Despite our strides toward gender equality, it seems menstruation is still stigmatized. Something that we should hide.
At least once a month, I muster up all of the courage that I have and make the terrifying walk from my work desk to the bathroom.
This is a seriously covert and often stressful operation – simply because I happen to have my period. It requires rigid strategizing, meticulous planning, and serious stealth to make the 30-second sprint.
I feel like I have to consider how I’m going to get my tampon from my handbag into the palm of my hand without anyone seeing the flash of brightly colored plastic. Do I have pockets I can slip it into? Do I have to worry if someone see’s me headed to the restroom with something hidden in my hand?
It’s been this way for me since commercial sanitary products began. It started with girls in high school exchanging maxi-pads between hushed whispers and slights of hand befitting of a shady drug deal. Then it came full circle with grown adult women bashfully whispering around office cubicles “Do you have a spare…tampon?”
It seems that, for all our social progression and strides toward gender equality, the very idea of women menstruating is still shameful. But, why?
Why is such a natural, normal bodily function still considered so gross that we can’t even mention the word? We don’t let anyone think we might be going to the bathroom at work to insert a tampon into our immoral vaginas. That would just be too disgusting.
I still vividly recollect the terrifying feeling that I was dying when I experienced my first period. When my mother calmly explained this was actually totally normal, I breathed a short-lived sigh of relief. She explained it would happen to me once a month for at least the next 40 years, usually accompanied by an emotional rollercoaster and a world full of pain.
When she handed me a tampon, I was only 11 years old.
At that point, was convinced would never, ever fit where she was telling me to put it and was absolutely terrified of inserting. I remember taking a mirror into the bathroom with me (so I could see what I was doing) and trying to follow the confusing diagram on the leaflet from the tampon box instructing me on how to get the foreign wad of cotton into my vagina.
I remember being embarrassed to the point of crying and giving up.
If you’ve ever seen an advertisement for ‘feminine hygiene products’ like pads or tampons, you’ve seen a group of beautiful, glowing and smiling women. These women are wear clad white skirts or dresses, laughing and playing tennis or going to the beach. These women show no sign of having a period at all.
If the pad ad dares to show the actual product it’s trying to sell, there’s not a drop of blood in sight. The voiceover tells you how “discreet” the product is. The ad usually concludes the whole affair with a condescending sentence. Such as “It will be our little secret,” because that’s exactly what a period is – a secret.
These products are marketing themselves on the fact they won’t let anyone know you’re menstruating. This sends a pretty clear message to young girls and women. Shut up about your periods, be ashamed of them, and suffer in
Considering menstruation happens once a month to roughly half the world’s population, isn’t it about time we kick period stigma to the curb and start being open about the woes and joys of surfing the crimson wave?
We need to start being more open about periods in general – our health depends on it. For example, the shade of your period blood can tell you a lot about your overall health, but it’s going to be useless information unless we’re able to talk about it.
Let’s face it. Periods – for the most part – kinda suck.
We shouldn’t have to suffer through the dreaded belly bloat, the pain, and feeling ashamed for merely having them.
We deserve better than that.
If a work colleague sees you carrying a tampon to the restroom or, heaven forbid, even storing the box on your desk, embrace it. Smile at them, because you’ve got nothing to hide and nothing or be ashamed about. Make the walk from your desk to the restroom with period-pride. You’ve got this!
How do you feel ashamed to carry a tampon to the restroom?