Menstruation is a biological process that has been stigmatized for centuries. A taboo in most cultures, periods are something people prefer not to talk about, and are encouraged to keep quiet about. My mother had her period, hell, I’m on mine now, and I’m sure my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother had her period too. Almost all women experience menstruation, yet, were supposed to be ‘discreet’ about it?
I remember being shown in elementary school how to ‘discreetly’ carry tampons. And I remember going into middle school, when middle school boy humor echoed “she must be on her period”. It’s always been an embarrassing thing. To this day, I have to remind myself that it’s not gross, I’m not gross, and I can’t let being on my period get me down. I feel lucky to have had access to proper hygiene and emotional/professional medical support to help me navigate through those times, and now.
Some women, though, do not have access to all these things, some not even proper access to health or an education. According to global statistics, just 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school. There are about 335 million girls around the world who go without access to water just to wash their hands. Many women grow up not even knowing if menstruation is a normal thing, having not had any education on their bodies. Without access to proper health and hygiene, it makes it a lot harder for these women to cope with their periods. Even in the United States, many women do not have proper access to hygienic supplies. In 2018, 64 percent of women in St. Louis, Missouri weren’t able to afford menstrual hygiene supplies. There are so many women across the board suffering from lack of access to these things which, to me, seem so necessary when I’m on my period.
I cannot imagine how I would go without. For something that has been happening to billions of women, every month, for centuries, and somehow developed countries have not prepared for all women to have access to these sorts of aspects of health? We still are not accounting for women. Some cultures ban women from certain events when they’re on their periods, some cultures tax women’s hygiene products so high that a woman working minimum wage cannot afford it, and in some contexts cultures don’t care enough to educate women on their bodies. This teaches women to have negative feelings towards their bodies, and themselves.
The bottom line is, we are all alive on this earth because of menstruation. It’s so important that we are not quiet about our bodies and our experiences because women’s health has long been overlooked and disregarded. No more stuffing tampons up our sleeves.