A Message To You
In modern society, most publically affiliate blood as traumatically induced. Blood tests are horrific, surgeries are painful and lacerations in the movies are points to divert attention to the popcorn. But in modern society, menstrual blood is hidden, so rarely spoken of and almost never seen, except privately.
Consequently, our society has doomed girls from low-income families into missing school every single month subject to the simple fact that they were unable to buy sanitary products during their menstrual cycle. At a time when pads and tampons contribute to £18,000 over a woman’s lifetime, it seems ridiculous and undisputedly selfish that our inability to destigmatise something as routine as a period results in girls, as young as 10 years old, missing out on an education that propels them into the future.
Period poverty isn’t a recent revelation. In fact, it’s been an active part of the world since the beginning of mankind when women used leaves as a means of menstrual management. Having said that, have we really moved on from the primitive methods of the past? In Leeds, women and young girls alike have revealed that their alternatives to the “unattainable luxury” of menstrual products are “old socks, bits of newspaper and torn T-shirts”. They fear the shame they believe they’ll be subjected to and truant from school because they aren’t adequately protected.
The importance of menstrual care has been hitting global awareness for a while now. The Kenyan government guaranteed that all school girls will have access to free sanitary pads. In addition, the state of Kerala in India has launched the She Pad scheme which aims to deliver free pads to 300 schools in the area. Last year on the 21st of December, central London saw 2000 individuals of all races, ages and genders stand together united and in red. Initiated by Amika George, an 18 year old invested in demanding change, the #FreePeriods movement highlighted the public outrage at a human right that girls were being deprived off.
Despite this, the UK government has yet to address this pressing crisis. Instead, it chooses to veto an opportunity to protect vulnerable young girls to prioritise the issues that don’t carry the stigma.
It’s our reluctance and silence preventing a shift in social attitudes. The institutional fear of periods invalidates the suffering of the less fortunate. And whilst I understand that periods aren’t a typical conversation starter, I also think that it’s incumbent that we overcome the instant discomfort we’re conditioned to feel at even the slightest mention of blood and a uterus.
(SOURCES: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/19/british-girls-period-poverty-menstruation-sanitary-products, https://www.freeperiods.org/)
I realised something recently: in order to change our stance on an uncomfortable issue, we need to fuel the discomfort and place ourselves in a situation where we’re far, far away from our self-built bubbles of cotton wool and fragile tape. For once, let’s wear someone else’s muddy trainers or six-inch heels. We can even go barefoot if that’s what reflects another person’s circumstances.
At the start of the year, I came across a video featuring a transgender individual; they were avidly discussing their experiences of the FTM transgender process. I’d always prided myself on being an LGBTQ+ ally so when I watched the video, I had no intentions to judge the YouTuber regarding their life choices. But that didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable. I guess it was the fact that I’d never experienced body dysphoria or that I hadn’t exposed myself to transgender issues as much as I had other things. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop thinking about the video and after a week of constant researching and reading up on every answer to questions I had and every story that interested me, I watched the video again. And it suddenly became something beautiful.
Transgender issues, mental health, period poverty: they’re all engulfed by social stigma. And then there’s conscious and unconscious discomfort, making us complicit, resulting in inaction. Regardless of race, age and gender, we’re responsible for each other, proving that period poverty isn’t just the predicament of the victims but everyone’s problem.
A Message To Amika George
I came to know of you through my sister who goes to your school. When I heard the work you were doing to help those who desperately needed it, I was inspired. So I began to read all your articles, watch your videos (the TedTalk was fab, by the way) and follow the progress of your campaign. I absolutely adore the fact that you’re using your voice to motivate positive change despite all the other responsibilities you have.
And consequently, I took your message to heart. It started with conversations with my friends and a speech about period poverty before I decided that I needed to do something bigger.
When half of the world is female, menstruation matters. When placing the periods during a women’s lifetime end to end gives us over a bloody year and a half, menstruation matters. When our prospective leaders and pioneers have to cut their education short in shame and inaccessibility to sanitary products, menstruation matters.
On that note, I’d like to introduce a new social good campaign into the world:
The Period Party | a union of voices challenging period stigma, communicating passion and bringing about change.
I asked a few voices from all over the world about why they were passionate about ending the cycle of stigma around menstruation to kickstart the campaign.
Elm from Just Call Me or Something:
“So many people still say the words pad, tampon and period in a whisper. They feel awkward and can’t ask questions because they have to be furtive about it, say it in vague terms or not talk about it at all. If we don’t talk about it, people can’t ask questions and people can’t learn how their body, and the bodies of other people, work. I really think we need to break the stigma and show everyone, regardless of gender or age, that periods aren’t something to be afraid of, but something to be talked about.”
