For centuries, the subject of menstruation has been and still is, taboo. Whilst in recent years some societies have made positive steps towards raising awareness, there is still a way to go, and barriers to break down. In this blog, we are delving into the data and by doing so, we are hoping to contribute to a world where menstruation can be discussed openly and without shame.
Table of Contents
What is period stigma?
Period stigma is a broad term for the discrimination faced by menstruators. Rather than being acknowledged as a normal biological process that more than 800 million women of reproductive age experience each month, it has been stigmatized to a point where it is considered a rude or embarrassing topic of conversation.
As a result, it is no surprise that a study by Always revealed that 85% of young people have tried to hide the fact that they’re on their period from those around them.
No one should let their period hold them back from enjoying daily activities and engaging in open conversation. Things need to change.
Period stigma around the world
Period stigma isn’t just limited to the UK and is just as prevalent, if not more, in other countries across the globe – and not just the countries where period poverty is more of an issue.
Here is an overview of how some other countries look at menstrual health.
- In India and Nepal, in some communities, you can’t sleep inside your own home if you are menstruating. For centuries, the Nepalese people practiced Chhaupadi, which is the ritual of banishment of menstruating women and girls – typically to a shed or courtyard away from the house.
- Only 2% of women in China use tampons because of a widespread belief that using tampons would break the hymen, which has traditionally been thought to be a marker of virginity.
- In Afghanistan, women are told that they cannot shower during their period or they will become sterile.
- Whilst in Morocco and Bangladesh, women are forced to use tea towels, sheets, newspaper, pieces of mattress or even mud to manage their cycles.
- 44% of French women and 57% of Americans feel period shame.
It’s clear that period stigma is a widespread issue that is often lead by misinformation and false beliefs. So, where do these myths originate?
Period stigma in TV shows and movies
It can often be unclear where things have gone wrong and false information has been spread on the topics of sexual and reproductive health. However, it’s clear that even today, TV shows and movies often help to fuel the stigma, rather than helping to tackle it. Here are some famous film moments, listed by i-D, which have caused controversy and shown gender inequality.
When Seth discovers a girl he has been dancing with has stained his jeans with period blood, we get a glimpse of period-shaming at its worst. “This is disgusting” and “let me get a picture of that” are just a few of the comments made during the scene.
The first film to graphically show period blood, when Carrie discovers her period and screams to her classmates for help, she is ruthlessly taunted and bullied. This is a classic example of the film industry making menstruation out to be shameful.
Positive representations of menstruation in films
While we still have a long way to go to ensure consistent, positive representation of periods in film and tv, there are some movies and tv shows that shine a light on menstruation in a good way and can be used as a platform to open the conversation up about periods, diversity, and emotional intelligence.
Turning Red, 2022
Directed by Domee Shi and produced by Pixar this film tells the story of Mei, a 13-year-old female living in Toronto with her parents. The film explores Mei’s challenges with growing up and puberty, while the red panda that Mei turns into is a metaphor for her getting her first period. Turning red also becomes a metaphor for the unwarranted shame and embarrassment that comes from talking about periods and other subjects such as sexuality.
While Turning Red attempts to confront the theme of female puberty head on, some of the reviews of the film show that we still have a long way to go.
One reviewer said ‘we watched all the way to the part where the mom brings in ibuprofen and pads. I am absolutely mortified. Luckily, my child was clueless.’
Period stigma in the media
The media often highlights stories from young people and older menstruators who have fallen victim to period shaming. Cafemom recently asked their audience for their worst period-shaming stories, and here are just some of the shocking responses which were submitted.
You, or someone you know, will relate to one of these statements. And you’re not alone in that.
ActionAid conducted a survey which revealed that more than 31% of women felt ashamed, anxious, or embarrassed when people have seen them taking period products to the toilet.
Menstrual Hygiene Day.org also shed light on period stigma when they revealed that 44% of women have felt awkward while buying tampons or pads at the store, with 15% feeling so uneasy that they have resorted to buying them online to avoid the store altogether.
It’s time for change.
How your business can help
So, as an individual, or within your business, how can you help normalise the conversation around periods? Here are just a few of the small changes you could make.
Talk about periods openly
Open conversations about periods lets others know that it’s okay to discuss. The first step in breaking a taboo is to properly name and talk about it – without using euphemisms.
Train your staff about menstrual health
It is beneficial to train managers, so they know how to deal with incidences, such as time off work due to period pain. This will encourage a more understanding approach and an inclusive workplace culture.
Access to free period products
The cost-of-living crisis is affecting period poverty, and statistics show that as a direct result of the economic crisis, 1 in 5 women have been unable to afford period products.
One of the most common reasons that women feel shame around menstruation is due to either a lack of access to period products, or the inability to afford those which are available.
As a business, you can help ease menstruators’ anxiety and ensure they can participate in daily life by making period products accessible to all washroom users.
The Aunt Flow Menstrual Hygiene Products Vendor supports period dignity and helps to tackle the stigma, by providing free menstrual products to employees, students, and guests. Whether at work, out shopping or in the gym, you can help your visitors in an emergency by providing free, organic tampons and sanitary pads. This helps to provide a caring away-from-home washroom experience, and also supports the movement towards sustainable menstruation too.
Your business can drive change
Global changes take time, but there are immediate workplace changes which you can implement, that can immediately benefit those in the vicinity. From free period products to encouraging open conversation, now’s the time to play your part in breaking the stigma.
Learn more about the Aunt Flow Free Vend Period Product Dispenser today.