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Put An End To Period Shame

When I grew up, being on your period was considered gross. All that blood, yuck! My biology teacher even told us girls in our class – during a lesson on reproduction – that we should make sure to shower a lot when we had our period, otherwise we’d stink. I kid you not.

The stigma continues

Things aren’t really much better these days. While some sanitary product companies have finally come to the realization that blood is red, and not blue as they have always shown us on their ads, and while some schools (at least in the UK) have started offering free sanitary products, talking about your period is still somewhat taboo. Asking your colleague for a tampon because your period took you by surprise is still done in hushed tones – and you’d only approach a colleague you are friendly with.

The dangers of period shaming

Period shame is detrimental to women on so many levels, but specifically when it comes to endometriosis. If girls and women never talk openly about their periods and how we experience them, every woman who experiences intense period pain is not going to know whether that is normal or not. Women who have always been taught to be ashamed of their menstruation will have a harder time trying to seek help for problems with menstruation.

The importance of awareness month

It is great that we have a whole month to raise awareness of endometriosis. It’s much needed, and I am grateful to celebrities like Lena Dunham, who have openly spoken about their struggles with endometriosis. But if we don’t break down the shame around periods, it doesn’t matter how much we try to raise awareness of endometriosis, girls and women are still going to be reluctant to speak out about pain during menstruation.

NOT just a “women’s issue”

Menstruating is a natural part of being a woman. No girl or woman should ever be made to feel ashamed of what is a perfectly normal process in a woman’s life. And removing shame around menstruation is not something for women and girls only. We have to teach our sons about periods as well – and about endometriosis. Boys need to be aware how much pain girls and women can experience during their period. If we teach boys that menstruation is normal, and not gross, we will raise men who will be sympathetic when a woman complains of cramps, rather than jokingly dismissive. We will raise men who may become doctors who will listen when a woman complains about chronic pain in their pelvis.

A need for societal change

Raising awareness for endometriosis is great, it’s very necessary. But if we don’t let this go hand in hand with stopping period shame, we are just plugging one hole in a leaky bucket. Society needs a drastic shift in attitude towards women and menstruation. When women can speak openly about their period – with their friends, but also their boss, their family, their children – when we can compare notes, so to speak, with other women, we can spot endometriosis symptoms in others, and maybe get them diagnosed sooner.

I long for that day. I long for the day when a woman can complain about period cramps and receive sympathy, rather than embarrassed jokes. And I long for the day that endometriosis is eradicated, but until then, I long for the day that I don’t have to explain what endometriosis is because everyone is aware of it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.