The other day, as some of you may remember, I wrote a piece about periods. I wrote about the shit that we women have to go through when we have them (and no I don't just mean the bleeding out of our vaginas solidly for anything up to a week), I mean more specifically, the fact that we are made to feel like this super duper natural thing is something to be ashamed of.
Anyway since I published that piece, a fair few people have weighed in on the conversation and it got me thinking about it a little bit more.
So if you'll bare with me for a minute, let's just take a quick look at all of the inconveniences that "Aunt Flo" brings with her every time she comes to town. (God I HATE that expression).
- Stomach cramps
- Lower back pain
- Being required to shove something up there to stem the flow
- Having to pay for that said something
- Inability to wear white jeans
- Fear of wearing nice pants
- Terror when sleeping in any bed that isn't your own or with somebody else
- Unable to have sex
- Bad skin
- Mood swings
- Temptation to cry at everything
- Longer than normal loo trips
And these are just the ones off the top of my head. But the annoyances aren't saved exclusively for that week, no no, they manifest themselves throughout the rest of the month too:
- Fear that even if you are just a day late then you MUST be pregnant, even if you haven't had sex for over a year or ever
- Having to plan holiday activities around it
- Having to plan your sex life around it
- Worry every time you get slightly sweat *hrrhumm* down there that you've started early
And then there is all of the other stuff. The stuff that comes from God knows who (although my money is on the sex that don't have them) about women being "on the blog", about us turning into a monster once a month, about it all being 'disgusting'.
It's happening to such an extent now that most women find themselves mortified by their own periods. We no longer feel like it's acceptable to ask for a tampon and often find ourselves asking for one via some weird mouthing/gesture combination. We would never drop the 'p-bomb' to a potential lover, preferring instead to tell them that it's just 'not the right time' and we would sooner punch ourselves in the face to pass the stains on the sheets off as a nose bleed than admit that they came from somewhere out of our control in a totally natural way WHILST WE WERE ASLEEP.
You will no doubt have heard someone by now refer to your period as the 'curse', that one pissed me off. I actually did a little bit of research into it and discovered that it is called that thanks to one theory: apparently after Eve ate the apple (FOR GOD SAKE EVE), God decided to punish her and all those made in her image (we were doomed from the start) to a lifetime of extortionate tampon-tax. If this is true: God, get over it and Eve, imma kill you. JOKE. Not really, that's just the PMT talking.
So the curse doesn't make it sound good. Nor does the idea of being on the 'rag' or on the 'blob'. I also don't like the idea of 'riding the crimson wave', 'dracula's teabag' or a 'blood bomb'. In fact, the only one I found on this one particular website that didn't make me want to throw my phone out of the window was the "fridge clearer" because for some reason that tickled me.
But seriously, they are all HORRID.
Do you know one of the biggest problem affecting young girls in Uganda? It's their periods. Many of them are starting them at school, with no prior education about what the bloody hell is going on (pardon the pun) and when they do bleed onto their white uniforms they are either so embarrassed or scared that they leave school. Once that has happened they are of course in danger of having to turn to the streets in order to secure an income, and in Uganda HIV is scarily high. There are of course plenty of other factors that cause girls to leave school but this really is a serious issue and one that has such an easy solution, provide the girls with tampons, decent loos and some PSHE lessons.
A few years ago, after I returned from the trip to Uganda that taught me all of this, I threw a fundraiser and asked everyone coming to bring me a tenner and a box of tampons, the idea being we would raise awareness and post the tampons off to schools in Uganda. It was a wonderful night but the thing that I remember the most about the whole thing was the complaining that came from the boys/men attending, that they were SO embarrassed about buying tampons. I reckon most of them sent their mums out to do it for them.
And this is something that I still don't understand. A) I wasn't asking them to buy USED tampons which I concede, would be pretty minging and B) they're perfectly happy to buy condoms which actually, end up in the same place. Actually, come to think of it, the man HIMSELF goes in the vagina totally naturally... so can someone tell me again why there is a stigma about buying a box of tampons again?
What I just can't understand is why our fertility is not celebrated. It's an incredible thing, so why is the proof that we are able to create another human something to be ashamed of? You don't see men getting all weird and embarrassed about their spunk, and that is the scientific equivalent. In fact, they celebrate it. It's something they're proud of. To any of you Gavin and Stacey watchers out there, do you remember that infamous episode where Stacey tells Gavin that she's pregnant, do you remember his reaction? "MY BALLS WORK!" - that's the kind of enthusiasm I want from us!
So here's what we are going to do. We are going to reclaim the period.
The average woman uses 11,400 tampons in her life and that's an awful lot to be hiding from the man in your life so save yourself the trouble, and rather than sneaking them into draws and cupboards, leave them by the side of the bog and say nothing more about them.
The average woman will menstruate 450 times in her life. That's about 54,000 hours of PMT that you do not, I repeat NOT, need to put a brave face on. If you want to cry at the Skittles advert then do it and do it proudly.
And the next time someone uses the word 'gross' to describe it, go to the sink and measure out half a cup, then explain to them that is more than the blood that is produced during a cycle. Continue to belittle them until they have cried half a cup's worth of tears and ask them how it feels. Joking.... kind of.
In the USA 97.5% of women have started their periods by the age of 16. The rest of the world tells a similar story. Once a month, women bleed, everywhere- WE'RE DOING IT EVERYWHERE. Girls, this is the most natural thing in the world, embrace it, celebrate it, be annoyed by it but don't, whatever you do, be ashamed of it.