Periods are messy. Periods destroy underwear. Periods can hurt. Periods are inconvenient. Periods take up time. Actually, an average woman spends a total of 6.25 years of her life on her period.
But periods are rarely talked about.
When I was a teenager, I used to hate thinking about how weird I looked taking my bag with me to the toilet during class. I loved those little compact cases that allowed me to hide my pads so that if I opened the front pouch of my bag accidentally, no one saw what was in there. Sometimes, I’d shove a pad up the sleeve of my blazer and hold it awkwardly there so I didn’t need my bag, glad I never ‘grew’ into my blazer (for US readers, a lot of UK secondary schools have a dress code, and that often involves a blazer and a tie).
But why was I so ashamed of my period? It was irrational. I knew that it was something I could not help getting every month. Yet, it was still something that I pushed to the back of my mind, and seemingly a lot of people my age seemed to do so as well. I remember on a science paper we had in Year 9 (13-14 years old), most of us were stumped by a question that asked why women need more iron each month than men. Yet, by then, most of us had already gotten our periods and had them for a while.
Back then, the choices we had for dealing with our period were 1 of 2: pads or tampons. Pads had the advantage of not having to worry about “losing it” or having to pull it out, but even though they are the only method I use, I can understand why people do not like them. However, now we have options. More and more people are advocating menstrual cups, such as the Mooncup and Diva cup.
For those who don’t know, menstrual cups are basically a cup that you insert (like a tampon) into your vagina, and it collects your period blood — unlike a tampon that absorbs it.
I, for one, can see the advantages. You don’t have to change it as often; it can last up to 8 hours. And for those women like me who like to travel, you don’t have to worry about having somewhere to dispose of it; you just need somewhere to wash it out.
I personally have not tried one, but having read a recent article on BuzzFeed from someone who tried the Mooncup — who said, “I have used a Mooncup for three periods now and I can honestly say that I will never ever use a tampon again” — I have to say that I’m curious. They did, however, say that the Mooncup was not for the “squeamish,” as it puts you face to face with how much period blood actually leaves your body during your period. I have to admit that I, like the author of the article, would probably have “gasped out loud the first few times” as well.
But I think this is part of the reason why menstrual cups are revolutionary. They make it so we can’t ignore what happens to us during our period — especially since talking about your period is still so taboo and seen as something shameful in some parts of the world. In India, for example, periods are basically unmentionable, and pads are often impossible to find in rural areas. Girls are even encouraged to miss school because of their period. I, for one, have actually had to miss school for my period; but, that was because my period pain was so acute, and it annoyed me so much that something I could not help was making me miss out.
Some readers may have to deal with the “tampon tax” (which, to make it clear, I completely disagree with), but I find it fair to assume that (hopefully) most of us can still manage to pay for tampons/pads/menstrual cups/any other products that are out there to accommodate our period. Not that we should have to “manage” or spend so much money, but that is a whole other argument. However, imagine if your period was something so shameful that nothing was made available to you to help you manage.
That’s why talking about your periods more openly and honestly is necessary. If we treat it like something shameful, we allow it to become something shameful.
I know it’s hard. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve managed to go into a shop to buy pads and not feel self-conscious. But the next time someone asks you, “What’s up?” — try to reply honestly, and say, “My period.”