Period. The end of a sentence or the beginning of a woman’s menstrual cycle? I am hoping that the purpose of your search has rightfully led you to the latter, if not please stay and read on.
Apparently, the average woman has around 450 menstrual cycles in her lifetime, and for those of us fortunate enough to have access to sanitary products, that’s a lot of tampons, towels and cups, (depending on your preference)!
Growing up I was always aware of periods. In a household with two older sisters and a mother, the bathroom cabinet was always full of a variety of colourful packages and boxes. I would observe my sisters’ and their cramps and would often think, ‘I wonder when I will have one?’, although I was not in any rush to find out.
When I began sprouting hairs and squeezing spots around the age of 10, I was given a roll-on ‘MUM’ deodorant to combat the ‘odour’ and mother-daughter conversations became somewhat more frequent regarding my pending period. I remember feeling so ‘cringed-out’ by those conversations with my mother, who I now know tried her hardest to eliminate any shame and embarrassment from the topic.
However, my mother’s own experience of 1950’s Caribbean attitudes towards menstruation were extremely negative, unsupported and in some cases nonfactual; this I believe led her to not wanting to inflict the same ‘shame’ on her daughters’, but as a result, in my humble opinion, her ‘let’s tease about this period thing to make it fun and light-hearted’ approach, made me shy away from the topic and feel the very thing she did not want me to feel, which was awkwardness.
My concern is that even today, periods still seem to bring forth conversations of, well actually very little conversation at all; and with what I would consider to be one of most natural functions of the hu-woman body, (next to pooping and peeing), I find it hard to understand why?
For example, there have been several occasions where colleagues of mine, both male and female have overheard me openly discussing (as I do), periods. The look of disgust accompanied by comments such as ‘too much information’, or a straight up ‘ewwe, gross’, is what myself and many other women are faced with. I have joked about walking around with a sign that says, ‘PERIOD HERE’, whilst ringing a bell and shouting ‘unclean, unclean!’
I also find the sanitary product, television advertisements so unrealistic. A key feature, the polite, little trickle of blue liquid that represents the menstrual blood being so far from the truth; so, it’s okay to show blood and gore within popular, pre-watershed soap operas, but it is not appropriate to feature ‘realistic red’ in a sanitary product advert? Why not?
More importantly, we still have young girls in school, college and even at university who are experiencing period poverty and yet there is very little being done about it. Yes, there are schemes out there that have been implemented by people such as the Red Box Project, who are campaigning to end period poverty (and doing an excellent job), however not enough is being done or addressed on an issue that is affecting girls and young women across the U.K.
According to the House of Commons Report on sex and relationships, (2017), a third of girls in the UK were not told about or prepared for their periods! With such an alarming statistic, it appears we still have such a long way to go regarding negative period attitudes; periods are not some sordid secret to be kept under wraps in a 19th Century closet; periods are a normal part of life and crucial in the creation of one.
So, what does need to be happening are sensible, realistic conversations and approaches towards periods. A period positive approach not just isolated for girls within Biology lessons but also to be shared and discussed with boys, period.