Period shaming has been around for about as long as periods have. That’s to say, forever. It’s only been in recent years that women have decided enough is enough and fought back against the menstruation stigma. Still, there are so many ways in which each of us is shamed for bleeding every month and it can be a challenge to know what to do about it. While those of us in developed countries like the United States and Canada are not using bits of old mattresses to control our flow or dropping out of school because we don’t have access to restrooms, we’re still faced with being told that our periods are dirty and shameful, having our emotions invalidated because we’re bleeding, and resorting to covert, FBI-like operations to get into the bathroom to change our tampons. In order to end the taboo and shut down period shaming, we all have to take action - and take it now. Here are 5 ways you can put an end to period shaming.
Having honest conversations about menstruating is one of the fastest ways to dismantle the societal stigma placed on it. By opening up a dialogue about our bodies, how we feel during our periods, and challenges faced, we’re able to create a sense of solidarity among people with periods. You may think that what you go through on your period is unique to you but, if you open yourself up to having conversations about it - with friends, your family, and your doctor - you’ll likely find that you’re not the only one.
While some people simply don’t prefer having sex while on their period, many people are just too afraid to, despite being even more sexually aroused during their flow. Because of society’s vagina-fearing view on things like period sex, women are afraid of what their partner will think or worry that it will be a gross mess that leaves all parties covered in blood. The truth is, menstruation is not gross in any way and you, as a woman, should do whatever you want with your body. If your partner is squeamish, have an open conversation about it with them. All you really have to do is toss a towel down on your bed. You’ll find that not only is it an incredible experience because you have so much more blood flowing to your genitals during this time, but it’s really not as dramatic as you think. Oh, and it can help relieve period cramps. Win-win.
One of the best ways to end shaming around periods is to simply learn more about the entire process. Get to know the symptoms of PMS, the different phases of menstruation, and the hormones that fluctuate at different times throughout your cycle. When you’re equipped with facts, it’ll be that much easier to educate people who want to throw shade your way.
According to period-tracking app, Clue, there are over 5,000 euphemisms for menstruation around the world. While calling it shark week is kind of cute, it’s also a very subtle way in which we allow periods to stay stigmatized. By calling it what it is - a period or menstruation - we take some of the secrecy away. You shouldn’t be ashamed of having a period and using cutesy nicknames only reinforces what we’ve been told - that periods shouldn’t be talked about.
Leaks happen. To all of us. And it can be really easy to feel mortified when they do. If you want to help end period shaming, the best thing you can do (for yourself and for every other woman) is to not make a big deal out of it. Just laugh it off, clean it up, and move on. When we react with embarrassment to situations like this, all we’re doing is perpetuating the belief that having a period is embarrassing. Really, there’s no need for shame in your period game.