feminism, Reproductive Justice, Sex Education

Period Stigma: More Than Just An Annoyance

By Crysteaux Sun, Social Media Intern

Frankly, a woman openly displaying a period product shouldn’t just feel comfortable; she should be celebrated! She is doing a public service to all subway benches, restaurant seats, and bedsheets. Every month, women face down the elevator doors in The Shining with just a tiny cylinder on a string to help us. We don’t cry or scream; we just sigh, complain about bloating, and buy chocolate. That is so punk! PERIODS ARE PUNK! TAMPONS ARE PUNK!

– Colette McIntyre at Refinery29

Pregnancy happens all the time, and our culture is obsessed with it – just look at any “bump watch” or “baby joy” headline in People or InTouch. But periods happen even more often, and women aren’t getting trophies for those, despite the fact that periods are, well, pretty punk rock when you think about it. Because unless some miracle drug comes out that eliminates both blood and pain, for a lot of women I know, periods require punk rock strength to get through.

And period stigma isn’t helping. But in developing countries, it doesn’t just make periods hard to talk about – it can have devastating consequences in the lives of women and girls.

In India and Kenya, for example, without easy access to affordable period care options, period stigma and poverty prevent some girls from attending school when they have their periods. Given that the education of women and girls is one potential solution to global poverty, this is no small thing.  “[Missing school] puts female students at a distinct disadvantage as they enter secondary school and severely decreases her odds of continuing on to post-secondary school,” reports  at the Huffington Post.

Simply put, treating something as fundamental to women’s health as menstruation with secrecy and shame has hugely negative implications for larger issues like education and building strong communities.

Luckily, access to period care essentials can be improved through funding and grassroots efforts.

Here’s a selection of ways to help. List adapted from Zimbabwean HuffPo contributor Miriam Mufaro:

  • Huru International of NYC: donate $ or individual kits.
  • Femme International of Toronto: send a kit containing a menstrual cup, fund 3-5 women to help them complete a Feminine Health Management Programme
  • Zana Africa of Nairobi: provide general donations to East-African girls, for pads to be made in the locale, join the donation circle
  • SoftCup of San Diego: Go online or to a store and contribute by buying a Softcup for yourself.
  • Lwala Community Alliance of Lwala, Kenya: Fund public health initiatives that directly impact this village.

It is also important to stay informed about the status of period stigma for menstruating women around the world, and to feel free to talk about periods. They aren’t dirty or shameful – the reality is that for half the population, they’re a frequent occurrence. They’re happening all the time. And when menstruation stigma is lessened, it means better news down the road for reproductive health.

Crysteaux Sun is a Social Media Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.