As I rush to the bathroom, bloated and unhappy, I carry my pads with me, unashamed of my body and the natural cycle it endures. I bust open the bathroom stall, ready to change menstrual supplies, when I notice other students in the bathroom. Without even realizing, I try my hardest to quietly open the packaging and hope the sound of the crinkling paper is not too loud so people do not suspect I am on my period. Finally, it hits me.
Why hide something that is natural? Why be embarrassed by something that half the population experiences? Why try to silence a noise known to women all over?
It is a defeated feeling, knowing that a person is not supported for something completely out of their control. I must whisper when I ask a friend for a pad or tampon. I hide it in my sweater or pants when I have to go to the bathroom and change. I have to pay for my menstrual supplies, though it is something I cannot control. My period is not gross; it’s natural.
Periods are nothing to be ashamed of; it is our attitude towards menstruation that is truly shameful. Women should not have to feel embarrassed when talking about their periods. If we shun the discussion of menstruation, we practice yet another form of oppression, another reason for women to feel ashamed of themselves in society. Not only that, but we stall the battle against menstrual disregard on a larger scale.
While women in the United States are able to argue the issue of menstrual attention, women around the world are largely subject to the taboos and stigmas surrounding menstruation. According to Femme International, “[In] rural Venezuela, menstruating women are forced to sleep in huts for the duration of their period. In many Southeast Asian communities, menstruating girls are not permitted to use the same water facilities as the rest of the community, for fear of contamination. In India, a menstruating woman is not allowed to touch cows.”
By treating menstruation as a relatively private issue, women around the world are unable to access sanitary and affordable supplies, forced to miss school, and humiliated by their male and female peers. Continuing to silence the discussion does nothing but harm to female communities. People’s negative stigmas cause the deterioration of information about proper health management. In accordance with Femme International, “by providing girls with the ability to manage their own bodies, we are unleashing a generation of strong, confident and healthy women.”
We are women and we have periods; it is time we become comfortable with the discussion.