Period shaming is when women are made to feel ashamed because they’re menstruating. It’s remarks like: “Someone’s moody, must be on your period”, and responding to someone telling you something about their period with exclamations like, “ew” and “gross”. Essentially it’s a form of sexism, yet it’s so normalised that it’s often overlooked and hasn’t been effectively tackled.
The fact women are made to feel shame for a natural bodily function is ridiculous. If you were to read out passages of the bible where periods are described as “menstrual impurity” and “menstrual uncleanness”, people would surely express shock or humour at the outlandish and absurdness of the way periods are described. But if you really stopped to think and analyse the way people react to, and treat, periods in 2016 you’d see that things haven’t really changed. Earlier this year Donald Trump implied Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was on her period after she grilled him heavily in an interview. She’s a news anchor, he’s a presidential candidate, hard hitting interviews should be expected and accepted, sexist comments should not.
Ill-thought comments such as this cause many women to feel they can’t openly disclose to bosses and work colleagues when they’re on their period, leading them to hide their PMS symptoms. Women shouldn’t suffer in silence out of shame and embarrassment. They should feel comfortable enough at work to be able be open when they’re on their period, and feel able to whip out a hot water bottle in the office if they’re suffering from cramps.
Yes, periods can be inconvenient and PMS can cause you to feel emotional, as well as bloated, and in pain. This doesn’t mean, however, that women need to be lectured or looked down on by men. The sorts of comments made by Trump are views held by many: menstruating women are angry, irrational, and crazy. These views are both toxic and damaging. The language of shame creates an environment where grown women are made to feel embarrassed about their periods.
We need to fight period shame by shutting down negative discourse and educating people. It seems silly to say it, but we need to teach people that there’s nothing wrong with having a monthly period. The best way to achieve this is by normalising period talk. Start talking about periods more openly. The more open you are the more likely the women around you will begin discussing their periods openly, too. As well as talking openly, let’s all be more open in general, rather than concealing tampons or pads up our sleeves when we go to the bathroom let’s carry them. If you were going to reapply your lipstick you wouldn’t shove it up your sleeve, so why should you with a tampon?
There should be no place in society for period shaming, it’s not just emotionally hurtful but incredibly damaging. Young girls are conditioned to feel shame and embarrassment about periods even before they’ve experienced their first cycle. Think back to the experience of your first period, chances are you hid the fact you’d started your periods from your mum and possibly your friends. Simply because society taught you that periods were shameful.
Period shaming can have so many long term repercussions, such as giving girls insecurities they carry with them into adulthood. Tackling period shaming is so important and if we all work together we can start to move towards ending the stigma and shame once and for all.