Let’s Talk About… Periods
Periods. A lot of us have them. Despite periods being such a normal bodily function, there is still so much societal stigma attached to any discussions about menstruation.
As a genderqueer trans person, period chats often make me feel isolated and erased as they are often associated with women, calling menstruation a ‘female hygiene issue’. Not everyone who menstruates is a woman and not all women menstruate, so it’s important to use inclusive language. When talking about people who have periods, instead of saying ‘women’, consider using language like ‘people who menstruate’, and ‘menstrual health’ instead of ‘feminine health’. It’s also important to de-sanitise the language we use. Avoid using words like ‘sanitary products’ because periods aren’t unhygienic. These changes in language make a massive impact, and signal to others that you care about inclusion.
Period poverty, the lack of access to period products due to socio-economic barriers, affects at least 1 in 10 people who menstruate and impacts upon every aspect of a person’s life. It stops people who can’t afford period products from being able to go to school, work or social events and increases the stigma. Period poverty can be physically dangerous. In desperate circumstances people can use pads or tampons for well longer than is safe or even create makeshift pads such as wrapping toilet paper around their underwear.
From a personal level, I know that when I couldn’t afford period poverty, it has affected my mental health and I felt so ashamed and even dirty, for an issue that was far beyond my control. It’s so difficult to talk about the stigma surrounding period poverty, and when people open up about it, they are shamed. It’s also important to acknowledge that period poverty especially affects people with intersecting marginalised identities, such as working class people, and members of the BAME, LGBTQ+ and Disabled communities.
This shouldn’t be an issue that still affects people, but it is and we need to take action now. If you are a student and are keen to get involved in fighting this, come and get involved in GU Red Alert. I am the president, and myself and the team are incredibly passionate about fighting the stigma against menstruation and we are currently running our annual washbag appeal.
Periods aren’t taboo or a dirty little secret – they are a natural bodily function and no one deserves to feel shame for simply existing.
[Chris Timmins – he/him – @_plantbot]
[Image Credit: Max Pixel]