Ending Menstruation Stigma: Yes, I Like Getting My Period
I used to say I hated getting my period because I thought it was unpopular to say I liked it. I remember a lot of the girls in my high school complaining about it like it was the dreaded aunt that visits you unexpectedly and unannounced that you have no control over. It was something to complain about with them, like gossiping about teachers or boys, so I went along with it.
The truth was: I didn’t mind it. I actually found it exciting that my little body could create life from those tiny eggs that lived inside of me. And the period reminded me that one day I could create that life, if I chose to.
I got my period when I was 11. I didn’t know it was a period until my mom explained it to me and handed me a ginormous pad to stick inside my underwear. Actually, I didn’t like that part about it - the ginormous pads that mom’s first give you when you get it but I went along with it because I didn’t know any better.
In high school, I started wearing tampons. My mom disapproved since I was sticking a foreign object in my vagina, but I felt relieved. Every month, when the women in my classes would complain about their periods, I felt like I had found the best kept secret for menstruation: a plastic stick surrounded by absorbent cotton.
While I enjoyed my period, I also had a ton of medical problems that accompanied it. Cramps that were so horrible I would need to take days off of work or school; periods that would last longer than seven days; and ovarian cysts that would need to be surgically removed. I tried everything to make the cramps I experienced easier - 800 milligrams of ibuprofen, portable heating pads, hot tea. It wasn’t until my doctor put me on birth control that the cramps eased and I was able to start living a less debilitating life from my period.
It wasn’t until college and after I read Anita Diamant’s novel “The Red Tent,” that I began to fully understand the power of my period. There were whole ass rituals - with food, dancing, and fellowship - that celebrated a woman’s “life blood.” There was a designated time when women celebrated the beauty of womanhood and the ability to give life. It all happened inside of a red tent and since then, I have felt empowered to create my red tent moments every month.
I made it my mission never to use those pamper-like pads I had gotten from my mom in high school again, and instead tried to figure out which products worked best for me that would make the period process more enjoyable. I became a period product junkie, and I loved trying new tampons, leakproof panties, menstrual cups, panty liners, and sea sponges. There was a whole word of period products I needed to explore and I wasted money like a newly minted natural after a big chop.
Getting my period is a time that I use for reflection, to slow down, and enjoy the season. The fact that I have the ability to create life (even if I choose eventually not to use it) is pretty bad ass.
Even now, at 28-years-old, I’ve only started to articulate the empowerment I feel because of my period, and the rage I also feel at the fact that periods in 2018 are still highly stigmatized.
Even though about half of the world’s population gets a period, there’s still a whole lot of taboo surrounding menstruation. It’s shrouded in secrecy, shame, and disgust. And while there are activists fighting against period stigma, it isn’t really a topic that’s hit mainstream feminism the way it should.
Pop culture and patriarchy has warned all of us that periods are gross; that PMS is bullshit (until men don’t want to deal fully a person’s emotions and then we’re “crazy,” “bitches” or “PMSing”); that blood is coming out of us everywhere; that it’s too nasty for Instagram and the New York subway; or books that focus on menstruation should be banned.
Women and girls around the world miss school and other important events because of the stigma and shame surrounding their period. To put this in perspective, the New York Times found that 23 percent of Indian girls miss school because of their period and women in some tribes live in cowsheds during their period. Additionally, the United Nations estimates that about 43 percent of girls in developing nations miss school while on their period, all due to lack of proper supplies.
It’s fucking ridiculous.
I know some people reading this piece will disagree with me. I know periods aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But what we can all do is work to destigmatize an experience that about 50 percent of people on our planet have and help make talking about and having our periods less culturally taboo. No one should go without menstrual care, regardless of how you personally feel about your period.
The bottom line is this: we shouldn’t feel embarrassed or shunned for bleeding.
Inspired to fight period stigma? Check out this list from Bustle, and We are Happy Period, an organization created by a black woman that provides menstrual products to anyone with a period that is low-income, homeless, or living in poverty.