Periods are natural and normal. These are not once-in-a-lifetime events. So why are they treated as an anomaly? Why is this something to be embarrassed about, something to be kept secret and hidden? This is the result of what is known as “period stigma.” But what is period stigma and why is it harmful? What can people do?
Menstrual stigma: what is it?
To put it simply, period stigma is discrimination against those who menstruate. For example, it’s common to hear nicknames for menstruation, such as “that time of the month” or “Aunt Flo,” both of which are passive terms that contribute to stigma. However, stigma does not have to manifest itself in physical actions or words; it can also manifest in forms such as social beliefs or prejudices towards menstruation.
Why is menstrual stigma harmful?
Menstrual stigmas can spread misinformation, and these beliefs can translate into discriminatory acts that harm people. Stigma can serve as a basis or catalyst for the misogynistic or sexist views of some people.
Period poverty, or lack of access to sanitary products, education, and other things about menstruation, is an issue that has only exacerbated the stigma around periods. Period poverty can seriously affect people’s mental health and holistic well-being and presents a problem, especially for people living in low-income communities and countries.
The stigma of menstruation also makes it taboo to talk about something completely normal. This is why there is so much misinformation around menstruation – people are afraid to talk about it. It promotes feelings of shame and embarrassment in many people, which can impact their mental health. People shouldn’t feel embarrassed about buying or asking for menstrual products, and menstruation shouldn’t be an uncomfortable topic to discuss.
How to fight period stigma
talk about it
There is nothing wrong with discussing menstruation. It’s important to tell people about the rules, and don’t be afraid to talk about them. Work to make periods inclusive for everyone! Talking about your period experiences with others can help educate people about the truth about menstruation and create a safe atmosphere for people.
Educate others, especially those who don’t menstruate, about menstruation. Lobby for education on menstruation, sanitary products, mental health and awareness of period stigma in your communities. This will help dispel misinformation about periods and promote awareness of menstruation. It can even help change policies on menstruation and sanitary products.
But sometimes you may also need to educate yourself! Some people may not know how their own menstrual cycles may affect them. It is important to understand this part of your health because it is like any other part of your body!
Here are some places you can get more information about menstruation from: CDC, Medline, UT Austin, Hopkins Medicine
Volunteer to assemble or distribute menstruation products for those in need! You can even donate menstrual products like tampons and sanitary napkins. Contact a local nonprofit or even shelters!
Become an advocate for change in your community. You can reach out to organizations or even contact legislators directly to discuss making menstrual products more readily available in schools, prisons, and workplaces! You can advocate for change by phoning, petitioning, raising awareness about menstruation, and working to eliminate the surrounding stigma!