Half the world bleeds.
They bleed monthly, for three to seven days each month, for on average 38 years (which is equivalent to 6.25 years of that girl or woman’s life).
It is not a choice, it certainly isn’t a luxury (although you wouldn’t know that considering that several developed countries including Australia, USA and the UK, have tampons, sanitary napkins, and other menstrual health necessities listed as “non-essential” and/or “luxury” items, in the same category as men’s razors. Feminist argue that this is part of the “pink tax“. One estimate of the cost of menstruation in the UK was as high as £18,450 over a woman’s lifetime.
In many countries around the world, girls and women do not have the “luxury” or the purchasing power to pay menstrual hygiene products and rely on tree leaves, newspapers, old cloths and even cow dung to stop the flow. Because of the shame and social stigma associated with a naturally occurring function of the female body, coupled with the lack of access to both sanitary menstrual products and separate WASH facilities in schools, girls miss classes, find it hard to concentrate or choose to stay home from school altogether when they are seeing their period. In some rural areas, girls are even sent to outposts and unsafe huts while they are seeing their period.
It would be great if the conversations around periods were on how to ensure that there are affordable, healthy, environmentally sustainable menstrual hygiene products available to every woman and girl globally or how to ensure that women and girls receive accurate, impartial, medically sound advice about their bodies and menstrual health. (Hey, it would be great if commercials didn’t show blue goop oozing to represent periods and were more down-to-earth like this one.)
Within a climate where we still do not prioritize menstrual health or have real discussions about periods, most of the references to periods are disparaging mentions to “PMS” or “mood swings”, which are often used by both men and women to question a woman’s judgement, show of emotion, decision-making or position on an issue. It is for this reason that I was happy that Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui broke taboos and spoke about competing while seeing her period during the Olympics and that there are several campaigns including this one to get the discussions started.
In the end, this is what it comes down to.
Periods are normal, periods are natural, periods are not a luxury or a shameful act.
Half the world bleeds. And that shouldn’t be a taboo. Period.