As if periods weren’t already hard enough to deal with, we are taught they are disgusting. We are told that we must keep them secret from our male siblings, parents, peers and husbands. Mainstream culture says that the mood swings are debilitating but that we have no right to complain about the cramps. Unfortunately, this is all just a small part of a much larger problem.
What’s the problem with period stigma?
From a young age our daughters will hear that the functions of their body are gross. They will be overwhelmed by photoshopped images of sexualized female forms. But they will not see women breastfeeding, they will not see accurate depictions of birth, and they will be told that their periods are gross. They will be led to believe that their bodies are disgusting. Their self-confidence will suffer.
When the image in the mirror doesn’t match the tall, pale, thin, hairless, stretch mark-free, zero cellulite, images that they’ve seen in the media they will suffer.
Many young women suffer from eating disorders and mental illness. Feeling uncomfortable in your body makes everything from exercise to just getting out of bed infinitely more difficult. To encourage our daughters (and ourselves) to establish healthier body image we must change the way we talk about how our bodies function.
How do we solve the problem?
The media won’t change, not in time to save the next generation. We have to make small changes where we have the power to do so.
- Change the way you talk about female bodily functions and make sure your husband does too.
- Don’t hide your pads/tampons/cup (not even from your sons). Let them be a conversation starter, let your girls know what they can expect from puberty, let them know that they don’t have to be ashamed. And if you have boys, let them know what girls endure.
- Love your body.
- Don’t let your children hear you speaking negatively about your body.
- Be open, honest, and approachable.
But, periods are unsanitary…
Yes, but no more so than any other bodily fluid. I’m not implying that menstruation is lovely and magical. But it is nothing to be ashamed of.