Periods, menses, Aunt Flo, whatever you want to call it- it’s important and we should be talking about it.
I encourage both women and men to read this post. Don’t be scared; it’s natural.
“On any given day, the taboos, restrictions and ignorance about menstruation will be costing millions of dollars, and damaging development, health and wellbeing”
Two years ago I was shocked and moved after reading a Water Aid article detailing the treatment of menstruating women in Nepal and I’ve been raving about it to anyone that will listen ever since. You can read the original article Here and I really recommend you do. It has forced me to take a step back and has changed the way I view my period, despite the pain it causes me.
Recognize Your Privilege
I have just read Sarah Campbell’s post Lets Talk About Period Privilege and it’s everything I have been thinking. It’s so good when people have similar thoughts and I just love the opening sentence:
“We all know we are privileged in the developed world.”
I am one of millions of women lucky enough to have grown up in a society very different to the one mentioned in the article above. Now whilst I am aware that I don’t have to face being shunned by my family, nor do I have to leave my home for a week every month in fear with nowhere to go; I do, however, know I have my own issues that are important to me and my life and they pale in comparison of others. Being set apart from the superstition and criticism of certain cultures, and possibly religions, has blinkered me from the struggle of women that is ongoing until recently. And yes; it is still ongoing.
I used to cringe when I had to buy sanitary towels; checking over my shoulder to see if there was anyone around that I knew and I’d bury them under my shopping. I used to get embarrassed at the ‘rriiipp’ of the sanitary towel when changing (you know what I mean ladies). Also I have to take prescribed pain medication for my monthlies so I can function otherwise I just basically sleep. This is rally embarrassing because it feels like I should be able to ‘suck it up’ and that everyone has them so it can’t be that bad. But it really does effect my life, it makes me feel weak and unable to deal with something natural.
I now understand and know that it’s OK for me to feel embarrassed or to hate certain aspects of having a period but I also recognize that I have it easy. I have privilege due to the country I have been born in, the colour of my skin and that I can actually menstruate
The Water Aid article left me with a mix of emotions; sadness, anger but most of all empowerment. I knew my issues were my own and that I really needed to get a grip. The next time I reached for a box of sanitary towels, along with my usual twinge of embarrassment, I also felt empowered because it was my choice. I felt happy when I had to change and heard the satisfying ‘riiip’ of the pad. I felt this empowerment and happiness because I had access to these items, an understanding husband, tablets to take my pain away and a comfortable bed that I could lay in. It’s since then I have looked into other means of ‘period-care’ such as reusable pads and the Mooncup (I’ve not tried it yet though). I still have to take medication, feel sick, have cramps that make me double up and feel like sleeping but all women who mensturate would get this to some extent.
A State of Duality
For me, there is this dual sense of this part of womanhood, as I have touched on previously. The identifying, understanding and appreciating of my own position in the world; feeling sorry for myself and hating my periods. But at the same time I am aware of the plight of others who are suffering more than I. It’s a cool mix of feeling sorry for yourself, a splash of guilt with a glug of strength.
“Choice Isn’t a Privilege: Ability to Choose is”
Gender Across Borders
There is a tightrope of delicate balance to constantly sustain; understanding whilst not patronising, highlighting an issue without overstating, being happy when others may be sad, being in pain while others suffer in different ways. It’s confusing and I still don’t get it right, but i’m trying my best to understand all of the uncomfortable emotions. After all; what right have I to moan about pain while others don’t have access to painkillers? Is it OK for me to sleep all day in a comfortable bed while half the world over a woman curling up in an open wooden shack? Slightly off topic is another post, this time by Gender Across Borders entitled Choice Isn’t a Privilege: Ability to Choose is. It’s a great article about choice and privilege; if you have time then have a read.
The difficulty in talking about an issue is when it highlights certain flaws or privilege in your own lifestyle; making you feel uncomfortable and the subject can feel unapproachable. Stick with it and maybe you will find something out about yourself.
Recent Press- Fu Yuanhui
Recently Fu Yuanhui’s comments regarding being on her period at the Olympics have been bought into the media’s spotlight and which is what has prompted me to write this post. It has over 20K Shares on social media and has really struck a chord with women around the world. Her comments have got people thinking about the issues surrounding periods and this is the reason why her off-the-cuff, natural comment has been so celebrated and necessary. The more we talk about it the more normal it will be.
“…be proud of your womanhood; there is no shame in bleeding”
Make A Difference
It’s strange how things happen; a few months ago a colleague of mine started chatting to me about providing sanitary products to Foodbanks. I’d never thought of products like these being required by Foodbanks but, now I think of it, it makes total sense. She said she had heard stories of women having to use newspaper and what ever else they can find. The very thought of this makes me sad to my core and I really want to assist somehow. I spoke to her about reusable pads and how they would be more economical than usual pads; they would be cost effective and would provide a sense of ownership and power for women in need. The only problem is having the ability to buy these pads for complete strangers at their high costs when a box of cheap, disposable, pads cost just a few quid. This is an issue I would like to introduce to the Womens Institute I have just joined to see if there is any way in which we could fund raise for this- I’ll see what happens with this.
The Water Aid article, mentioned above, highlights the work they are undertaking through education and better facilities. Why not make a donation or contact your local branch for more information on how to get involved.
So check out your nearest Foodbank or Tesco collection point and donate food and toiletries that can be passed on to families in need. Always check with the foodbank first to see what items they will accept.
Talk about your period and be proud of your womanhood; there is no shame in bleeding.
Best of luck always,
I’d like to hear about your thoughts and experiences with this topic. Feel free to comment below and i’ll get back to you.