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Why talking about periods matters

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

by Stephanie Mitton

After six years without my period, I feel like I am an adolescent all over again. I was pregnant and then I had an IUD for five years. I had to have minor surgery to have it removed, and since then, I am not too excited about getting another one, at least not for now. But I loved the IUD as it basically eliminated the monthly challenges with menstruation.

In my adolescent days, I remember making code names for my period, such as “friend”, so people wouldn't know what my girlfriends and I were talking about. Discussing this post with a friend, she shared how she would put a dot on the calendar in her room to track her period. No one else, except for her mom, knew the code.

Now that my “friend” is back, I have found myself tired, irritated, emotional and bleeding. Not my normal MO, and I am NOT enjoying it. Neither is my family! It is so odd to feel like I am experiencing getting my period all over again. It is reminding me how much they suck. But I know I am truly fortunate because I’m able to share my period woes on my blog, because I have access to period products and birth control, and because I am still able to work (albeit slightly less happily). This is not the case for many women around the world who are more than inconvenienced by menstruation.

Stigma and shame

Reflecting on this has also made me realize how little we talk about our periods. Did you know there was recently a #periodemoji released? It was the brainchild of Plan International UK with the goal of contributing to tackling the shame and stigma of periods in the UK and globally. It is also worth noting that the first one they submitted was more realistic and was rejected, not surprising, considering we are just getting a #periodemoji and we have had a poop emoji since 2010. A survey from Plan International of women aged 18-34 found half (47%) of respondents believed a period emoji would make it easier for them to talk about their periods with female friends and partners.

Until I started researching this article, I didn't even know that in Canada one-third of young Canadian women can’t afford menstrual products. Recently, a few school boards in Canada have made menstrual products available for free in their washrooms. Saadya Hamdani from Plan International Canada shares that “Period stigma is, unfortunately, alive and well both here in Canada and in so many of the countries we work in around the world. Combined with cultural taboos and misinformation about menstruation, period stigma is a form of gender discrimination that can cause emotion anxiety, and affect girls’ and women’s mental health.” It is also worth noting that not all women and girls menstruate, and this comes with its own set of challenges.

As Jamdani points out, this is a global issue, across the world many stuffer from a lack of sanitary pads and washroom facilities. In a recent piece Global News shares that, “in Nepal, the centuries-old Hindu practice of ‘chhaupadi,’ where women are banished from their homes during their periods, has already led to four deaths in the past few weeks.” It may be hard for some of us in Canada to understand what period shame and stigma is, but when you consider the global realities, it puts into perspective what other women face, not being able to go to school because of their periods or having access to sanitary products etc.

We may be finally making some steps in the right direction. Not only do we now have a period emoji, but recently at the Oscars, the documentary “Period. End of Sentence.,” won for Best Short Documentary; telling the story of women in India, period shame and how sanitary pads can save lives. I have watched the movie, and it was educational and definitely worth the watch, it is on Neflix.

The last word

So, let’s be real. Periods suck and we should talk about it (and not just with other women). As my body adjusts, I feel an anxious reminder, that I am raising two girls, and soon I will be supporting them to navigate their periods. I will be there to remind them they can go to school, swim, waterski, and do gymnastics at any time in their cycles. I think of my friends raising boys, and I hope that they too are considering how to have these conversations with their kids, so that all our kids (regardless of gender) can grow up in a more respectful and equitable world.

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