In 2003, Beatrix Kiddo walked into the House of the Blue Leaves and the following events was talked about, celebrated and became an unforgettable few minutes for millions of people. Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill was the first time in my life that I saw blood spewing out of a human like water in a mall water fountain (do any malls still have big water fountains anymore?). While describing it may sound disturbing, the 18 year old me, found it entertaining and recommended the movie to everyone I spoke to for weeks after seeing it. A film that probably had as much blood in it as Free Willy had water, received a 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It's now 2017, we live in time where a video of two people left bloodied after a fist fight can get millions of views through social media. While a post by Rupi Kaur of a woman curled up in bed, fully clothed with some visible blood stains on her pants and bed sheet due to menstruating was removed twice on Instagram. Instagram claimed that she didn't follow their "community guidelines" that are in place to keep Instagram "safe". The guidelines prohibit sexual acts, violence and nudity. Instagram has since apologized for deleting the post and stated that it was an error by a member of their team. When periods are put in the same category of "sexual acts, violence and nudity", there is a big problem that needs to be fixed.
If the P-word is brought up in conversation to many cis-gendered men of all ages (I did say MANY and not ALL), there is often a request to change the subject. I am a 31 year old cis-gendered man that is trying to get menstruation products to women experiencing homelessness and there are still the odd time that I hesitate saying "period" or anything to do with menstruation in crowds. I know it shouldn't be a taboo subject, yet at times I check my surroundings before talking about it like it's a swear word. About half of the world's population bleeds for about 2,250-3000-plus days throughout their lifetime. Hannah Betts quotes Karen Houppert the author of "The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo: Menstruation" in her article "The P Word: A last taboo" as saying after years of researching the issue that she found "Menstruation is taught in schools because it’s 'natural’, but treated as though it’s nasty. Menstruation is normal, but the attendant hormonal flux is a disease. Menstruation is obsessively hidden, yet its real disappearance – menopause – engenders disdain. Menstruation doesn’t really have anything to do with sexuality, yet it shares all its taboos."
At the end of the day, this idea that periods are gross, unclean or wrong, has consequences that creates a disadvantage to people who experience them. Women in leadership positions are taken less seriously when they are upset and confront a coworker because "she must be on the rag." In some developing countries, being on your period will result in missing school. And if you are experiencing homelessness while on your period, you may have to choose between buying tampons or food. I like to think in 2017, we believe gender equality is not a woman's issue anymore but it's something both men and women have to work at achieving. The UN believes it and created HeforShe. NBA players endorse Lean In. Gender equality is not going to be achieved if we continue to perpetuate the stigmas that are attached to periods.
Finally, there are men who menstruate too. Transgender men are often forgotten in the period discussion. Transgender men can still experience their periods while taking testosterone and there are transgender men who don't take testosterone at all. As I write this, I realize that I won't do anyone justice if I try to squeeze the issues transgender people face in relation to menstruation in a short paragraph at the end of this blog post. I will write a future blog post dedicated to the topic after I gather much more information on the topic from as many appropriate sources I can and link it here.
Since blood is accepted and celebrated as art in the mainstream media when heads are severed in a sword fight, it is time we are able to talk about periods as the normal occurrence that it is. Everyone should recognize the barriers that are created due to our reluctance to talk about them openly. The sooner we can be real about periods, the sooner we move past the idea that periods are exclusively a woman's issue.