I have been wanting to write about periods for the long time, however I was hesitant to voice my opinion. We have all been socially conditioned to not talk about messy topics. The tricky topics that might make people feel uncomfortable. But the more I thought and read about menstruation, the angrier I got that we are discouraged to talk about something that affects SO many people, every single day.
It’s a big issue and it’s difficult for me (and my team of guest bloggers) to summarise what we have to say. In my contribution to Project Lunar, I am going to cover 3 mini topics. Here we go!
- Periods are not just blood
People who get periods will often experience a variety of symptoms for the duration of their cycle. Periods impact people physically and emotionally. Therefore it can influence your behaviour at school, work and university. Your period can also have consequences for your relationships with others. Physical symptoms can leave you feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious. I don’t think the solution is “special treatment” such as the controversial Menstrual Leave that has been introduced in some organisations. However, I think more acknowledgement of periods and how they affect individuals is really important – particularly in circumstances where your performance is being monitored. This does not mean it is acceptable for others (especially people who DO NOT get periods) to make comments about someone’s behaviour e.g. “Are you coming on your period? You seem really angry…” etc. Inclusive design springs to mind as a solution for this issue. Making workplaces and education and environment where everyone can thrive. This includes when people get periods.
- Silence = lack of education
By making any topic a taboo, you limit the opportunity for debate and discussion. Menstruation falls into this category. I remember being split up into “boys” and “girls” in primary school to be taught about tampons and pads. This was problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, any divide based on the non-existent binary gender system is inaccurate and can trigger dysphoria. Secondly, people who don’t get periods should still be taught about them. How menstruation works, what to use, how to look after yourself. Because even if you don’t get periods, you will definitely come across someone who does.
- We need more gender inclusive period chat
All this talk of “real women have periods” and “Let’s talk about the time of the month, ladies” is exclusive for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s not just women who get periods. Without going into the spectrum of genders, there are lots of people who do not identify as women who get periods. For example, non-binary individuals. When we talk about periods as a “women’s issue”, we can trigger dysphoria and exclude lots of people, despite menstruation being an issue that so many of us deal with. There are also people who identify as women who don’t get periods. Another problem with making period chat exclusive, is that it inhibits conversations and debate. If we want to lift the stigma heavily weighing on this topic, we need to get people (regardless of identity) to talk openly about it.
A simple solution to this problem is to always use inclusive language. Switch pronouns to “they” and say “people” instead of women. You should avoid making assumptions, often we humans surprise each other.
I could have covered many other topics. For example, the tampon tax and how ridiculous it is that decisions that affect people with periods are being made by a majority of people who don’t have periods. Maybe I will discuss these issues a little later, however in the meantime I have lots of guest bloggers lined up to discuss all things periods and I am really excited for you to read their pieces – enjoy!
If you would like to contribute your own piece or share your ideas, let us know in the comments or tweet them to me: @maldrichwincer.