My Blood, My Beauty

Periods are many things – messy, aching, untimely and very annoying. But one thing they are definitely not is shameful. Despite being a natural human process with biological functions that happen every month, women are taught from a very young age that menstruation is embarrassing, and we should try to keep it concealed and never mention it. The term “she must be on her periods” is associated with “she must be crazy” and that is outright intolerable.

There are so many videos out there trying to show “hacks” of how to camouflage our pads and tampons in our bags in case people see it. It is appalling how a normal human process is so stigmatised and forces women to hide the fact that they have their periods. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there should be no reason a woman should ever feel embarrassed to accept they have their periods, or they are in pain.

Might I say if men had periods, it would have been another reason alongside ‘he was drunk’ to justify his heinous crimes. Yet for women it is branded as repulsive and untouchable.

Period shaming is prevalent and insidious. But it starts at home when a mum teaches her daughter to whisper about it, not enter the kitchen if she has her periods, not participate in prayers or any other tasks that is seen as pious and unsoiled. For generations, periods have been associated with shame, secrecy and misinformation, largely due to the prevailing conservative cultural attitudes.

Sometimes periods make women feel like a powerful Goddess and other times it makes them feel like crap. But somehow through period shaming, it ends up making every single woman feel like they are dirty or not worthy during that week while going through period cramps and emotional rollercoasters.

When thinking about the dynamics, period shaming seems ridiculous considering seven billion people have or will experience menstruation at some point in their lives. Shaming a woman for having periods is like shaming a man for growing a beard. Except periods actually come to use in the biological reproduction of the human race and is essential for our survival. To act like it is strange or filthy is just puerile.

Stop sacrificing a girl’s self-esteem at the altar of menstrual myths. Women are warriors living in this difficult day and age – and warriors are never ashamed to bleed, so why are we?

Due to the ignominy associated with it, many women do not completely understand how their own reproductive systems work. Considering young girls think periods should be hidden, they never asked an adult about it, or even if they did – they were shushed. No wonder so many women are in the dark about their own bodies. A more open and accepting attitude toward menstruation might create an environment in which more women felt empowered to be the experts on their own reproductive health.

Not only women, but men need to be educated in the field of periods and women’s bodies as well. Most men’s reactions to periods are “Eww” or “What?” and I do not think we can completely blame them for the lack of knowledge. After-all, women tend to protect the men in their lives from such “gruesome” conversations and sometimes pretend periods do not even exist, it is no surprise men do not understand a thing about menstruations.

There’s an amaranthine cycle within the generations, in which women are taught at an early stage that their periods are revolting or shameful, and so boys grow up learning from all sides that periods are ghastly and shameful, and so they never learn anything about them. In turn, their attitude towards periods affects how women visualise themselves and the cycle continues for centuries. And that ignorance is not bliss for either women or men. Menstruation should not be a great mystery for men, since the reproduction system affects them too. To make a safe environment where it can be spoken about more openly would go a long way to improving the overall awareness of the reproductive health.

Periods should not invalidate any woman in this world. It is already difficult for us to make it in a world of working, sexist and misogynistic men and periods is another way they control and undermine our lives and our achievements. When a woman shows any emotion or simply does not behave as someone would expect her to, it is common to hear – it must be the time of the month for her. This is not only disturbing but exasperating. Blaming any behaviour on periods is a way to emphasise that her feelings and statements are fundamentally absurd and worthless. It implies that her femininity makes her mechanically less capable than a composed man in the room. When we let period shaming occur, we are reinforcing this attitude and encouraging women to be seen as unstable during her menstruation.

Creating the shaming culture has led many women to suffer legitimate health issues in silence because they were too ashamed to seek help. In many developing countries, girls and women are not even given access to sanitary products and tend to use dirty rags or ash to control their bleeding. So many young girls have not been able to reach their full potential and many have even died from infections. Some statistics show that ten percent of African girls do not go to school while menstruating, and in Bangladesh, 73 percent of female factory workers have to take almost a week off of work (without pay) every month due to their periods. But this problem is not limited to only the developing countries due to lack of education around the matter. In the US, tampons or pads are not covered by food stamps and women in prison lack sufficient menstrual supplies. In the UK and Australia, sanitary pads are sold as a luxury product with taxes. Every time I open a pad, I feel lucky to be able to afford it and access it. But it should not be.

What kind of world do we live in where condoms are free because men have the desire to have sex whereas pads are not only sold but are expensive for a process that is out of women’s control? 

Sex is a choice, periods are not. Yet we shame women having periods and praise men if they have sexual relations.

Period shaming allows these problems to emit attention and to continue. If we want to make menstrual supplies more inexpensive and accessible for all women, we need to encourage open, accepting conversations about menstruation, that recognises periods as what they are — completely normal, essential aspects of women’s health. 


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