A few days ago, a YEP Crew member shared a news story during one of our meetings (click here if you want to read it) about a celebrity who got a bloodstain on her white bikini when she was at the beach, due to an unpredictable period. Paparazzi were quick to “catch” the moment and paste it all over the internet, leading to many calling it gross and unclean, and that she deserves the public humiliation because she chose to wear white during that time of the month.
Clearly it was an exceptionally slow day at the media company, but seriously! Come on!
I hope for most of you, this evoked a feeling of shock, much like it did for me. This needs to be said – a period is natural. It is a necessary bodily process, it happens every month, and it occurs in most women from the time they hit puberty till they are about 50. Most of us know this. Yet many people associate periods with something that’s taboo, filthy or impure. In some religions, women on their periods aren’t allowed to visit a place of worship (temple etc.) for the week that they’re on their period. Unfortunately, examples like these mean that even today, many women are still conditioned to feel embarrassed of mentioning anything period-related. When I lived in India, I remember my mum and sister always got sanitary napkins wrapped up in newspaper, and then further put in separate black plastic bags, away from the rest of the stuff, making it completely (not) inconspicuous. Why are we still ashamed of periods, and why haven’t we been able to normalise it?
It was inspiring to see the celebrity speak out against the news story, calling out on the absurdity of the issue, and reminding everyone that periods are, ya know, not a big deal, it happens. While she did garner a lot of support for doing so, the fact remained that there were people who still thought it was inappropriate, and others who might’ve had similar experiences and didn’t have the social platform to stand up against it.
I was told about periods when I was 10, by my dad. Picture this: a brown (read: CaLD) dad, telling his 10-year old son, about periods. What’re the odds of that! But I’m glad he did. Hearing it from him made me feel like it’s something regular, something normal, and nothing for me to freak out about. Education and awareness are often what’s needed to reduce judgement on issues that people are often afraid to talk about.
For all that the YEP crew aims to do, including positively evolving young people’s attitudes around sexual health, I think working towards reducing the stigma against periods is an important part of the job. And no better time to talk about it than during sexual health week!