Deeming menstruation socially unacceptable is damaging. I cannot continue to pretend that the stigma surrounding periods doesn’t impact me. I am exhausted and annoyed (really more like infuriated, but I chose a less intense word lest some ignorant douchebag play the ‘psh… you’re just pms-ing” card) and actually find it really sad that those of us who have periods are taught to be ashamed of such a natural process.
My problem with, what I’ve come to refer to as ‘Period Shame’ is not just about the fact that this stems from a long thread of deeply rooted, historic misogyny. That aspect of it is certainly awful, but at least it’s getting talked about more and more these days. What I’m not seeing enough awareness brought to, is the health risks that can arise as a result of Period Shame.
When I first started menstruating, I was twelve. There was a lot of anxiety surrounding it because it happened on literally, the first day of seventh grade (’cause I didn’t have enough to worry about then), so, I shit you not, overly-cautious 12-year-old-me panicked and ended up crafting a bizarre safety-net of multiple maxi pads ‘just in case.’ Being inexperienced, I didn’t realize how hilariously excessive that was.
However, I was also slightly relieved that day. Part of it was because I’d intuitively known it was coming. The days leading up to it had felt different to me, both physically and emotionally, so I had a clue, despite being new to all this. But most of my relief was rooted in the way periods remind you that you’re healthy. I was growing up, my body was changing right on schedule, and as inconvenient as it was, I had a concrete reminder that I was a healthy, ‘normal’ girl. What I can now draw from this experience, is that Period Shame is not natural. No one is inherently ashamed of this process, we are conditioned to feel that way.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to make a simple list of ways Period Shame has impacted me, as well as people I know, instead of diving into a cumbersome paragraph-form explanation. People who menstruate are often affected by Period Shame in the following (as well as many other unlisted), ways:
-May be afraid, embarrassed or uncomfortable telling a parent/guardian when they first get their period
-May not have an adequate understanding of how to hygienically take care of their periods
-May fear seeking help if there are complications (example: getting a tampon stuck)
-May be afraid/uncomfortable voicing concerns about their periods or asking important questions
-May find that the emotional variations that often accompany periods are exacerbated by this belief that when you’re menstruating, your body is doing something ‘gross and unmentionable’
-May not be aware if their menstruation is indicating health problems
-May not even know what menstruation is, and believe they’re dying or experiencing some kind of severe health problem/injury when their period comes. I know someone who got her period at age 9. This was her experience, because parents are often afraid to tell their younger kids about periods, despite the fact that hearing about this will not scar them or instill fear. This is problematic for early developers.
The stigma surrounding periods is unhealthy, inconvenient and often leads to unnecessary embarrassment. In a worst case scenario, silencing people about menstruation can be fatal. We, as an entire society (all genders, all different bodies, all people) absolutely must destroy this harmful, misguided notion that periods are taboo. Aside from having damaging results, it is ridiculous and illogical. Those of us who experience menstruation, need to feel comfortable talking about our periods and asking questions, those who don’t, need to be aware that it’s never okay, and often inaccurate, to accuse another person of PMSing in attempt to invalidate feelings, and should also be aware that no matter what your sex is, you have hormones too, and your emotions are influenced by them whether you know it or not. Just because your mood swings aren’t correlated with a specific bodily function, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. In short, it is the 21st century. Maintaining outdated beliefs that negatively impact a large portion of Earth’s population, is unacceptable.