Menstruation is a topic that not many people like to talk about. It’s spoken about in whispers. It’s something that I was taught to be secretive of in elementary school, hiding pads and tampons up my sleeves or in the waistband of my pants to go to the bathroom. And it’s something that is often viewed as shameful and taboo all over the world.
In an attempt to break this taboo and destigmatize menstruation, the Pantone Color Institute has unveiled a new color inspired by menstruation called Period. This new color is in collaboration with INTIMINA’s, a Swedish company that offers menstrual health products such as menstrual cups, Seen + Heard campaign. This campaign’s goal is to normalize conversations surrounding menstruation. Pantone has described this new color Period as “an energizing and dynamic warm red shade encouraging period positivity.” Here are some of my thoughts on this new color.
- The Importance of Talking About Menstruation
I’d like to consider myself an advocate for menstruation and female health. As a public health major working towards a focus area in women’s health and a certificate in reproductive justice, anytime I see anything related to periods in the news or in pop culture, I have to see what is going on. When I heard of Pantone’s new Period color, I was fascinated and hopeful. The stigma surrounding menstruation is truly a public health crisis around the world. In the United States, period poverty inhibits women who are low-income or homeless from receiving proper menstrual care such as pads and tampons. Menstrual hygiene products can be expensive and are considered a “luxury good” in 35 states where there is a tampon tax imposed on their purchase. In developing countries, such as India, menstruation is viewed as being extremely shameful and dirty. Women are viewed as being impure and cannot cook or attend religious ceremonies while menstruating for fear they will contaminate what they touch. In some areas, there is no access to sanitary napkins so women may be forced to use whatever absorbent materials they can find, such as unsanitary rags which can lead to infections. There is a culture of misinformation and lack of education around women’s health which can be detrimental.
- It’s Not Really Accurate
Pantone’s color Period has certainly made waves and has started conversations about menstruation, a step towards destigmatizing menstruation. I do appreciate the recognition of the taboo from such a large and influential company. However, I have a slight bone to pick. The color, described as an “energizing” and “dynamic” red, is somewhat off-putting. The almost fire engine red hue of Pantone’s Period paints a pretty picture of what some wish periods are really like. In reality, periods are not a beautiful vibrant shade of red. They are dark, brownish-red. They stain bed sheets or your favorite pair of jeans. Period blood is often clotted by the time you change a pad or tampon. It’s not free-flowing. And it’s certainly not pretty. In my opinion, Pantone’s Period is slightly out of touch. A deeper and more accurate hue of red would have been equally as beautiful.
Menstruation is a natural and beautiful process. It is essential. It is not shameful. Creating a color, albeit, with the right intentions, that is not genuinely representative of menstruation is a missed opportunity. Rather than truly celebrating menstruation, it still perpetuates the stigma that menstruation is dirty and it cannot be shown for what it really is, but rather it needs to be presented as “energizing” and pretty for the public eye. Pantone’s Period is a step in the right direction. It brings light to menstruation, promoting conversations about the taboo. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to truly destigmatize menstruation. An unrealistic red hue leaves room for improvement.