By Toni Brannagan
Around the world, people are forced to make do with whatever they have because they don't have access to proper sanitation or products, often relying on pieces of cloth or bags. As many as one in 10 people with periods misses school because of insufficient resources to manage their periods.
It can feel impossible to challenge these injustices in our day to day lives. However, think about how much harder it is to tackle menstrual equity when the very subject of menstruation is still considered a taboo to even discuss!
So I say, let's start with some smaller actions that we can all take.
We commissioned a study specifically on the topic of period shame that showed us 58% of women have felt embarrassment from being on their period.
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we keep going: People with periods are *not* the root cause of period shame. Shaming people with periods has historically been a regular pastime for the ~patriarchy~.
While it’s difficult to dismantle any system that’s working against you, I still think that it’s worth fighting for a cause in the hopes of not contributing to that power structure any further, and as much as possible, making sure that it’s not negatively affecting the members of more marginalized groups any further.
Check out the rest of our findings, and some steps you can take in your everyday life to overcome period shame.
Check Yo’ Self
You might already believe that you harbor no shame about your cycle — but consider what you might be doing unconsciously.
If you have to change your tampon in the office, do you hide it up your sleeve when you walk to the bathroom? When you’re in the bathroom, do you avoid crinkling the wrapper of your pad, or wad toilet paper around your used period products? (The latter is also not so great for the environment, BTW!)
Little things like these can really add up.
We’re not saying you’ve gotta start making paintings with your menstrual blood or anything (if you are, DO YOU), but try making a conscious effort to stop treating your period like it’s something to hide.
To reference above — stop hiding your period products! You’re just trying to live your life! No need to smush pads down to the bottom of your bag. It shouldn’t be your priority or responsibility to conceal a perfectly natural bodily function.
Include Men in the Conversation
First, I would never want to insinuate that it’s a woman’s job to educate men, or that you’re obligated in any way to put yourself in uncomfortable positions (that applies to all the above, really). If everyone could just start being open and honest about managing their PMS and periods without consequences, well, we probably wouldn’t still be talking about period shaming, would we?
Where you can, try to stop pretending menstruation doesn’t exist around men. It’s okay, we all do it sometimes. Again, not saying you’ve gotta start describing the way your IUD feels like it’s stabbing at your uterus around the coffee pot in the morning...
If we can’t be more open with men (who do not menstruate) about what we need to manage our periods, it’s impossible to imagine a world where everyone has access to sanitary conditions and products.
I know so many people who grew up ordered to leave no trace of what their bodies go through every month, lest brothers/fathers/uncles/etc. were disgusted. That really shouldn’t be a priority! I feel like the men will be fine.
It’s also worth noting that not every person with a period is a woman, and trans people with periods do not always have the privilege of being #periodproud. Doing your part to break the period stigma in whatever ways you feel comfortable will only make it easier to have more open conversations about menstrual equity for *every body*.
What other ways can people with periods take steps to smash the stigma that surrounds menstruation? Share your ideas with us in the comments!