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Period Power: Why Ending Period Shame Is Up To Us

Period power: why ending period shame is up to us - Sh! Women's Store

It was a Wednesday in around 2003 when one of our team’s friends returned home after school to find the “Happy Period” cake her Dad had baked her. Absolutely mortified, she was blushing redder than the fake blood dripping off the icing. The secret news of her first period had only been shared with her mother. How she could have let this slip to anyone – let alone her father – was an act unforgivable to this poor twelve-year-old, for three whole days.

Despite the hilarity of this story, we cannot ignore the underlying issue behind her embarrassment. Why are periods STILL so stigmatised? The earliest fossilised sign of human existence on this earth dates back 200,000 years and we don’t think that the process of conception has altered that much over that period…has it? We must be missing something. Lance Armstrong made it to the MOON and back and yet the period still eclipses us. An actual BLACK HOLE has been caught on camera but periods? Nah – can’t talk about it – too much.

Human behaviour is mind-boggling.

Thank God for Bodyform is all we can say. Praise the Lord. After 100 years of period ads, they were the first brand to actually feature menstrual blood in an advert selling menstrual products (see Blood Normal here if you haven’t already). How demonic of them. The innovation of it is almost overwhelming. In a period of #wellness and Fourth Wave Feminism (we’re not even sorry for the pun), it seems that menstruation and its real implications are finally being brought forward as topics open for discussion.

Seriously though, periods in the workplace? Quelle horreur. Say your goodbyes now because you know how awkward it is to come on in the middle of a meeting.

Menstruating in the office requires a great deal of stealth to avoid social embarrassment.

Firstly, you always make sure you're prepared and you're wearing the right knickers. Secondly, if you don't have a sleeve to hide your tampon/pad in then, sorry, but you've already lost to us. 51% of men apparently think that it's inappropriate to reference periods in the professional environment; thanks THINX for that. Actually, THINX also wrote a helpful "how to" for trans or non-binary people who battle excruciatingly higher levels of shame around their periods in professional environments.

Rumours are circulating of Western companies following suit of private corporations in India, Japan, South Korea and several more, to introduce a paid holiday for the first day of a woman’s period. This suggestion of a blanket reform is causing controversy. Critics blast it for exasperating a hiring bias against women, encouraging their absence from decision-making in work and supporting the gender pay gap – all this, of course, fails to mention the social or ethical responsibilities of the sharp-suited male figures behind these decisions….

Still, there is some good news yet. Following the likes of Wales and Scotland, it was announced only this week that English primary schools would be offering free sanitary products to students in a bid to end period poverty. The organisation that pledged to get this act into place, Free Periods, have been fulfilled. Woo!

Not so woo, however, is the fact that the average woman spends £18,000 across her lifetime on sanitary products and we doubt that this figure includes painkillers, hot water bottles and the money lost from time off from work. For this price, you’d be forgiven from thinking that maybe the gender pay gap should be reversed rather than deleted.

The plight of periods proves to be endless. In the height of our climate change horror, it will not please you (or David Attenborough) to find out how many plastic bags are involved in your disposable pack of sanitary towels (spoiler: it’s four supermarket ones).

We joke, but these problems are all so easily solvable.

Natracare is a menstrual brand dedicated to a plastic-free period via ethically-sourced soft cotton tampons. Launched in 1989 by the fabulous eco-warrior, Susie Hewson, the sustainable brand has been saving vaginas and planets from chemically-infused periods ever since.

Menstrual cups are another alternative. Mooncup has been waving this durable flag since 1999. Fun Factory is a more recent producer. These are all made from body-safe silicone and are designed to last comfortably for a decade.

Periods, unlike what we’ve been conditioned to believe, are not unclean. They shouldn’t require safeword aliases (getting the painters in?) however creative they may be, to save speakers from dying of embarrassment during the conversation. According to a study from the American Journal of Psychology, up to 85% of women report experiencing PMS (premenstrual syndrome) whereas only 5% recount having PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). These extreme figures show that there is a distinct lack of information about these two issues: what the difference exactly between the two is and how they are diagnosed. Apparently, if you experience PMS symptoms in the extremity or so much so you find it debilitating, then you may have PMDD and should go to your GP to get checked out – although no one really knows why it occurs. Endometriosis affects 1 in 10, yet its diagnosis takes on average 7.5 years.

This cannot be the norm: we need more information and more education readily accessible, en masse. We need to start speaking about periods and female or non-binary sexual health. It's 2019 for God's sake, we don't have time for period shame and we definitely won't get anywhere by hiding tampons in our bras.

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