Approximately half of the population on this planet gets, has gotten, or will get a period. And yet for some reason no one talks about it. What the fuck is up with that?
A couple weeks ago I was eating lunch with some follow chronic illness folks. Between us we had two cases of hypothyroid, Hashimoto’s disease, endometriosis, neuropathy, herniated disks, PCOS, 2 cases of Celiac Disease…. and a bunch of other diagnoses. We were 4 women and 1 man. At one point I turned to my friend with endometriosis and excitedly told her that I’d gotten my period the week before. She congratulated me. Then I explained to the others that I was excited because before that I hadn’t gotten it for 7 or 8 months. The women congratulated me. The man squirmed. Now, I can understand a teenager being uncomfortable, but a man in his 50s or 60s who’s been married for years? I just don’t get it.
There are plenty of situations where it’s not appropriate to discuss my period. I’m ok with that. But if it’s ok to talk about my chronic pain, then I can talk about my period. If it’s ok to talk about my nausea, then I can talk about my period. If it’s ok to talk about being pregnant, then I can talk about my period. And I will if it’s relevant. I won’t censor myself on this.
There are cultures where a woman* is shamed for having a period, where she’s considered dirty. In some cultures, men can’t touch women while they’re having their periods, even married couples. In some cultures, girls have to cover their bodies from head to toe when they get their periods. In my culture here in the U.S. it simply isn’t discussed except in the patronizing and dismissive form of an upset woman being referred to as being “in her time of the month.” Now, it’s true that some women get more emotional around the time of their periods. Not all women do. And women, like men, can feel emotions at other times as well. Imagine that!
The squirmishness can’t be from the blood. Sure, some people have issues with blood, but that usually involves seeing the blood. Most people don’t get as squirmish when I mention a bloody nose as they do when I mention my period. Hmm. So maybe it has to do with discussion of women’s bodies. No, it can’t be that general. No one seems to mind if I mention something about my arm. So maybe it has to do with women’s reproductive systems? Could be. Legislators are regulating birth control pills and abortion but not condoms or Viagra. Many citizens think this is ok. Others may be against it, but won’t discuss it. The Vagina Monologues came about because many people won’t speak the word vagina. I admit, there was a time when I was embarrassed to say the name of the show. But by my early 20s I was over it. I wish everyone else would get over it. Because women have vaginas. And, oh-so-shockingly, women have periods!
Let’s get something straight: every single person on the planet came into being because of a woman’s fertility. Think about that for a moment. Has it settled in? Are you ready for the next revelation? Part of a woman’s fertility cycle almost always involves getting a period. Think about that a bit. Makes sense, right? A woman’s period, after all, has to do with an unfertilized egg shedding the uterine lining. They’re connected. So everyone should be grateful for women’s periods! Would you have been born if your biological mother had never had a period? Maybe. It’s possible. But it’s not likely. So be glad that women get periods! Period.
Ok, it’s your turn. Speak up! How do you feel about this subject? Do you think women should be able to openly mention their periods, especially in medical contexts, without people saying it’s gross? If you have two x chromosomes, do you discuss your period if it’s relevant? If you have a y chromosome, how do you feel when women discuss their periods?
*I’m referring to cisgender women, for the sake of simplicity. Obviously trans women don’t always have vaginas. And trans men might have vaginas. And there are plenty of genderqueer folk who don’t identify as either men or women.
I am totally fine with people discussing their periods with me, and the people I surround myself with are comfortable with it too. I’d probably laugh if they weren’t comfortable with it…I mean, we can talk about an array of different medical subjects but not periods? Right. It’s not like I’m showing them my used “sanitary napkins”.
Heh, good point JC! The next time someone squirms I’ll point that out – “It’s not like I’m showing you a used tampon.” Maybe that will put it in perspective for them 🙂
PERIOD! Dammit. LOL. Good for you. Love this post. Yeah, I am still self-conscious about it and apologize for “too much information” in mixed company. If I am talking with straight female friends, oddly we hardly mention it. If I am talking with lesbian friends, it’s totally fine to talk about, it, and to even get VERY specific. With my boyfriend we jokingly refer to it as Aunt Flo. I know, I know, very 1950s, but meant jokingly. For instance, “Aunt Flo, the mean relative,” “Aunt Flo, the guest who would not leave,” etc. I don’t think he’s THAT uncomfortable with it — he just has a goofy sense of humor. Like someone else you know. 🙂
My mother was actually so uncomfortable talking about it that she never warned me it was going to happen. And so, at age 11, I informed her that I had “cut myself down there.” Seriously. She is very old and had me late in life. So when I gave her this news, she explained (sort of), and went to the store looking for “sanitary napkins” with a BELT. Yes, the last time she had menstruated, the things had belts. My cousin had to explain about tampons. Oy.
That’s terrible! How sad for your mother that she didn’t feel comfortable talking about a natural part of her body, even to her own daughter who would experience it! And how sad that you had to go through the confusion of not understanding what was happening! I’m glad you’re comfortable talking about it so you can help end the cycle of discomfort!
Ha, yeah, my mother was (is) stuck in the 1950s. I think she did give me a book at some point … You know, one of those with the picture of the happy egg and the happy sperm swimming up to it. Nothing about how the sperm got there. As I said, not a Baby Boomer at all.
Very good! Pmsl!
My hubby discusses anything with me, looked at my clots, changed the sheets etc. I have had a period for three years now, whether I ever have one again who knows.I’m 44 years.
I bought my boys up from little to pick up tampons in the store, explained about it all. They are completely fine with the subject. The youngest shared a house with four girls during uni so isn’t phased by anything.
When I taught, the children were 10 and 11 years old. This is when they get taught about periods, wet dreams, sex etc. the boys were as interested as the girls about towels and tampons and periods. At school we gave them the truth and an opportunity to talk about things they wanted to know. We even had a boy model how you put a pad in a pair of pants. He then proceeded to wear them for the rest of the lesson. Most of all I taught about real life and from the ones I still see, they’ve turned out ok.
The subject of periods shouldn’t be taboo. I like Miss Diagnosis had that experience growing up. Especially in today’s world of instant information. It is a left over from a different era. If someone is going to have a sexual life, then they can talk about periods, there is no difference.
Wow, Lorna, I wish I’d had a teacher like you! It sounds like you did a great job of educating dozens (hundreds?) of young people on a very important subject. My guess is that they and their significant others will be thanking you for years to come. Well done!
Yeah, Lorna, good for you!