I think we all grew up with a similar experience in school when we first started to learn about our maturing bodies. “Boys in this room and girls in here!” the teacher would bellow, pulling us into gendered groups to reveal that in a short amount of time our lives would change and we would become “women”.
Everyone remembers the stupid jokes in the playground, the panic when you thought you had bled through onto your skirt and the sick notes you handed over shamefully in PE when it was time for swimming. As young girls we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies because of the people around us. Boys and men did not understand them, they were never given the information! As we age we become more comfortable, and with the changing attitudes of the incoming generations, we are made to feel safer and more open about periods. But do men feel the same? Lack of education and stigma surrounding periods and the menstrual cycle in general doesn’t help anyone, regardless of your gender. Periods definitely need a revamp when it comes to education!
Our shared responsibility to improve men’s education about periods
Part of what we have to ask is, is it our fault for excluding them? As having a period is such a personal experience to those who have them, it is easy for men to feel ostracized - it is true - they just cannot possibly understand what we are going through for a week every month? I would agree that it is on us as women to take some responsibility in involving them in the conversation. But I would also say it is on them to be open to learning about something that they do not understand yet affects their mum, sisters, wives, girlfriend, daughters and female friends… and is ultimately wholly responsible for their own existence on this earth!
The education system definitely plays a vital role in the cluelessness that men seem to have surrounding periods. As children we are exclusively taught about our own bodies and not those of the opposite gender, leaving gaps of vital knowledge in our understanding of how we all work as humans. A man is not taught how to use a period pad or tampon, because it assumes that they can lead their life happily without needing to know this information. But, knowledge is power and we need more understanding of menstrual cycles PERIOD.
Conversation is a great easy way to break down barriers, so next time you’re hanging out with your boyfriend or male friends, or brother, dad, why not ask a few period related questions, show them a tampon and ask them if they know how it works. Fablittlebag (https://fablittlebag.com/blogs/news/dads-daughters-talking-periods?_pos=1&_sid=18530310b&_ss=r) are a great ice-breaker here as you can introduce the wider issues of disposal and show them the process. We know that Dads often like to give a pack of FLB’s to their teenage daughters as an easy and relaxed way of letting them know that they know what periods are and that they may be experiencing them.
With every new conversation had, and every inclusive lesson taught in schools, we can break down those barriers and make sure everyone understands periods better.