Beating Period Shame.
By Michelle Hopewell, @mybodyliberation
Michelle is an Edinburgh based Creator and Blogger passionate about body empowerment, menstrual wellness and imperfect sustainability. Eager to see as many people reconnected and in tune with their own bodies, Michelle shares her own experiences as well as information and tips on period health. You can find her work on www.mybodyliberation.com.
Michelle, @mybodyliberation Did you know that that 85% of young people have tried to hide that they’re on their period from other people around them?1 Sound familiar?
We all share stories of doing the toilet tango; of popping tampons or pads discreetly up our sleeves until we get to the bathroom, hiding our products – and the fact that we’re menstruating - from everyone around us. Desperately worrying about bleeding through our uniform or clothes. Trying hard to hide painful cramps whilst also paying attention and staying engaged with what’s going on around us. Afraid to talk to our parents or friends about what’s going on – remaining unsure of what is “normal.”
Many of us carry that shame into adulthood. And some adults are parents now, with no idea of how to address periods or period shame with their own children, let alone themselves.
It isn’t easy and it’s not our fault. We’ve been conditioned for centuries to inaccurately believe that periods are shameful and dirty: that they’re not something we talk about openly, or something that we should even have detailed information about.
For a long time, so many of us believed that the more dissociated we are from our bodies, the better. And that ain’t it.
We don’t need to be afraid of our bodies or our periods. Here are some things to remember, to combat period shame in your life and hopefully in the lives of those around you.
Recognise it’s not just you.
Remember: this isn’t your fault and you are not alone. Period shame is very prevalent in our society, and we enforce it in many subtle ways, with ourselves and with each other. In 2022, ActionAid UK research revealed that 26% of UK women have faced ‘period shaming’.2
You’re not the only one experiencing the struggle; so don’t place the blame on you and you alone. This is a systemic issue that crosses all intersections and it’s only by showing ourselves grace and tackling it together that we can begin removing period shame.
Be open with those you’re comfortable with.
Part of period shame is the isolation of not knowing what’s normal, or if it’s just you having this experience. Know that you know you are not alone, and make sure that you don’t keep it that way. Start of slow and steady by talking to those you’re most comfortable with about your period and menstrual health.
Ask your loved ones and friends what they experience or share some of your own experiences. Helping combat period shame in your family and community can look like sharing more. Little steps like sharing articles you read or talking more about your own experience can help to normalise periods.
Practice using the right terminology in your conversations.
Clear, concise and correct terminology when it comes to periods is important. We were taught to use language that skates around our anatomy and creates a culture of disassociation from our own bodies; whether it was your mum nicknaming your vulva or your teacher asking you if "aunt flow" was visiting, we've had decades of conditioning language that suggests that periods are something to allude to rather than to talk openly about.
Practice using words like ‘period’ and ‘menstruation’ and use inclusive language that allows for every menstruator to feel a part of the conversation around periods.
Find out more about about how to make your period conversations more inclusive by visiting Bloody Good Periods language guide: https://www.bloodygoodperiod.com/bloodylanguage
Learn more about menstruation and your cycle.
Menstruation and conditions that affect periods are some of the most under researched and underfunded areas of health. There is still so much that we don’t understand, and we’re often not empowered to do any investigation ourselves.
You don’t have to be a stranger to your own period. Take the power back and learn more about menstruation and your cycle. By tracking your cycle and symptoms, to gain a clearer idea of what you go through and what you might need to make your periods work for you.
All periods are different.
Part of period shame is thinking that our periods and emotional and physical symptoms aren’t “normal.” But what is normal? We all experience different levels of bleeding and symptoms, and we also all experience varying levels of pain differently.
But what’s important is being able to decipher your normal. Your period is yours and what you do to take care of yourself is yours, too. Establish your base line and get to know your body instead of worrying if your period is the same as someone else’s. For example, over the next few months, try using an app or even writing down notes of what symptoms and moods you experience during your period. Over time, a pattern will emerge and you’ll be o have a clearer idea of what your normal is. Maybe you experience chest tenderness but not nausea. Maybe you bleed heavier towards the end of your period rather than the start. Ultimately: spend time working out what your period looks like, and don't worry about if your period is the same as someone else’s.
Periods are different for everybody, but we are all united in the fact that we deserve care and respect.
Follow Michelle on Instagram: @mybodyliberation