By Jennifer Constable, Editor-in- Chief (@Peculiar_Jenny)
It’s the end of a long and dismal Monday. I’m on my way home from uni, battling through the damp crowds on Buchanan Street and decide to take shelter in Boots to escape the rain and pick up some essentials. I’m sluggish. My stomach bloated, my skin breaking out, and beads of sweat plaster my fringe to my skull like some kind of demented, sticky seal. I wait in line and watch as my items are scanned one by one; lip balm, face wipes, impulse body spray (no, it’s not just for teenagers) and sense the cashier falter in his scanning ritual, an awkward cough escaping from his throat. His hands hesitate, as we both stare down at the remaining item; small, pastel coloured, and otherwise inconspicuous in appearance.
Tampons. Super Plus edition.
My face reddens and I avoid the cahier’s gaze. Embarrassed. I’m on my period.
Periods, historically, have always incurred a degree of stigma; associated with witchcraft and magic in the Ancient World and being looked down upon as shameful and “unclean” by Medieval Christianity standards. However, it seems utterly bizarre to me, that in a medically advanced age where we’ve created the bionic eye, cured smallpox and can literally transplant someone else’s excrement into our own colon (yes, poo transplants are real) that we still freak out at the fact that most women bleed monthly from their vaginas.
Throughout the eras, women across the world have gone to desperate lengths to conceal their menstruation from the scornful eyes of the public; hanging herbs from their necks to hide the odour of menstrual blood and using powdered toad as a medicine to stem heavy flows. Even when the first tampon was invented in 1929, women couldn’t openly purchase them, and would instead discreetly drop money into a box as payment, avoiding the perceived embarrassment of actually having to talk with the store clerk.
Almost a century later though, and we still have the same backwards and unhelpful attitude towards our ‘time of the months’, particularly, when it comes to talking about our periods with men. If I had a pound for every time a man looked uncomfortable as the mere whisper of the word period, I’d have enough money to buy sanitary products for the rest of my fertile life. Do you know what else is uncomfortable, boys? 60ml of blood pouring out your lady bits every four weeks. But we don’t make a big deal out of it.
The big problem here is that we’re failing to teach men how female bodies work and what periods actually are. The issue starts as early Primary school, where our sex education classes have us segregated into “boys” and “girls” groups, learning nothing about the inner workings of the opposite gender, and sometimes shamefully little of our own.
Naturally, as human beings we’re wary of what we don’t understand, leading to the common and highly damaging misconception held by many that periods are “dirty”, “unhygienic” and “gross”. The sad truth is, the only thing “gross” about periods, is the Tampon Tax, a tax regularly imposed tax on sanitary products across the globe, where tampons are considered to be a “luxury” product, and not essential like other products, effectively discriminating against women for having a vagina.
Recent years have see scores of female artists striving to strip apart the unfair stigma and shame associated with periods, most recently including the likes of feminist poet Rupi Kaur, who’s artsy Instagram photo of her period blood stained sweatpants caught the attention of thousands and the work of Jen Lewis, who used period blood to create stunning photographs. Closer to home as well, charitable activist groups have been working to help women in need obtain sanitary products, like GU Red Alert society, a charitable group set up to run fundraisers aimed at collecting sanitary products to donate to homeless shelters and food-banks.
We shouldn’t need to make excuses for our periods, or feel the need to hide a natural bodily function because it makes people uncomfortable. Periods are natural, they’re beautiful, they’re needed (literally, for life), and they are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
True, maybe it’ll be a while before I’m confident enough to wear that white lacy summer dress when Mother Nature comes calling, but I’m no longer going to feel the need to hide my period and make excuses for something we literally can’t help, and shouldn’t feel ashamed of. So yes, I’m on my period, and I’m not sorry for saying it.