Let’s talk menstruation. Yes, men, I’m talking to you too!
Far too many of you will think this article is about periods and are already clicking the cross to navigate your browser towards the sports news or videos of cats. But I urge you to keep reading because menstruation should NOT be taboo and is NOT shameful.
Riding the cotton camel, surfing the crimson wave, the decorators are in, Aunt Flo is visiting, shark week… whatever you call menstruation, the fact remains that roughly half of the entire population of the planet is prone to the condition.
Some people think that these humorous, not-so-subtle code names are damaging because they reinforce the notion that menstruation is taboo and shouldn’t be talked about but I believe they offer a small step in the right direction. Without these euphemisms, would we have enough social courage to mention periods at all?
I, myself, am guilty of stopping short of saying the ‘p’ word and settling for the less descriptive ‘I’m on’ to mark the monthly occasion.
‘Too much information’, ‘I don’t need to know’ and generally covering their ears are common responses among the male of the species, as if the desperately normal and unexciting event of menstruation were some mystical, unnatural phenomenon; a dark and unpleasant secret to be kept between women.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you should head to your in-laws for a family meal and engage Grandma in a debate about whether intercourse during menstruation is common practice…
Pssst. It is.
…but there must be a middle ground.
If we all make the effort to suppress our childish squeamishness, then the young girls of today stand a chance of a future free from ill-placed menstrual shame.
Now that we’ve all agreed to shed the shame and ditch the dramatics, isn’t it about time prepubescent girls are warned that monthly bleeds don’t always look like nice, thin, fresh, bright liquid?
Biologically speaking, it’s not really bleeding. It’s excretion from the uterus lining as it breaks down old cells to be replenished and replaced; on standby to host the next lucky winner of the generational lottery.
I count myself seriously fortunate that I’m not part of a society or culture that ostracises women once a month because they believe menstruation poses a risk of some kind of contamination. As recently as 2018, a 21-year-old in Nepal died because she had been denied the warmth of the family home during her period.
In my own country, although still taboo for the less ‘woke’ among us, progress is being made.
In 2017, Bodyform released a game-changing TV advert that showed red liquid instead of the (almost comical) blue liquid which had formerly been used to represent Mother Nature’s gift.
Period poverty, a term brought to light in recent years, refers to the girls who can’t afford the necessary sanitary products and, as a result, end up skipping school for a few days once a month to avoid shame and embarrassment. Thanks to feminist campaigning, schools and colleges are to house free sanitary products from 2020.
This is undeniably positive news, but there is work yet to be done. The Tampon Tax, VAT charges on sanitary products because they are classed as luxury, non-essential items, is an insult to women and further evidence that the feminist fight is far from over.
How much does each period cost? And what non-monetary price do we pay for each product?
If you have the luxury of choice, here are a few of the options available to you. (I’d be so bold as to suggest it won’t just be the male readers who learn something new in this next section. After all, if nobody’s talking about it, how do you hear about it?)
Sanitary towels, with or without wings, are bulky pads that are, effectively, strips of nappy/diaper. On average, you will use approximately 30 non-reusable, non-recyclable pads per period costing you £42/year.
A much more intrusive option, tampons -which have been linked to toxic shock syndrome- are traditionally made with chemicals and single-use plastics and have a tendency of drying out their surroundings. An average of 25 tampons should meet your monthly needs coming in at £33.60/year.
If tampons are intrusive, the menstrual cup should be biologically impossible. A tiny silicone bucket that sits inside your house underneath your leaky roof, your menstrual cup needs rinsing out regularly and sanitising about as often as you wash your bras. It hasn’t yet been proven that implanting silicone can cause cancer but I have a sneaky premonition that that discovery isn’t far off. I can feel it in my womb. Approximately £12/year.
These knickers are absorbent and remove the need for sanitary products. You wear them instead of your regular underwear then bung them in the washing machine. I’ve yet to try this method because of VPLs and the thought of a warm, moist, bacteria-friendly environment hosting a party in your pants all day. Approximately £30/year.
Does what is says on the tin, free bleeding is where you don’t opt for any sanitary products and you let nature (and your period) take its course. Ideal for when your flow is lighter near the end of your period, as long as you’re not wearing white. Free of charge, for thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies.
Hopefully you’ve learned something new today. Whether you have or not, help others to see that there’s no shame attached by sharing this post and spreading the word.
If you’re feeling really heroic, comment below with your preferred period products!
How can you help? Talk about it. Period.