Periods are normal. Every month, women of all ages will shed the lining of their uteruses, a symbol that their bodies are functioning normally. According to society though this actually isn’t normal.
Period shaming is present in our culture in both subtle and not so subtle ways. For instance, there are a myriad of ways to avoid calling it menstruation (i.e. a monthly gift, the curse, on the rag, shark week, visit from Aunt Flo, etc.) because people still struggle with accepting the idea of women bleeding out of their vaginas every 21-28 days.
By not directly calling it what it is, we avoid acknowledging our periods and support the stigma that it is something that needs to be kept secret. These euphemisms only reinforce the taboo placed upon discussions about our periods, and the idea that women should be ashamed of something that is natural to the body.
Another one of these phrases that reinforces period shaming can be found in the aisles of drugs stores and grocery stores throughout the nation, and it’s the label we put on pads and tampons: feminine hygiene. At first, this doesn’t seem like the most menacing or unjust description for the products we use to control our menstruation. It’s definitely not incorrect to say periods are messy, and these types of products keep our underwear clean. But, by calling these products “hygiene-related,” it reinforces the idea that women are dirty when they’re on their period.
Societies around the world tell women their periods are something to be ashamed of, it’s even considered a in some cultures. And let’s not forget the famous Superbad movie scene (spoilers) where the main character freaks out because a girl has gotten menstrual blood on his pants. For years advertisements for period products mainly showed women in white tights or bikinis (if they showed women at all), and it wasn’t until 2011 that a maxi-pad ad actually showed blood, instead of the blue laundry detergent shown in so many commercials.
While many companies and organizations have been fighting this stigma, from the woman who ran a marathon free-bleeding aka without a tampon to videos made by your very own HelloFlo, subtle labels like “feminine hygiene” still reinforce the period taboo.
Waxing kits. Vaginal cleansers. Wet wipes. These could be considered feminine hygiene products, because their function is to keep your vagina clean. But in truth, your vagina is designed to keep itself clean. It’s time to call pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and whatever else you use to soak up your blood flow what they actually are: period products, menstrual cycle products or something that doesn’t try to demean a woman’s bodily functions.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.