How do you stop period shame? Do you feel that talking about periods is shameful? Why? WUKA experts discuss ending period shaming once and for all.
Period shaming. Jokes about ‘the time of the month’, digs about ‘Aunt Flow coming to visit’, assumptions that certain tasks or activities are off limits when you’re ‘on’. Chances are, we’ve all experienced period shaming at some point since we started our menstrual cycle- but many of us may not even realise it. The thing is, negative reactions have, over time, become almost accepted as a normal response to one of the most natural events in a women’s life- leading to many of us failing to even recognise that it’s happening.
According to this report by Action Aid, a staggering 26% of women have experienced period shaming, with one in 10 experiencing that from a current or ex partner. This happens alongside millions of women missing out on work, education or exercise just because of their period; alongside women opting out of other social activities or events because of their period; alongside women being held back, ridiculed and made to feel ashamed month after month- and all because they bleed.
And if the jokes, period myths and feelings of embarrassment and isolation aren’t enough, sometimes PMS symptoms (which, again, are normal!) can make us feel pretty rubbish too.
Period acne is a common ‘side effect’ of the menstrual cycle, and it’s one that can cause distress for sufferers too. A misconception is that acne results from ‘dirty’ skin, which can lead to shame and embarrassment.
But the clue is in the name- hormonal, or period, acne is caused by fluctuating hormones during your menstrual cycle. A breakout is normal for many women, and should not be anything to be ashamed of.
But we get it. You’re already uncomfortable, bloated and feeling miserable. Period acne is the last thing you need, but rest assured you’re not alone- and sadly you’re not alone if you experience period shaming due to acne either.
How You Can Help To Fight Period Shame
Ever heard the term ‘Menstrual moaning’? It was coined by Maureen McHugh, one of the authors of the 2020 Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies. Put simply, Menstrual Moaning refers to the negative conversations between women, about their period- and McHugh believes that this all stems from deep-rooted social stigmas that surround menstruation.
In other words, when we talk to other women about our period, our conversations tend to be negative. We talk about the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS- and the way we communicate is then passed down to younger generations too. So in the end, we never break the cycle of negativity that surrounds periods, we just reinforce it.
As McHugh says,
“The stigma of menstruation has negative consequences for women’s physical and mental health, sexuality, well-being, and social status. The menstruation taboo, like body shaming, is deeply ingrained.”
Which could explain why there is, historically, little push back to ‘jokes’ and jibes women are subjected to- aka period shaming.
But we can change all of this- and here’s how.
They say that ignorance is bliss, and for the most part they’re right. When it comes to period shaming, ignorance allows the jokes and misconceptions abut menstruation to carry on through the generations, so that our girls continue to grow up into a society that ridicules women and their natural, menstruating bodies. Ignorance allows the problem to root itself even further.
So educate yourself. Learn about periods so that you fully understand what’s happening and why. And educate others too.
Read about the stages of the menstrual cycle. Understand how hormones affect the body (men have hormones too!) and how PMS can affect a women’s physical and emotional well-being. Challenge ignorance every step of the way.
It’s not a dirty word, so don’t be afraid to say it: period. Period, period, period!
There’s no need to use euphemisms or nicknames. There’s no big secret, despite what certain cultural beliefs would tell you. It’s a period. Millions of women have them every single day, so let’s talk about it- and let’s put a positive spin on the parts that deserve it too.
McHugh touches on the theory that positive conversation about periods may help to make changes in the way women and the menstrual cycle are viewed in society. In her chapter on period shaming, she theorises that young women are often “surprised at the idea of positive aspects of the menstrual cycle” and talks about the barriers women face as society continues to view menstruation as dirty or disgusting.
There’s a theory that activism alone cannot change period shaming. But if we start with ourselves, with positive conversations and being unafraid to talk to about menstruation, then we open up a world in which we have the power to break the taboos. It all starts with that one small word. So say it, and say it proudly.
Don't Hide Yourself Away On Your Period
Most women will experience periods for around 40 years. That works out as an average of around 200 days that we’ll spend bleeding, not to mention experiencing a range of other symptoms too. That’s also 200 days worth of experiences that we could be missing out on if we choose to hide away while we’re on our period.
We’re all for duvet days when we really need them (and let’s face it, when period cramps are in full swing, none of your clothes seem to fit comfortably and you’ve got a raging headache, nobody is going to argue with an afternoon on the sofa watching cheesy movies- self care is important!) but there is absolutely no reason why we should feel we need to hide away.
Period pants are made for you, so that you can wake up and kick ass every singe day (if you want to) and so that your period never ever has to hold you back. Feel comfortable with seamless period pants; wear them with confidence and with pride- knowing that you’re 100% supported, leak-free and free to live your lift the full.
Plus, you can buy them online if you don’t feel comfortable going out to get them (which, by the way, you really shouldn’t have to feel) and rest assured that we’ve got you. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
7 Debunked Period Myths That Still Exist
Let’s Talk About Period Poverty
The importance of Talking About Periods
Can you Take Time off Work for Period Pain?
What do Men Think about Periods?
Talking to Your Daughter About Periods
How do you stop period shame?
Education is the key to changing the conversation around periods. We need to make it a normal conversation about a normal every day experience. We need to say the word ‘period’ without shame and without prejudice. We need to be inclusive and challenge those who aren’t.
The changes start with us, so we need to challenge those who see menstruation as a joke- rather than the natural, normal and essential process it really is.
Is menstruation a shame?
No. No, no. no! Menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, your body is doing an amazing thing! Without periods, human life simply would not exist. That’s pretty awesome don’t you think, rather than shameful?
Periods are a normal and essential process for women and we should never be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed.
What does period shaming mean?
Period shaming refers to negative comments, jokes or digs made to or about women, concerning their menstrual cycle. Phrases such as ‘must be her time of the month’ are often used to dismiss a woman’s thoughts or opinions on a topic. Actions that exclude women from activities due to her period. Euphemisms, nicknames or derogatory comments that are made in reference to the menstrual cycle.
Period shaming can come in many forms, and ultimately leads to shame and embarrassment for women, all because of her period.
Is talking about periods shameful?
Periods are a natural and essential event that most women experience in their lifetimes. There is nothing shameful in talking about a natural event.