5 Ways To Kick Period Stigma To The Curb

It may be 2021 but period stigma still exists in various forms across the world. But in light of Scotland taking the lead and becoming the first country in the world to make period products free, and the growing list of countries moving to eliminate the ridiculous “tampon tax” (where menstrual products are taxed as luxury goods) there has never been a better time to talk about dismantling stigma and reminding people why it is important. After all, it’s not uncommon for people around us to consider period talk only appropriate for private spaces, or female-only spaces, rather than be an open discussion about something normal.

Condoning responses of “ew gross” to mentions of monthly cycles, feminine hygiene products, and cravings for pints of Ben & Jerry’s will only silence menstruating folks, leaving period-havers to cringe at the thought of coworkers catching them red handed with a tampon in their grasp. Sadly, feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or even panicked during your menstrual cycles has become the norm due to a widespread lack of knowledge and off-handed, humiliating jokes from unassuming friends and family members. 

For those unfamiliar with period shame, menstrual stigmatization morphed into its final form when discrete leak control methods grew in popularity and pushed messier, more obvious protection aside. As more women continue to experience period shame, body-positive campaigns aim to fight back against harmful, unnecessary menstrual ideologies.  

Unpacking stigmatization around periods reveals common, verifiable misconceptions—starting with what exactly a period is. Although periods and menstrual cycles are part of the same bodily function, these aren’t interchangeable terms. Your menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days and encompasses periods, which is the physical act of shedding the uterine lining. Bleeding, cramping, soreness, and mood swings are all common, often overlooked symptoms of menstruation. 

Evade needless shame and embarrassment by rejecting outdated knowledge, re-writing harmful beliefs, and educating yourself and those around you. 

Educate others about your menstrual cycle

Women well-versed in period woes are often asked, “what is a period?” by well-meaning loved ones hoping to familiarize themselves with this natural bodily process. Having a thorough understanding of primary menstrual functions—both general and specific to you—sets you and those around you up for success. Start your educational journey by learning about healthy cycles, common ailments, and various treatments. 

After you’ve pinned-down your period-basics, start tracking and investigating your monthly flow for an all-around less uncomfortable time of the month. Let eager-to-learn friends and family in on your distinct symptoms, experiences, and needs breaks down barriers of shame and embarrassment one awkward conversation at a time. 

Unpack internalized shame

Those currently stashing tampons in their sleeves to avoid sideways glances may be experiencing the unwanted effects of menstrual stigmatization. A crucial part of being an advocate for period-positivity is addressing internalized shame by re-writing harmful menstruation narratives and practicing a body-positive mindset

Evading toxic period culture is often easier said than done, especially with mean-spirited jokes about over-sensitivity or unfortunate leakage accidents. However, you can kick period shame to the curb by surrounding yourself with supportive people, refusing to tip-toe to the bathroom, and being openly proud of your functioning body.

Share experiences with the men in your life

Ending period stigmatization can be challenging when you account for the disconnect between people who experience periods and people who don’t. Most men will never experience the various pains and discomforts that accompany menstrual cycles, meaning it may be up to you to bridge the gap. Although period conversations can be uncomfortable initially, it’s critical for men and women alike to understand and sympathize with people who experience period pains to break down outdated barriers.  

Being open and honest about menstruation’s ins-and-outs can initiate valuable conversations, subsequently destroying dangerous stigmas and misinformation. 

Ditch “leave-no-trace” mindsets

According to outdated, traditional standards, periods should leave-no-trace—being neither seen nor heard. However, this model aims to hide critical information about a natural body process that affects at least half of the population. The expectation that period-havers should have to hide away or feel ashamed of bloody messes, painful cramps, or explosive emotions is toxic and out-of-date. 

Every time you openly-carry a pad, push through an awkward conversation, or engage in free-bleeding, you deconstruct menstruation misconceptions and abandon leave-no-trace periods in the past.

Engage in open-minded discussions

A popular avoidance tactic employed by period-havers everywhere is using ever-changing, widely-creative menstrual euphemisms. Although Aunt Flow is an amusing way to warn those around you of incoming blood-flow, tacky nick-names can further stigmatize menstrual cycles. Even though mentioning your menstrual cycle in passing may feel unnatural or taboo, speaking openly about your experience creates healthier period ideologies. 

Avoid mincing words, correct untrue statements, and embrace your body’s natural ebb-and-flow for a less-humiliating, miserable period. 

Own your flow

In the end, menstruation isn’t a shameful or dirty act—it’s a natural process. Refuse to give in to outdated narratives, harmful stigmas, and unnecessary shame by proudly and openly talking about your period with those around you.