Written by Natalie Holton
‘I’m writing a blog post for a company that makes sustainable disposal bags for pads and tampons, I say. Sitting around the lunch table is my extended family: aunts, uncles, cousins, all suddenly silent. I feel myself start to blush. I’d made things uncomfortable, mentioned the unmentionable — tampons! periods!— and at a meal time!
Ouch. I’d broken a taboo and I knew it. Here are six period taboos.
The naming taboo
‘That time of the month’, ‘Aunt Flo’, ’mother Nature’, ‘the curse’. We avoid uttering the word ‘period’. Refusing to call something by its name just reinforces the idea that it shouldn’t be talked about. Let’s say it how it is: period!
The blood taboo
I hadn’t seen period blood until I had my first period. Stylized diagrams showing red droplets? Yes. Photographs of blue liquid falling onto a white pad? Yes. But actual blood? No.
It’s no big deal when movies show blood spurting from every other part of our bodies, but period blood is far too horrifying to show on screen. No wonder we’re often shocked and disgusted by seeing period blood in real life. All of us, men and women, will come across period blood sooner or later. There should be no shock and no shame.
Despite the intensity of period pain, we are largely expected to ‘just get on with it’. There are life-transforming methods of coping with painful periods, and the success of these varies from person to person. Some women may find their pain solved with ibuprofen and a hot water bottle, while others may benefit from an IUD or going on the pill. Rarely are these solutions openly shared, and instead we suffer the pain in silence. For some, one in ten, who suffer with endometriosis, the pain is utterly debilitating. Endometriosis is a serious condition which remains undiagnosed for an average of eight years, partly due to period taboos, and lack of awareness by GPs. If you need a few tips and tricks for coping with period pain, here is our Ultimate Guide.
The pain taboo
Due to the taboo surrounding the whole period subject, talking about systematic ways of improving periods is awkward for many, especially given that those in management and decision-making roles tend to be older and male. Improvements are slow on the uptake if we don’t feel comfortable raising the ideas in the first place: whether suggesting to a teacher that there should be bins next to the loos (my primary school had none, even though it is a legal requirement!) or suggesting to a boss that perhaps women with especially painful periods may work from home.
The solutions taboo
The taboos about periods are also taboos about busting period myths. There are countless myths about periods, varying from the mundane to the bizarre. And we need to break those taboos and bust those myths. Period Myths We Need To Set Straight... Here’s a familiar myth: you need to have a period each month, even on the pill. It’s rumored that, without a period, your uterus lining will keep on thickening and you might become infertile. That’s a myth. It’s perfectly safe to skip periods on the pill, and more effective as contraception. The bleed at the end of each pack was designed (by men) to make the pill feel ‘natural’. However, if you are experiencing irregular periods, keep track of the dates, and visit your GP if you’re concerned. Globally there are more bizarre myths. In Poland it is rumored that having sex on your period may kill your partner, in Romania the flowers that you touch will die more quickly and in India the cows you touch will become infertile.
The myth-busting taboo
When we don’t talk about periods, we don’t talk about their environmental consequences. There’s a temptation to flush tampons out of sight. Sixty per cent of women do this in the UK, much to the horror of the Binners! Most Flushers don’t realize where their flushed tampons, pads, applicators end up. Well, they can end up in our rivers, oceans and beaches. That’s one of the reasons why Founder Martha Silcott invented FabLittleBag, which makes binning so much easier, and feels so much better!
The period-footprint taboo