Re-Defining Menstruation

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Your monthly visitor. Aunt Flo. Code red. For decades, learning the secret language of how to tell someone you’re on your period has been a rite of passage as much as getting your period itself. And the kids these days are getting creative. Ever heard of shark week? Arts and crafts week at Panty Camp? There are a million and one ways to tell our friends, family, boyfriends, and colleagues that we’re on our period. But why? Getting your period is a natural, normal thing, and we should be talking about it in clear, direct language.Here’s why you should say, and say it proud " I’M ON MY PERIOD" 

What is a period/menstruation ? It is when blood and tissue from your uterus comes out of your vagina. It usually happens every month. During your menstrual cycle, hormones make the eggs in your ovaries mature. When an egg is mature, that means it’s ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell. These hormones also make the lining of your uterus thick and spongy. So if your egg does get fertilized, it has a nice cushy place to land and start a pregnancy.This lining is made of tissue and blood, like almost everything else inside our bodies. It has lots of nutrients to help a pregnancy grow. If pregnancy doesn’t happen, your body doesn’t need the thick lining in your uterus. Your lining breaks down, and the blood, nutrients, and tissue flow out of your body through your vagina. Voilà, it’s your period.

For millions of women worldwide, menstruation is seen as a mark of shame. Many are told not to discuss it in public, to hide their tampons and sanitary pads. The stigma is universal, rendering women and girls vulnerable to health problems and gender discrimination.The many stigmas around menstruation weigh heavy on female identity and are one of the core issues to discuss in regards to perpetual gender inequality.Menstruation stigma is a form of misogyny. Negative taboos condition us to understand menstrual function as something to be hidden, something shameful. It’s interesting that so much embarrassment, awkwardness, and shame surround a natural bodily function experienced by half the population at some point in their lives. We don’t hide toilet paper away, yet some women still get flustered if a tampon drops out of their handbag, or we might buy a floral-patterned tin to hide our sanitary pads.The stigma and its myths carry with it an oppressive notion that menstruating women are unclean. What perpetuates this are the hushed tones around menstruation, the euphemisms for it and the shortage of education and open dialogue about it.

While the global move to have sanitary pads easily accessible to the under-privileged shines a spotlight on the issue, and how it infringes on girls and women’s human rights, while demystifying sexual reproductive health and menstrual health management, there’s still room for a broader conversation. The stigma around periods and the lack of proper information means many girls rely on what their family or friends tell them, which is often inaccurate and can perpetuate menstrual myths. While we continue to keep silent on the subject of periods, women and girls will not be able to get the facilities and support they need to be able to deal with what is a normal part of life, hygienically and with dignity and hence, we all need to play our part in opening up the conversation.Speaking about an issue is the only way to combat its silence, and dialogue is the only way for innovative solutions to occur.Normalising menstruation as just a healthy, positive part of the female life cycle is really important.

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