Let’s talk about menstruation


Mackenzie Bill and Olivia Perkins

Say it out loud.
Find comfort in saying that word. Not “Aunt Flo,” “that time of the month,” or “shark week.” It’s a period.
As highly-variable, healthy, and natural as periods are, there’s a considerable amount of avoidable shame surrounding them.
The destigmatization of menstruation is not only necessary, but long overdue. We deny the notion that a period is a taboo thing.
In 1985, Courteney Cox said the word “period”, referring to menstruation, for the first time on national television while starring in a Tampax ™ commercial.
When we heard about this, it made us wonder: why was “period” first publicly discussed in 1985? The word period officially came into use to describe menstruation in 1822, according to SimpleHealth.com. So, why wasn’t the word “period” used before in media? Why has there been so much shame attached to menstruation that has rippled its way through generations?
Maybe because the idea of menstruation and periods coincides with uncleanliness and irritability, specifically amongst women.
Language, media, and social attitude are all contributing factors as to why this specific topic has become taboo.
While seemingly innocuous, the question of “Are you on your period?” does more harm than good. It seems as though the only time this question arises is when we aren’t being tolerable. Presuming that menstruating coincides with irritability or uncleanliness suggests that a person’s feelings are invalid due to them menstruating.
The temptation to inquire such a question isn’t your fault, but the fault of societal shame surrounding reproductive health. Destigmatizing menstruation does not necessarily begin with more conversations regarding periods in of themselves, but the overall change of perspective when discussing periods.
By a man asking a woman if she’s on her period, he is upholding a patriarchal bad habit: invalidating women.
We urge the community, specifically individuals that do not menstruate, to refrain from upholding the stereotype that menstruating automatically implies uncleanliness, incompetence, or uncontrollable feelings. This may take the form of negative language surrounding the topic, or rhetorical questions regarding one’s stage in their cycle.
Through casual small talk, society is enforcing a standard that rests on assumptions of female biological inferiority.
“Are you on your period,” begs the question of “why would someone even ask that?” Why does a bodily function imply ineptitude?
When someone who menstruates seems upset or frustrated, we’ve heard someone ask them if it’s “that time of the month”. Using language that seems to tie the idea of menstruation up in a pink bow to sugarcoat the uncomfortable feelings one might have when addressing their period only contributes to the stigma.
Using terms or phrases to describe periods with the objective to hide the reality of what a period is can tremendously impact the shame attached to it.
A lot of women are subjected to judgment regardless of whether or not they are capable of menstruating. People may be transgender, intersex, or simply have never started menstruating due to a medical condition. At the same time, not only women menstruate. Transgender men, genderqueer or non-binary people may menstruate as well. There are also the possibilities of menopause, stress, disease, or hysterectomies which cause for termination of your cycle altogether. Instead of associating uncleanliness or incompetence with periods, view the topic in a different light. Seeing it simply as a normal bodily function of human beings that allows people to give birth is one way to stop the stereotypes surrounding periods.
We ask you to be more aware of the fact that periods are nothing to be ashamed of, and that using a demeaning stereotype that everyone on their period is crazy, over-emotional, and rude is inappropriate. You can maintain your privacy and recognize that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your cycle.
We urge all people to treat the topic of periods with respect and maturity and to refrain from using language that may be harmful or offensive.