogical while on their period. These are things women desperately do not want to risk being accused of. These claims are an unfairly applied stereotype that inherently implies that women are unable to out-think their emotional state.

But hey, boys will be boys.

We’ve created this culture of shame by calling a period gross. I mean yes it’s blood, but what about piss and shit and vomit, which are also gross but somehow not subject to the sexist isolation the menstrual cycle is subjected to.

During your period you should…

Be proud of your period. It makes you different. It is an experience only for you. It puts you in solidarity with the women of the world and speaks to your biological womanness which is radiant and beautiful.

Be aware that it is a sign of life. To bleed and to cry mean that the blood in you is alive and flowing, which is certainly better than the opposite. It shows you’re a healthy female, enduring a body experience that it is naturally designed to do. It means your body is thriving.

Be happy you’re not pregnant (unless of course you want to be). Pregnancy is wonderful, beautiful and the full right and privilege of the female body. But if you’re like me, you're in your 20’s and thanking God or whomever that there’s a meatball sub in your belly and not a small person. Hide my period? More like you’re welcome society. I’m hitting the books.

To state the obvious, a woman’s period doesn’t make a woman uncomfortable. It makes men uncomfortable. Yet our entire culture and our society made the girl in my philosophy class not want to get a tampon out of her backpack when she and I entered the classroom after a break. She said because it’s embarrassing. And in that moment I hated everything we say and do that would make this girl feel embarrassed by this natural process that belongs to her as a symbol of her health and womanhood. It was not embarrassing to me and not embarrassing or without empathy to half the people in the room.

Don’t get me wrong, women feed into the culture as well, and its through this understanding of undue shame and fear of something normal and natural for women will lead to its normalization. This movement is universal, and the examples in this article are in regard to the culture in the U.S. and most developed countries. There are many more drastic measures that need to be taken around the world in regard to women’s dignity and menstrual cycles.

Speaking from where I stand, if it’s my bathroom, my feminine hygiene products are out in public alongside the shampoo, the toothbrush, and the shit whipping paper. A little discomfort for the man (or woman), who sees it saves the little girl who has to ask her teacher in secret for a tampon and hoard it shamefully into the bathroom like a criminal.

She is worth the discomfort.

There is a whole culture surrounded around the shaming of a woman being on her period. It is reinforced in childhood and so large that feminine hygiene product companies profit off of the secrecy. There is nothing to be ashamed about while being on your period. This is the message we need to start sending men and other women in order to empower them. There is no need for secrecy. Own it. If it bothers someone, that’s on them. Someone’s mild discomfort at the sight of a pad or tampon and knowledge of a woman being on her natural menstrual cycle is a small price to pay for little girls and women being unashamed for what happens to them naturally as a sign of their womanhood, health, fertility, and livelihood.