Why Period Talk Is Not Only Unhelpful, It Can Be Damaging
Last updated: March 2021
While periods occur to millions of us, we talk very little about them. In fact, when period talk actually happens, it is severely limited. Even in this modern age, we discuss periods in hushed tones or using keywords to avoid saying blood or menstruation. It is also a conversation reserved for those of us living with a monthly bleed. For the rest of the world, they are a mystery or something considered "so gross" that no one wants to learn about them.
The majority of period-talk comes with myths or "accepted truths" that are, generally, quite questionable. There are countless old wives' tales that add nothing to the education surrounding period health. Even the media we ingest, the cultures we live in, and the backgrounds in which we are educated, are plagued by unhelpful stereotypes.
I could have benefited from talking about my painful periods
Growing up, there were no safe places in which I could discuss the real nature of my periods, compare them with others, and realize there was something wrong. At school, all we got were some biology lessons that explained how our bodies worked, but no one said anything about blood. At one point, a teacher warned us against tampons since they'd take away our virginity.
Nowadays, we are bombarded with ads featuring outdoorsy girls in tiny shorts, or tennis players wearing pristine white, all of them supposedly menstruating. This portrays an unrealistic ideal. There is an accepted belief that we should "just put up" with our periods.
Expecting anyone to battle through a bad period is unrealistic
The message behind those marketing campaigns is that all we need to behave like athletes are the right type of tampons. Yet, period products are expensive, and not available to everyone. To make things worse, to anyone living with endometriosis, PCOS, adenomyosis, and other conditions, periods are not only not uneventful, but they can also be incredibly debilitating.
"It’s just a bad period"
Period myths are incredibly problematic. When someone tells us our life-disrupting symptoms are just a bad period, we accept them as normal. This is how we fail to seek medical help. Yet endometriosis can be managed more easily the sooner it's diagnosed.
We are surrounded by damaging cultural beliefs around periods
Depending on where we live, there are beliefs around periods that can be quite puzzling, hilarious, or downright offensive. When I was little I thought that if I made mayonnaise whilst on my period, it would curdle. In certain cultures, there are beliefs that perpetuate periods as shameful and dirty.
It is true that we have come a long way. There are some really honest awareness campaigns around periods in social media. However, the research around a disease like endometriosis is still extremely limited. And the way we see and talk periods is partly to blame for this.
I’m not saying we need to wave around our pads or tampons in people’s faces, but we need to become ruthless around myths. One way to do this is by becoming more vocal, and very honest, about our suffering.
It is not "women's issues", "female problems" or "our days of the month", it's heavy bleeding for days. It's feeling faint due to blood clots, pain that feels like our legs are being ripped from our bodies. It's endometriosis.
Which symptoms are you experiencing the most this week? (Check all that apply):