Kate from All The Trinkets:
“Not being able to attend school or go to work or even just go out of your house because you can’t afford basic sanitary protection during your period is SO SIMILAR to not being able to do all that because you have the flu and can’t afford medicine. The differences are 1) when you call in sick because of flu, people are quick to understand and be considerate and 2) not being able to afford medicine would easily gain a lot of traction and discussion. This isn’t the case with menstruation when it should be. Sanitary products are as much a necessity as paracetamol — probably more even. And so being able to normalize periods as the natural occurrence that it is will be vital for women to openly talk about it and, in effect, push the issue of period poverty to the forefront.”
Bethany from Bethany & Books:
“I believe talking about periods is important as it’s a normal part of life. When you first start especially, you just feel completely isolated as you can’t talk to someone about it all and that can be hard to deal with. Talking about periods can help prevent that and let people not be ashamed of their body which is really important. Everyone should love every part of themselves, even their periods.”
Elly from A Hufflepuff’s Thoughts:
“I think it’s super important to end the stigma around periods by talking about them. People, especially younger people having periods, should know that it’s not shameful or dirty, just natural, and what better way to show this than by talking openly about them?”
“It’s important to talk about periods because there is nothing actually ‘wrong’ with talking about periods. Periods are natural, most girls have them, it means they can have babies which is amazing!!! And I used to know a lot of girls who didn’t know how periods actually worked even though they were having them. They still had a ton of questions about them and weren’t sure what was ‘normal’ or whether they should go to the doctor and get a checkout.”
Allie from Girl Cloaked in Night:
“I don’t think there should be any [gender] boundaries [around period discussions]! Periods are just a part of life, no matter which gender you are everyone, I think, should be pretty educated on periods and unashamed to acknowledge them. Break down the bias around periods and support each other instead.”
This last message is something that is very often forgotten but is nonetheless so, so important:
Eve from Twist in the Taile:
“As a trans person who gets periods, I absolutely understand and agree with your message, but I do feel that period-related activism could be more inclusive. Not all women menstruate and not everyone who menstruates is a woman for a variety of reasons!”
How to Become a Member of #ThePeriodParty
If you have social media, you can be a voice in the union!
- This spontaneous thought, turned small movement, can be a bloody hashtag. Use your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook (and other socials you have) to share a period story or message to normalise menstruation and make #ThePeriodParty a reality. Even something as seemingly small as, “I believe supermarkets should distribute free pads to those who need it” carries weight and validity.
- Tag 5-10 friends and strangers (because this is a bonding experience too) to spark the conversation.
- Sign the petition calling for the UK government to allow children in receipt of free school meals to have access to free sanitary products. Consequently, if you live in the UK, contact your MP and/or Damian Hinds about your desire for helping vulnerable British girls as well.
If you’re a blogger of any kind and feel passionate about engaging in menstrual discussions, you have a role in the Party too!
- Write a post and share a story featuring periods. Whether that be your period, your friend’s, something you saw on the news or ways you deal with cramps. Anything is gold (or red) because your words can impact someone else across the seas or down the street. And if you’re sitting there thinking, “crap, I’ve never had a period, though,” you have a voice and a duty too. Talk about the ways men and boys can become more cooperative and understanding. There’s so much we don’t discuss and silence isn’t communicating the messages.
- Use the hashtag #ThePeriodParty on your post and socials so that everyone’s stories and messages are in one place on the Internet.
- Tag 5-10 friends and strangers.
- Finally, sign the petition from above. The UK government already has a list of the individuals from the lowest socio-economic background attending schools so it only seems practical to allow girls, entitled to this right, have access to free sanitary products. Also, if you live in the UK, contact your MP and/or Damian Hinds about why you believe providing aid to these British girls is necessary.
My Period Story
I can’t really remember the first time I had a period so I’ll settle for a different story. One fine winter’s day in 2014, I found myself at school. It was half-way through the school day, I think when I went to the bathroom and realised that my period had started. After panicking for a couple of minutes over the fact that I basically didn’t have ANY PADS ON ME, I decided the toilet tissues were a suitable alternative. At the time, I didn’t know who I could go to for help – I wish I did. The stigma meant that young girls, like me, weren’t being informed and support wasn’t communicated adequately through the school system. BUT THAT CAN CHANGE. The voices of the #ThePeriodParty can make a difference a story at a time. It’s that simple.
I’m going to tag more than 10 people purely to start off the campaign:
- Lu from It’s Lu Again
- Gracie Chick from A Light in the Darkness
- Aqsa from Aqsa Says What?
- Joce from Write Through the Night
- Sophie from Love, Soph
- ALL THE BLOGGERS who helped me with this campaign, so far, by telling me why they believed periods should be talked about more (Elm, Kate, Bethany, Elly, Nervous Bookworm and Allie).
- Anyone else who’s passionate about helping out girls and women and believes that menstruation matters!
Thank you so much to everyone who’s supporting this movement – it means the world! I’m looking forward to seeing how all of this turns out.