We have all had our fair share of period surprises at the worst times. Last week, I was blessed with one overnight. Lucky, I know! I stained my bed sheets and had to throw them in the washing machine but as I walked downstairs with my pile of sheets, I realized my brother was about to put in a load. I explained the situation to him hoping I could wash my stuff first. However, as a sweet brother often does, he replied “Ew, I’m not doing laundry after you wash your disgusting bloody sheets in there.” I was planning to put the washer on a clean cycle after I was done but that was besides the point. I was so upset and hurt that he would say such a thing that I simply tossed my stuff on the ground and walked back upstairs to take a shower.
Although periods are rather unpleasant, who is he -a cis man- to judge me for a perfectly normal experience? It made me think of how society has made women, young girls, and trans men feel as though periods are something to be ashamed of.
For far too long, periods have been treated as ‘disgusting’ taboo topics that should only be discussed privately. The New York Post reported a study, which found that 51 percent of men believe it is inappropriate for women to openly mention their periods in the workplace. Such attitudes have forced those who experience periods to feel as though they should hide anything that would suggest they’re menstruating. In grade school, I recall girls secretly asking their friends for spare menstrual products whenever they unexpectedly got their periods. They would then try to discreetly put them under their shirts or in their pockets as they walked to the restroom. It appeared that there was an overwhelming sense of embarrassment that came with exposing the fact that they were on their periods.
While that is an important element, it should be noted that the stigma surrounding periods goes beyond visual shame. The term ‘period’, in and of itself, is something that often brings discomfort to both men and women. It’s why there are countless phrases like “mother nature”, “time of the month”, and “Aunt Flo”. Although they seem rather harmless, these phrases contribute to the stigma surrounding periods. Rather than taking a stand against the period taboos, they simply try to conceal the negative connotations associated with them by suggesting that they are the better alternatives to the socially unacceptable ‘period’.
It is evident that society’s attitude surrounding menstruation requires change, especially considering that this harmful environment creates larger issues that negatively affect one’s self esteem, mental, and physical health. It is therefore of great importance that society works together to destigmatize menstruation. This involves open discussions that build communities of support, which essentially serves as an educational resource allowing for society to take a stand against period taboos.