The Patriarchal Stigma Of Periods, And How #Bloodnormal Is Changing That

11/09/2017 05:23 pm ET Updated Nov 10, 2017

Feminine care brand Libresse is turning heads ― and for some, stomachs ― with their new film and social media campaign, #bloodnormal.

We’re brought up to believe that talking about your period is gross. But this is damaging to women, and Libresse wants to change that making period blood a normal part of societal discourse.

The patriarchal stigma we’ve all been indoctrinated in would say that this stigma is justified. “Nobody wants to hear about that,” they’d have us believe.

TBH, my first reaction to this video was to wonder if it’s really all that bad that we stay relatively quiet about our period blood. But as I watched the #bloodnormal video, I reflected on my own experiences. It was like someone turned on a lightbulb for the first time in a dark, forgotten cellar of my mind.

Watching the film made me realize just how much time and energy we as women spend being apologetic about the fact that we menstruate. Those are resources that could be freed up for other areas of our lives if we can all find a way to shake the patriarchal stigma associated with menstruation, and be more open about period blood.

Here is what period stigma looks like:

1. “Gross” Period Talk

It’s rare to have a “normal” conversation about period blood, even amongst a group of women. Typically, discussions of period blood either cast it as disgusting, painful, inconvenient, or as the topic of morbid fascination, comparing women who are menstruating to animals and sideshow performers.

Gross period talk especially applies whenever the topic of menstruation arises with members of the opposite sex. It is assumed that men will find our periods to be gross, and in my own experience, I don’t think it even occurred to me that I had a right to be outraged when men have characterized menstruation as revolting, or shameful, or weird.

2. Awkwardly handling sanitary products

Every woman can cite at least one time in her life when she went to great lengths to either obtain sanitary products, conceal sanitary products, or improvise when caught without sanitary products, all in a cloud of shame and secrecy.

We’ve stuffed, crammed, smeared and wiped our way to an acceptable level of cover, because it’s considered impolite to openly discuss the fact that we need to use these products. You would never apologize for needing cold medicine, or shove a bandaid down your sock as you scuttle to the bathroom to apply it. But when it comes to doing what we need to do to manage our period blood, we act like we’re handling forbidden, contraband materials.

3. Being emotionally and physically invalidated

Women on our periods are treated like we’re operating with a handicap in our society. I’ve definitely been accused of behaving a certain way, or having a certain emotional response to a situation, due to menstruation.

“Is it her time of the month?” people ask when a woman displays strong emotions of any kind.

God forbid our anger, our sadness, or our concern be taken as valid emotional response s― we’re just hormonal, the patriarchy dismisses. Give that woman some chocolate so she’ll calm down.

Conversely, there are some women who experience very heavy bleeding, severe cramping, and other extreme physical symptoms in conjunction with menstruation. Many of us feel ashamed to speak up when we may in fact need to take a moment and allow our bodies to do what they are naturally designed to do during our periods. We are routinely invalidated, both emotionally and physically, by society due to menstruation.

Why do we feel the way we do about period blood?

Once my patriarchal blinders were removed, I consulted the authoritative feminist in my own world, Kara Loewentheil, for some perspective. Kara is a J.D., M.C.C., coach who works with high-achieving feminist women.

“Menstruation stigma is as old as patriarchy itself,” says Kara. “It’s a normal part of everyday life for millions of women, and yet society teaches us to find it embarrassing, shameful, and disgusting. You don’t hear nearly the same disgust expressed about men’s semen, even though that too is a bodily fluid that regularly escapes them!”

For Victoire Dauxerre, actress featured in the #bloodnormal short film, society’s aversion to period blood is really about the power of our femininity, and the need of some to suppress that power.

“Women have the power to give birth and so many men are frightened by this power – this is why they want models to be so skinny and they want to take away our femininity,” says Victoire.

How do we as a society remove this stigma and make the world a safer place for women to openly menstruate?

Photo provided by Libresse

“I think it’s always about education and I think we are actually educated to be afraid,” says Victoire.

“Everyone has been educated in this way. In religion, in education, in school – it’s in our brain. Periods are not terrible, or frightening – it’s beautiful, it’s how we have babies. We must talk about it in this normal way,” she says.

This is especially true when it comes to shifting the mindset of the opposite sex.

“When I talk about it, even at my age of 25, I find that boys don’t quite understand periods. They even ask if it’s normal blood or if it’s a different kind of blood.”

As women, #bloodnormal gives us permission to start having more open, healthy, de-stigmatized dialogue about what we experience with our bodies every month.

For Victoire, this issue of being able to celebrate menstruation hits very close to home.

“From my own personal experience, I didn’t have my period for a year as I suffered with anorexia. It was a sign for me that I was unwell. Periods are a sign of good health and a sign that you can have babies. It’s something that can be great. It’s all about education now and it’s good to talk about them,” says Victoire.

“Girls also have to realize it’s a gift; it means we are healthy. Periods are not terrible, or frightening – it’s beautiful. We must talk about it in this normal way,” says Victoire.

What do you think? Are you ready for #bloodnormal to become the new normal? To learn more, or go deeper on this topic, be sure to check out the short film on YouTube.

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