A few months ago, a friend jokingly said to me, "Why do you do so many things to do with, you know...women's 'bits'?" First there was the tampon tax, then cervical smear tests, then the menopause, WHATEVER NEXT?!
I started my periods when I was 13. I hated them with a passion – still do really, the only difference now is I can talk about them and talk about them I will! It makes some cringe, some people change the subject, take a sudden interest in their shoes, giggle or tell me shut up but I'll keep doing it. Sorry, not sorry.
Because we need to talk.
I suffered with what doctors call dysmenorrhea (painful periods to you and me) from an extraordinarily young age. Now, I adore my mum, she's responsible for my feistiness after all, but we never really talked periods.
For years, I just assumed it was normal to feel like someone was operating a circular saw in your belly once a month, I used to feel so pissed off at the Bodyform adverts on TV. I mean the roller-skating girls looked so happy, why didn't I feel that way? I was practically murderous once a month and it's no coincidence my initials are PMS!
The extent of my period education at school was being given a pink, plastic flip-top thingy (most of us used it as a pencil case) which contained a couple of Lil-lets. The boys were sent out for this five minutes but made faces through the window, giggled and pulled faces. Periods were never referred to in the classroom again, not even in biology. Boys/men need to know about periods too – just like girls and women should be informed about the signs of testicular cancer.
And what was with the blue dye they used to demonstrate the absorbency?? I actually know someone whose friend finally plucked up the courage to see her GP to confide that she didn't bleed blue liquid but red blood.
I sought help in my 20s. It took me 15 years to receive definitive treatment for what transpired to be a painful gynecological condition.
15 long years of being afraid to wear white, making wrong contraceptive choices and dreading 'that week' every month.
Perhaps if we talked then about periods, like we're starting to do now, then I wouldn't have suffered so long. I might not have had to go through a chemical menopause at 36. Who knows? I can't turn back the clock but do you know what – I can damn well encourage others to know what is and what isn't normal and to seek help.
It has reduced me to tears reading about, and meeting, girls who suffer from period poverty because families cannot afford to buy sanitary protection. To ignore that indignity and humiliation would be criminal.
There's so much more we can do. Supplying every school and women's refuge with sanitary protection won't end period poverty, but it'll be a damn good start (crucially to be accompanied by meaningful Sex & Relationships Education) – and I'll be eternally proud that it's my beloved Labour Party leading the way on this.
And that's why it's important that it's discussed in parliament, not just because the sanitary towel/tampon dispenser in the toilet at the back of the Commons Chamber has been designed for people of approximately 6'10" height (can we sort that please?!).
It's so important we break down those barriers, smash the taboos and dispel the myths. That's what real feminism looks like.
There's nothing shameful about periods...let's talk.
Illustration credit to the brilliant Hazel Mead, who's part of our Bloody Good Creative network
Bloody Good Period are so excited to be working with Paula to end period poverty in the UK. Here's our founder Gabby with Paula, chatting all things fannies and flows!