October 17, 2016

If You’re Still Embarrassed By Periods, You Need To Grow Up

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What is the issue?
Helga Weber
Helga Weber

Periods, menstrual cycle, menstrual blood, pads, tampons, and panty liners. Can we talk about periods? The thing is, even though I tend to brag about the fact that I’m this open feminist where no conversation is off the table, I was never open when it came to talking about periods. There have always been people in my life who didn’t and still don’t care about announcing to the world that they’re on their period. I never wanted people to know when I was having cramps, when I needed a tampon, or why I was carrying a little purse to the bathroom.

The truth is, I really just wanted to glide through life without anyone ever knowing I had ever had a period.

I remember in college, while sitting in my dorm room, one of my guy friends asked me, “Do you even get a period? Because I don’t see any evidence of it.” That’s of course because I had hidden all my pads and tampons away in a safe with a ten digit code…not really but you get the point. Why am I so afraid of people knowing I get a period?

There is definitely a taboo that exists surrounding period talk. Periods are often thought of as inappropriate and private. Periods seem to be hated because they’re supposedly “disgusting” and “unattractive.” This is insane because periods are as natural as sneezing and people will literally bless you after you sneeze. Periods are biologically natural and the reason that anyone has ever existed on this Earth was because of someone who got a period.

I was led to believe that men are repulsed by periods.

Don’t talk to them about periods.
Don’t let them know when you’re on your period.
They’ll get uncomfortable and they’ll be grossed out.

In high school all the girls discovered that if you tell a male teacher you were having “woman problems” or “woman issues” they’d get so flustered and confused that they’d pretty much let you get away with anything.

“Can I go to the bathroom with my best friend, not to walk around and get out of class, but because I have ‘woman problems’?”
“Can I get out of this assignment and rest my head, I have ‘woman issues’?”

The answer from these teachers were always along the lines of “Um, yeah, whatever you gotta do, do it,” given with zero eye contact and a red face.

Why do men with master’s degrees turn into little boys when periods are mentioned? I was always too embarrassed for the teacher and myself to announce to the class when I was experiencing “woman issues.” What I don’t understand is kids get nose bleeds in class all the time, but there’s no shame or embarrassment attached to that. When you think about it it’s basically the same thing. Why is one thing embarrassing and cringe worthy while the other is completely fine?

People are so easily conditioned to go along with whatever is “culturally normal.” Culture is transferred through the things we see and hear day to day. Showing period blood in ads and on social media is somehow considered vulgar and NSFW (not safe for work). This causes us to consider menstruating as private and inappropriate. We’ve created so many euphemisms for the word period. Aunt Flo, the curse, the dot, girl time, girl issues, on the rag, time of the month, the joy of womanhood, menses, mother nature, crimson red, and lady time to name a few. We make euphemisms for things that aren’t supposed to be spoken about or are really hard to talk about, like death.

On Instagram, a woman posted an image of herself sleeping in bed completely clothed with a period stain on her sweatpants and on the bed. The photo was later removed by Instagram because it didn’t meet community guidelines. Cosmopolitan, the popular magazine, posted on its website an artistic photoset of menstrual blood and labeled it as NSFW. If you look at the photoset, the photographs are anything but vulgar. Without the description I wouldn’t even know it was menstrual blood. Lastly, we’ve all seen the pad commercial with that blue liquid because in between my gory vampire show the last thing I want to see is anything that slightly resembles blood. All of these little nuances contribute majorly to the period taboo problem.

Let’s discuss the facts. Women get a period and men don’t. Could this be one of the major contributing factors to the taboo surrounding periods? Currently the United States is a patriarchal society, meaning men hold the power. I’ve noticed that when women try to encroach on that power, they are often picked apart for flaws. Getting a period is supposedly one of those “flaws.” How many times has a woman’s feelings been discredited because it’s probably her “time of the month?” Men usually want nothing to do with periods but when a woman is angry or upset they suddenly become experts in detecting who is on their period.

Donald Trump stated that, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” when talking about Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly after she questioned him during the first Republican presidential debate. Periods are often used as a way to discredit women because of false notions instilled by people like Mr. Trump. These notions include the idea that periods can make a woman “irrational” and “crazy.” A flaw is defined as an imperfection. Imagine during a job interview being asked “What would you say is your biggest flaw?” and answering, “Well, I do get a period.” It just makes absolutely no sense. Menstruation is the opposite of a flaw, in fact, without it no one would exist.

The period taboo doesn’t just cause embarrassment. There are deep rooted problems that the taboo causes. Pads and tampons not only cost money but they are also taxed. Just like cigarettes are taxed menstrual products are taxed. Pads and tampons are expensive which means not everyone can afford them. We don’t like to think that possibly the homeless woman down the block may not have the means to control her period. We also don’t like to think that stigmatizing periods can lead to incredible damage to a woman’s psyche. Shaming women for getting a period causes even more inequality between the sexes.

Reacting uncomfortably when a woman mentions menstruation causes her to believe that she should be ashamed of her body. We don’t like to think at all about the women in third world countries who don’t have access to menstrual products and are kept home when on their period. We need to talk and think about these things to finally end the problems caused by this stigma.

Women should never feel ashamed or embarrassed about their period. Me trying to hide my period not only hurts me but hurts other women as well. Without proper education and awareness this taboo will persist. We need everyone to know that getting a period is not a bad thing, not only is it not a bad thing it’s actually a great thing. One of my roommates in college told me about this tradition in her culture, Sri Lankan Tamil, where the family throws a big celebration party when a girl gets her first period. She explained that it was a little embarrassing and I understand that. Looking back on it now I think it’s a great way to normalize periods and to celebrate women. Also, let me make this clear your mother has had a period, your grandmothers have had a period. Hillary Clinton has had a period. Donald Trump’s mother has had a period, so has every one of his wives, and of course his daughters have all had a period.

Periods are normal. TC mark

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