It’s 2018, so why are we still so afraid to discuss our periods in public spaces? This NPR video “Talking Periods in Public” addresses stigmas related to menstruation head on by interviewing individuals who menstruate and asking them to examine this subject matter.
Kiran Gandhi, musician and activist, states that women are often forced to prioritize other's comfort over their own personal comfort, as she recalls deciding to “bleed freely” when getting her period on the first day of a marathon she was running in, stating that she was very aware that this was a radical choice for her to make as a woman.
Ashley Shey, dancer and experimental performance artist, contributed to this sentiment by reminiscing on the way she had been given guidance from her mother. From a young age she was told not speak about her period, not to anyone, especially not to her significant other. Speaking about her period was deemed inappropriate. These matters were simply not to be discussed, and she was also advised to not leave any of her menstrual products lying around out in the open where they could be seen. Ashley is not unique in being a recipient of these teachings. She is simply an individual who menstruates, and unfortunately anyone who menstruates in this day and age will have encountered this kind of rhetoric at some point or another in their lives.
Cass Bliss Clemmer, trans artist and activist, added a new layer and perspective to this “women’s issue" that is often framed in this manner through society’s predominantly cisgender lens. Cass brings to light the dangers that trans individuals face with the “crinkling of a tampon wrapper” in a men’s bathroom stall, and how incredibly difficult this can be in terms of how to keep themselves safe. The answer as of right now as Cass states is to lie about it, “oh it’s just a kit kat!” (he refers to this as the candy bar dilemma).
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf author of Periods Gone Public states that we have grown accustomed as a society to use euphemisms such as “shark week”, “code red”, or “aunt flows in town” in place of talking about one’s menstrual cycle. The use of these phrases only reinforces the notion that it is inappropriate to discuss one’s period in public. Red Dot Project's name is actually a satirical play on Jennifer's sentiment that people do not even want to say words like "period" or "menstruation" in public.
Kiran drives home the message that it is important to be open and vocal about menstruation. She also states that we will know we have succeeded in combatting this stigma when it becomes normalized in our language. Normalized to a point where we no longer need euphemisms to conceal the way in which we discuss this bodily function, or require the use of terms like “feminine hygiene products”, or advertisements that use a blue liquid in place of representing period blood. She closes by stating that this will only lead us to a more exciting and innovative future, where menstrual products will become more creative and better designed.
Berenike Schott, doctoral student, closes the video by reminding us that "our menstrual cycles allows us to reproduce and be in this world as a species", so we should be express gratitude and become more appreciative of this biological process.
In 2018, let us all welcome period discussions in public spaces, use inclusive language when talking about menstruation, and leave the shame of menstruating in the past.
Take five minutes and watch these individuals share their message in their own words, by clicking the video below.