The one thing no one tells you about, no one warns you about, is period sexism. Or, more precisely period shame. Here, I will tell you what nobody dares:
When the girls in my school or sports team got their first period, most of them were proud to be a woman. What has bleeding out of a vagina got to do with being a woman? As if you weren’t a woman if you don’t… Actually, that’s a really sexist idea, because you define femininity only by the capacity of having kids, even though, and especially at such a young age, we can’t know if we even want to have children one day, or if we can have even if we want.
But okay, if they want to be proud, I won’t be the one keeping them away from shouting it out to the world. Oh wait – but actually they want to hide any sign that they are menstruating. So I just don’t get it. How can you, at first, be proud about something, and then try to hide it? Be proud of “being a woman”, and then hide what they think is their femininity? That’s so sexist.
Since, in my life, the ones who generally know about who’s on a period are the girls and women, and the ones they try to hide it from are evidently the boys and men. Great, another thing girls do consider men, instead of themselves.
What’s the big deal? She’s on her period. So what? Is it such a big secret? Is something terrible going to happen if others find out?
Not really; the only thing that might happen is that they acknowledge the fact that she’s bleeding, maybe give her credit that regardless of that and perhaps the accompanying cramps, pain and other discomforts, she is still doing whatever she does. Acknowledging her days would actually make it easier for her. Then why all this secrecy? So many questions, so few answer.
I have been looking for an answer to all these questions for quite some time, and I haven’t found any valid arguments that seem to stand a ground in the 21st century. That’s because there are no valid reasons for being ashamed of menstruating.
This shame dates back to the middle age when people thought that women were creatures of the devil, that that’s why they are bleeding (and why they are inferior to men). Menstruation was seen as impure, same as femininity. Actually, there are still religions today that say that women who are menstruating shouldn’t cook because anything they cook would be impure. So following this line of thoughts, I totally understand why women started hiding their period.
If I lived in the middle age, or in such a society, I would probably do the same thing, because no one wants to be seen as “impure”. I am lucky enough to live today, in Germany, and face no such approach. But then how come women (even in my modern, western society) are still ashamed? Now that’s a question without any answer. There is no reason for that. Full stop.
Just think: sometimes it would be a good thing to know if girls are bleeding or not, for example in PE, when it comes to making teams. I have played in teams where 100% of us were not able to play well because of cramps. This bad experience could have easily been avoided if we had thought about that when making teams. But, of course, no one wanted to give a sign that she was in her days because our PE teacher is a man; somehow nobody felt like telling him that “teacher, we got a problem.”
But I don’t want to blame only the girls here. Because, after all, if we have period sexism, then guys are part of the problem. In fact, I think that some of them really ARE the problem. How many times we, women, get the sentence if we tend to be moodier: “oh, calm down, you got your period or what?” Or when I really am on my period and tell them, for a reason or another, and the only answer I get is “Ew that’s gross! Keep this kind of stuff to yourself, I don’t want to know.”
So, yes, some guys are definitely a big part of the problem, but hey: they are not the ones bleeding. We shouldn’t give a shit about what they have to say. They have absolutely no idea. But, sadly, these guys aren’t the only ones who think that they know better than the ones who are directly affected by the problem.
I met so many people who thought that they HAD to tell me how to handle my period – as if it were their bodies bleeding. The subject that was discussed the most was the ”tampon vs. pads” debate. There are the ones who told me that tampons were my only option to continue swimming, on the other hand, there are my Muslim friends who tell me that I shouldn’t use tampons because I absolutely have to stay a virgin until I marry somebody. As if the two would correlate at all.
This is so sexist again! Some people say that I should do this or that with my body for sports, others say that I shouldn’t for somebody who may not even exist. What I want to use or not simply doesn’t count, nobody cares about that…
I have a radical idea: how about we just stop telling other people what to do with their bodies? Everybody would be better off with that, wouldn’t be?
Just as I wrote this, I already foresee some comments. Don’t waste your time telling me that it’s just private, because I know that, and I’m not asking anybody to wear “I’m on my period” T-shirts or stuff like that, I just want us to stop hiding. I can totally understand if some women don’t want to talk about their period; I respect that, I just want the same respect for the ones who decide that they want to talk about it.
Too many young girls are ashamed of their periods; too many girls hide the fact that they’re under a lot of pain, which only makes it worse. This has to change! Let us be more period-friendly! That doesn’t mean that we have to do period tea parties; it just means that we should accept women bodies and all that comes with it as they are.