It's Time We Normalize Talking About Our Periods
By Thao Nguyen
Periods are generally talked about in private, or jokingly. There are endless Tumblr threads and memes about how painful and uncomfortable menstruation is, but that’s about where it stops. It’s pretty rare that periods are talked about seriously outside of the gynecologist's office, and more often than not, things are probably held back in there too. Ladies, you probably don’t feel comfortable talking about your periods in public. Gentlemen, you probably don’t feel comfortable hearing about periods unless it’s from someone you’re really close to and care about.
You would think that something that happens to half of the population once a month wouldn’t be such an unmentionable topic, but periods tend to be pretty good at ending conversations (pun intended). In fact, it seems almost everything about periods makes things awkward for people. Whether it’s living in constant fear of leaking and staining, occasional embarrassment about getting feminine products (I’m talking about you, maxi pads), or disgust at period poop, menstruation causes a lot more than physical discomfort. The underlying message here is that people believe periods are shameful, which is a pretty disturbing message if you ask me. It may not be the most pleasant of all the bodily functions, but why should there be shame in something that happens naturally, something that signifies all of the amazing things the body is capable of?
The lack of real and regular discourse about periods is a problem. It can mean that issues like endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, or ovarian cysts can go undiagnosed because a woman hasn’t discussed her symptoms with anyone. Our inability to discuss periods certainly doesn’t help women who can’t afford feminine hygiene products or pain medication. In other countries, periods are so taboo that girls often have to drop out of school because they can’t get access to feminine products. I personally find that absolutely heartbreaking and ridiculous, and I hope you do too.
While we may never become physically comfortable with the monthly gift curse, it’s time we start becoming emotionally and psychologically comfortable with it as a society. I’m not telling you to go do something as dramatic as free bleed or to loudly relate the grisly details of what happened to your bowels when you thought it was a good idea to eat a gas station hot dog the last time you flew the red flag. What I’m encouraging is for more women to become comfortable with speaking about it in a serious context and with more people, so that we can let go of the stigma and help women and girls who are suffering real and debilitating consequences as a result of said stigma. For men, I want to advocate for an understanding that period pain and discomfort goes beyond cramping, so that insensitive comments like “oh you’re moody, you must be on your period” are eradicated from the vocabulary. The more humorous treatment towards periods has been a great start, but once we start talking about it beyond the confines of a funny tweet or meme, we can enact change.