Menstruation has been making headlines in mainstream media lately, and it's about bloody time.
From Rupi Kaur's infamous Instagram posts, to the successful abolition of the Tampon Tax; and most recently Kiran Gandhi running a marathon without wearing a tampon, and of course Donald Trump's comments about a female reporter bleeding from "wherever," it seems as though people are finally ready to get over the ick factor of periods.
"As I ran, I thought to myself about how women and men have both been effectively socialized to pretend periods don't exist. By establishing a norm of period-shaming, [male-preferring] societies effectively prevent the ability to bond over an experience that 50 per cent of us in the human population share monthly," - Kiran Gandhi
Menstruation is a natural occurrence in every woman's life, and yet, it is shrouded in some type of feminine mystery. Women will spend about 3,000 days of her life menstruating, and yet almost none talking about it. Girls are often taught from a young age that their cycle is their secret, not something to be openly discussed. We make up names to avoid saying "period" or "menstruation," We are visited by Aunt Flo, riding the crimson wave, on the rag, or experiencing "that time of the month." How many times have we hid our tampons up our sleeves while going to the bathroom at school or at work? How many girls in high school waited until the bathroom emptied out to change her pad, so no one would hear that distinct sound of the pad being pulled off her underwear, and exposing her secret? In a girls only bathroom.
It doesn't make any sense. Why is it that our society is so squeamish when it comes to periods? Gloria Steinem wisely wrote a powerful piece titled "If Men Could Menstruate" which outlined all the ways society would be different if biological roles were reversed. Her words are powerful, and true.
It's time to once and for all break the stigma.
While menstruation is a shared experience among women worldwide, it is also an example of a globally stigmatized issue. In many parts of the world, the customs and traditions surrounding menstruation are oppressive and destructive, and can severely limit a woman's daily life.
For women in countries like Kenya, the effects have the potential to change lives. Menstruation is a heavily stigmatized topic, with many communities often practicing harmful and oppressive customs related to menstruation. For example, in the Masai culture, menstruating girls are not allowed to interact with livestock, or consume any animal products for fear of contamination. For a nomadic culture that relies on its animals for survival, the message this sends to the girls is profound.
It teaches her that her body is unclean and inappropriate during her cycle. It teaches her that to menstruate is to feel shame. It keeps her out of school, prevents her from participating in daily activities, and affects her self-confidence. Menstruation is a top reason why girls in developing countries miss school, or drop out altogether.
These stigmas are born out of a lack of education about what menstruation actually is, and how the female body works. To educate is to empower, and the first step is to start an open conversation about the issue.
Femme International is a Canadian NGO that works to provide schoolgirls in East Africa with essential health education, with the goal of breaking down the stigma and empowering girls to stay in school - every day of the month. Make a donation to Femme's work, and help keep a girl in the classroom!
It is only through conversation and education that the taboo can finally be reduced. This is why the recent media buzz around the menstruation is so important! The conversations Rupi Kaur and Kiran Ghandi have inspired are having a ripple effect around the world, as countless blogs, interviews and websites are featuring their actions, and addressing the menstrual taboo.
The more we talk about menstruation in the news and media, the more it will be normalized and the less power the stigma will hold. For women in Canada, it will mean feeling more confident to open up and actually say the word 'period' in public. For women in Kenya, or India or Tanzania, it has the power to create a world of possibility. So let's keep the conversation going!
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One of the many reasons to love "Clueless" and it's heroine, Cher, are these words from the beginning of the movie: "Mr. Hall, I was surfing the crimson wave. I had to haul ass to the ladies'." That will be the last time Mr. Hall publicly asks her why she's late. The movie was an adaptation of Jane Austen's "Emma," where of course such a direct referral to menstruation would be hard to find, but it is fair to note that with so many female characters in a single novel, it is no wonder that some were "indisposed" from time to time. You can find the sound clip here.
"My Girl's" Vada is much more knowledgable than your average 11-year-old in many ways. But the tomboy, who's mainly been raised by her father, is not ready for puberty's most dramatic act. After her unsettling discovery in the bathroom, she runs around the house in a panic looking for her father and comes across her potential step-mother. In a phrase that betrays both her know-it-all attitude and her confusion, she says, "I'm hemorrhaging." And after a little lesson from her stepmother, she assaults her poor best friend for being a boy. Oh, puberty.
In what is possibly the worst mother-daughter sex talk ever filmed, Carrie gets emotionally (and physically) assaulted by her mother. After telling her daughter, "You're a woman now," she tries to makes Carrie -- who is looking for a slightly clearer description of her situation -- repeat verses she has read to her from the Bible and slaps her when she doesn't comply. While this would have been extremely disturbing regardless of the circumstances, it becomes slightly more traumatizing considering the scene preceding it where Carrie gets her first period in a very unfortunate location, the shower of the locker room. As Carrie tries to figure out why blood is gushing from between her legs, her classmates realize the real reason and start laughing and throwing tampons and sanitary pads at her, creating what could only be described as the worst first period experience, ever.
The protagonist Peter's ex-girlfriend Sarah Marshall has a television show, "Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime" in the comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." "Crime Scene" is an hilarious exaggeration of the overuse of puns and mind-bending catch phrases on crime scene shows. In the clip from the show that Peter ends up having to watch on his way to Hawaii, Detective Hunter Rush has a very unique answer to why there is an excessive amount of blood on the victim, "He was either stabbed in the aorta or it was his time of the month." Who says a little period humor can't lighten the mood at a crime scene? You can watch the clip here.
(Start watching from 3:10) The Canadian movie "Ginger Snaps" revolves around the high school experiences of two outcast sisters. In addition to dealing with sex, parents and the general pain of being 16, Bridgette and Ginger have to deal with another challenge: Ginger gets bitten by a wild animal and gradually transforms into a werewolf. As if this isn't enough to deal with, she gets her period. When Ginger realizes that she got her period for the first time (as they are trying to remove a dog's dead body) she says, "B, I just got the curse" to her sister who is 15 and also hasn't had her first period."Ew," Bridgette replies, apparently more grossed out by this news than the carcass in her hands. "Curse" fits nicely with the supernatural elements of the movie, but drawing a parallel between menstruation and becoming half animal probably doesn't send the best message out of context.
It's not surprising to see menstruation included in "Juno," a movie that revolves around a young woman's first sexual experience, childbirth and motherhood. In one of the scenes, Paulie and Juno end up being lab partners with a rather tense couple. After the girl declares that she has a "menstrual migraine," they get into an argument with her boyfriend who says, "Call me when you get off the rag!" Seeing a teenager use such a dated term and Juno's expression when she hears it together make this one of Hollywood's unforgettable period euphemism moments. Watch it here.
In the recent romantic comedy "No Strings Attached," Emma and her roommates share a menstrual cycle and a "girl's night in" where there is no shortage of ice cream or cramps. Her friend (with benefits) Adam pays the apartment a visit and lends the women an understanding ear. "It's like a crime scene in my pants," says roommate Patrice as she lays on the floor. But Adam hasn't arrived at the party empty-handed; he brings a "period mix" for Emma that has songs such as "Red Red Wine," "Evenflow," and "Sunday Bloody Sunday."
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