I got your attention, right? Good, that’s what I wanted. Today, I wanted to talk to you about periods. Yep, you read this right. Nowadays we talk about gender, equality, races, but let’s face it, we barely talk about periods. Why is such a simple fact of life so misunderstood? Why is it still such a taboo? If men had periods too, I am pretty sure that we would hear about it all the time! So why are we still so embarrassed? What is wrong with us?
I have lost count of the number of times I have been told “You are a bit cranky, you must have your period (wink wink!)’. The truth is that, most of the time, I don’t have my period. It is just me. If I were a man, my colleagues would say that I am firm, or that I know what I want. But no, I have to have my period, right? When confronted, my male colleagues always say that they think it is a thoughtful comment (yeah right…). Some things never change.
Some women are told that they can’t go anywhere near kitchen ustensiles when on their periods. Or that they shouldn’t use salt. Seriously? What’s next? That we can’t sneeze when we have our periods? I shouldn’t complain, because things have drastically improved. A quick research showed that, not so long ago, it was believed that period blood killed crops and rusted iron, that menstrual blood both cured and caused leprosy, and that burnt toad could cure your heavy flow (not very animal friendly, right?).
That said, in Europe, we are the lucky ones. Jessica Holland from the charity ActionAid summarises it pretty well here: “Around the world, many girls often face prejudice, shame and discrimination simply because they have their periods. These taboos can have a long-lasting impact on a girl’s life and her body, often impacting her ability to go to school and gain an education.” What does it mean? Well, simply put, some girls miss school every month simply because they have their periods. And no school means no education, leaving girls without any ways to escape from poverty.
Things can take an even more more sinister turn: in Nepal, menstruation can mean days in isolation. In some rural villages, many women and girls spend their periods in an animal shed or a separate shed built outside their homes. Lovely, right? This isolation practice is known as chhaupadi. Outlawed in 2005, its persistence is attracting growing press attention and an intensifying public health spotlight. That said, it still exists.
According to the authors of The Curse: A Cultural History Of Menstruation, the French once believed that a baby born from period sex would be “puny, languid, and moribund, subject to an infinity of fetid maladies, foul and stinking”. Charming. That said, I must admit that things have changed in my home country, and several friends of mine told me that they find a woman on her period very sexy. Period sex is on the rise, apparently. You’ve got to love the French sometimes!
So what’s my point? Well, it’s very simple: I believe that no girl should miss out because she has her period. In this day and age, pads and sanitation products should be easily available, and it’s time to stop all the silly myths about periods. After all, wherever we are from, women are just, well, women. So don’t forget to support ActionAid action to empower women who suffer when they have their periods, share this post and please, avoid the silly jokes about ‘this time of the month’. Frankly, it’s time to move on. And we have heard them all before!