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Let’s Talk About Period Stigma

Periods. Millions of people have them but aren’t supposed to talk about them because they’re considered taboo or even gross. But why? They are a natural human function yet society has forced such a huge stigma around talking about them. 

[bf_image id="q2wioz-cdl1mg-1s1eew"] There is a serious lack of education and awareness surrounding periods. The topic is swept under the rug and not talked about. One example: period product accessibility. The ACLU has given many harrowing statistics such as two-thirds of low-income women in St. Louis not having access to period products or one in five teenagers not having access to period products. Yet many people probably don’t know the severity of this issue just because it is not talked about enough or seen as a serious issue. 

Another example is not really learning about periods in schools. Yes, the topic might seem awkward but that should not stop it from being taught. The more we normalize talking about it, the less awkward it will become as well. Every school is different where some never talk about them to some giving a vague talk(this was mine) and hopefully some actually teach about what periods do to the body, hygiene, etc. This should also be taught to everyone, not just the people who will have the periods. Everyone should be educated on the topic because everyone knows at least one person who experiences a period. 

[bf_image id="q4sgz9-7yew4o-y4q2i"] The pink tax is also a serious issue that is not discussed enough. This is taxing period products as “luxury items.” Period products should be a human right, not a “luxury product.” As of April 2021, 30 states still tax period products, yet many of those states have tax exemptions like Mardi Gras beads in Louisiana or licorice in Arizona. How does that make sense? The stigma around periods makes the issues, like the pink tax, stay silent. I didn’t know about the extent of the tax until I decided to investigate. 


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Luckily, the landscape around periods is starting to change. Brands like The Period Company are raising awareness and creating innovations. The Period Company makes period underwear aimed to limit single-use disposable period products. The goal was to be more environmentally friendly but also help people embrace their periods and feel more connected with their bodies. Sasha Markov, one of the co-founders, spoke on how periods are advertised and viewed in the media.

“Most advertising to do with period products is all about having power over periods, getting through the burden of periods - a successful period is seen as one we can pretend isn’t even there,” Markov said.

Whenever I see a period product ad, the period is almost always portrayed negatively like it’s something to fear or be embarrassed about. Obviously, no one wants to ruin their clothes with a period leak, but periods don’t have to be so harshly critiqued in advertisements either. Periods should not be treated like an enemy yet the stigma lingers on.

“That story of the period affects so many people who period. We feel shame, we hide it, we live in terror of leaking - all of which separates us from our body and this incredible thing it does,” Markov said. 

[bf_image id="7x3kwxcxcqk3wc3vc7pc8s3p"] Periods are also being discussed more in the media. One example is Tampax’s recent campaign with Amy Schumer to educate people on periods. YouTuber Ingrid Nilsen also has many videos about period health and education. She even interviewed Barack Obama about the pink tax in 2016! These are great strides in ending the stigma surrounding periods and have the ability to influence a variety of audiences. 

I’m going to be fully honest, writing this piece made me a little uncomfortable. I thought maybe I would be judged or maybe I shouldn’t write about this topic because of the stigma. Yet those thoughts are exactly why I needed to write this piece and why everyone should work together to stop the stigma surrounding periods. 

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Ava Calpino

Wisconsin '22

Ava Calpino is a senior strategic communication major at UW Madison. She previously wrote for LMU's chapter. She loves writing, the environment, and cute animals.
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