Half the population will likely experience a period at some point in their life. So, why then, is menstruation shrouded in secrecy, embarrassment, and shame?
Period shaming is not a new phenomenon. Historically, periods have been vilified and, between shame-based marketing and misogyny in general, modern society hasn’t exactly made substantial progress when it comes to fighting period prejudice. Even with all the recent movements working to release the stigma of having a period, many people treat their menses as if it were a deep, dark secret that they must - at all costs - keep under wraps.
Even if you’re not among the ranks of menstrual activists who are turning their period blood into art, you deserve to live a life free from period shame. These tips can help break through the societal barrier and give you the courage to bleed with pride.
1. Appreciate the beauty of bleeding
The revulsion of menstrual blood fails to realize that having a period is a normal and natural bodily function. Menstrual blood kept every single one of us alive in the womb for nine months. This life-giving blood (whether you choose to reproduce or not) is something to take pride in, not be ashamed of. In fact, Bodyform released an ad recently that highlights the glory of bleeding and made a point to actually show blood. Simply revolutionary.
2. Understand the truth behind shame-based marketing
Whether it’s a commercial promising that their super secret plastic-concealing wrapper will keep your dirty secret safe or companies touting fragrant douches to get your vagina squeaky clean and smelling fresh (um, vaginas aren’t dirty in the first place and douches are super unnecessary), shame-based marketing only occurs in an effort to instill insecurities to perpetuate demand and commodify menstruation. What they are telling consumers isn’t the truth - just a way to make money. Remember this.
3. Revel in the shared experience of menstruating
You are definitely not the only one bleeding from your vagina every month. In fact, you are among the ranks of hundreds of thousands of people of different races, socioeconomic classes, and geographical locations who experience the beauty, the pain, and sometimes the heartbreak that is menstruating. Stand tall knowing that you’re not going through your period alone.
4. Be honest about the good and the bad
With your doctor, with your best friend, with your mother - be honest. You don’t have to put on a pretty face and pretend that all is well if it’s not. With having a period can come cramps, irritability, mood swings, exhaustion, and just a general sense of feeling less than awesome. Periods can also come at some seriously inopportune moments (pool party, anyone?). While you may not want to let your blood flow freely as an ode to Kiran Gandhi, the marathon runner who made headlines for free bleeding during the London Marathon to bring menstrual inequality to light, do what you need to do to move on. Be real about what sucks, ask for support where you need it, and simply appreciate how good it feels to not hide the symptoms of having a period.
5. Start talking about menstruation
One of the best ways to release period shame is to simply talk about your period. The more you engage in conversations about it, the more natural it will become. Every generation that’s already born will experience period shaming to some degree, but having open and honest conversations about menstruation is the first step to helping ease the shame we’ve been burdened with and ensure that future generations can bleed shame-free.
So many factors influence the way we feel about our bodies, our periods, and our lives. Lunapads is a brand that consistently strives to make the menstruation conversation more normal, more comprehensive, and more inclusive. You can join in the movement by purchasing products from Lunapads which will help you have a healthier period and provide menstrual products to students in the global south through One4Her, a program that helps girls in Uganda stay in school by giving them access to menstrual products.
Christina Vanvuren is a freelance sex & reproductive health writer living vicariously through herself in Atlanta, GA. When she’s not championing for a world free from period and slut-shaming you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee, traveling, and nurturing her friendships with badass women around the world. You can connect with her on Facebook, her website, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org