Gender representation was really important for Project Lunar, so in this post we have a cisgender man’s perspective of periods and education:
I first learnt what menstruation was in primary school. I do not really know whether it was the Italian education system, or the Catholic nature of the Italian culture, but I was never introduced to the idea that a) menstruation was not just about women and b) that it was ok to talk about menstruation in public. There did seem to be a rather negative stigma attached to concept and the word itself. As a consequence I grew up in an education system that considered the topic of menstruation as a taboo. This is to extent that during their periods, people in schools were expected to keep their tampons hidden, whether in a purse or a school-bag.
When I think back I can actually remember girls in the classroom going to lavatories hiding their tampons so nobody would notice. Strangely enough, once I moved to the UK, the system did not prove to be any more open-minded or less prejudiced. At GCSE level, Biology classes discussed menstruation from a purely scientific angle, failing to consider the social implications of the topic. Needless to say that could have been improved. Why wasn’t I taught that periods should be talked about it in public, or that ‘women and periods’ is a totally flawed phrase? Strangely enough I did always think that it was possible for men to have the same symptoms once a month. Turns out there is an actual syndrome- IMS. Irritable Male Syndrome is actually a scientific concept; men may experience a drop in testosterone on occasions, due to numerous reasons such as stress, anxiety and change of diet. The visible consequences are the same as those attributed with menstruation, anger, mood-swings, depression and lower self-esteem.
So I suppose my question really is: why is this not taught in schools? Should we not teach children that attaching stigmas to periods does nothing but create further gender inequality? I think the key social problem here is education, but that same education is also the solution.
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.