Time of the month. Mensies. Lady troubles. The blob.
All terms used in favour of ‘period’, the monthly menstruation 50% of the human race experiences for many years of their lives. We’ve always had trouble talking about periods openly. It’s just not the ‘done thing’.
I’d recently watched a This World documentary on the BBC called ‘Banished for Bleeding’, following a number of brave women who were tirelessly working to change cultural traditions in Nepal. Religious and cultural traditions were so ingrained into the communities they visited that interviewees often found it hard to provide an explanation for the practices. This included in the ‘chhaupadi’ practice in which women slept outside in huts during menstruation, regardless of the weather.
We can’t look at these global examples of attitudes towards menstruation and believe that our culture is superior however. The stigma which surrounds periods is more alive than ever in the UK. The women who can afford sanitary products pay for tampons and sanitary towels classed as ‘non-essential luxury items’ for tax purposes. Those who can’t afford to pay up the mounting costs go without, to the detriment of their health, hygiene and wellbeing.
What has to be done to change the perception of periods? The natural processes of our bodies shouldn’t be concealed in hushed tones, behind closed doors and out of sight. Even I find myself hiding tampons in my bag or sneaking them into my pocket, as if someone would look at me differently if they glimpsed this sign of womanhood.
We are more than happy to discuss the curves and lines of the female body when we are celebrating its form, its sexuality and its possibility. Yet we cannot find the words to articulate what is already innate in woman. Out of sight, out of mind.
More needs to be done for the women and girls who cannot find the words to express the pain, discomfort or unhappiness they feel about periods. Perhaps the words were never there. We need to build up the sounds to overcome the silence and accept our bodies once and for all.