Talking About your Period Holds Immense Power

Talking About your Period Holds Immense Power

On average a woman menstruates for about 10 years during their lifetime. 

The average age of menarche (a rite of passage where a girl becomes a woman with her first bleed) is 12.4 years old and the average age of Menopause is 51. Meaning that for the majority of women, they will bleed an average of 3.5 days, every 28 days or so for an average of 39 years  (Marques, 2022). 

Added up, this equates to around 10 years — or about 3,500 days — of the average woman’s life that will be spent menstruating.  

As the viral internet meme puts it - "Girls are superheros. Who else could bleed for a week and not die?" 

And yet the common language used to discuss or name our periods is derogatory and pejorative. These terms summon dread, terror and angst. We've all grown up saying terribly awful things and normalising how awful it is to be a woman. When discussing our period, we say things like:

Plug time. Jam rag. Painters are in. The Russians are coming. Bleeding clam session. Shark week. Woman's time. Blood rain. Surfing the crimson wave. Lady Business. Little red mouse. The dread. Mistress in red. Devil's waterfall. Aunt Flo's in town. Vampire's teabag. Riding the cotton unicorn. In the Red. A visit from Captain Bloodsnatch. Funny fanny. The curse. Granny pants week. Luna phase. Luna flow. Moon flow. A massacre in my pants. Blood rain… 

Time of the week. Rag week. Red wedding. A trip to Blood mountain. Rusty pipes. Out of commission. Jam pastry. Red Sea. Strawberry week. Sloppy burger. Bleeding beauty. Girl Flu. Venus is visiting. Stuck at the red traffic light. Bloody Mary. Crime scene. Mother nature. On the rag. Lady time. Riding the red tide. Woman's fire…

And thousands and thousands more…

Why do we prefer to use these euphemisms rather than say period, menstruation, or menses? The language we give to our period has power. Not saying what it is, means that it is holding power over us. By avoiding the correct language for periods, we collectively confirm that it is unnatural, weird, abnormal, awkward, wrong, embarrassing, shameful, secret and taboo.  

Periods are steeped in shame. We have been taught our periods are shameful, dirty and gross on a continual loop in direct and indirect ways our entire lives. The ways we are taught this are through tampon commercials showing blue water instead of blood - telling us that our blood is dirty and unsuitable for television viewing and indecent for audiences to see it. These messages all add up, until we internalise them and eliminate unsanctioned behaviours about periods, such as talking about it openly and using the correct language.

Because to be a woman is to bleed, we have internalised the shame, wrongness and dirtiness of periods as the wrongness and shame of womanhood. As women, we have been taught to believe we are less than, that we are shameful and that we are wrong. It isn't always easy to see, but once you see it, it is impossible to unsee.

Why in the 21st century are periods still seen as icky and gross? Why is there so much taboo around something that 2.6 billion women do each and every month, all over the world?

Periods really do lay serious claim to the label "final taboo." Women self censoring and silencing themselves about their periods is a hangover from a time when women should be seen and not heard; to be pretty and perfect; always happy and never complaining. In keeping silent about what is completely natural about being a woman, and our needs as a woman, means that we are inhibiting our own ascent to true equality in society, and to equality in the way we are perceived.

Women in the west may have equality enshrined in law, and it may be illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex. We may have made great strides in the last generations towards equality, finding ourselves in boardrooms, Presidential offices, armoured tanks or as self-made billionaire bosses, many of us doing this while raising children. But by keeping periods taboo, we are continuing to condone womanhood as second tier living and keeping ourselves imprisoned in patriarchy. We will only ever be pushing our way into this man's world as long as discussions and realities of periods are silenced. 

At Phenxx, we are unabashed by the taboo of a menstruating planet. We are here to fight for the right of all women everywhere to talk about their periods in correct language and without embarrassing triggers or snickers from listeners and evesdroppers. 

At the heart of presumptions of women and their periods being dirty, sinful, unhinged, weak and less than - or just different - is that we are less than our male counterparts. This stigma continues in our society in really pervasive ways, unchallenged by busy women doing their best. As the old adage goes, evil can persist when good honest people (women) do nothing. Women and girls ingest these subliminal cultural beliefs and adopt them (a lot of the time unknowingly) as their own beliefs. Other times, they can hear or see the inequality or misogyny but they simply smile, try to rise above and just keep the peace. 

How many times a day do we tell ourselves to bite our tongue, rise above, ignore it and keep the peace? We have all watched a woman or been a woman that laughs off sexist comments. We all know women who have squeezed out a smile in response to misogyny or bigotry. These are learned behaviours. They go completely against our own internal responses. Women have an unrivalled capacity to measure their words and watch what they say under the false belief that it is better that way.

So insidiously ingrained is our "good girl" education, that as a collective, we continue to keep silent when it comes to behaviours that belittle our self worth, diminish our power and tarnish our confidence. For so many of us, we were taught by our mothers and grandmothers to "keep the peace" and in doing so, have become experts in overriding and ignoring our own internal guidance systems and intuition. We've become experts in silencing ourselves.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, whose peace are we keeping and why are we taught to keep it at our own expense? 

By keeping periods as an unmentionable or unspoken topic, and definitely not something for the dinner table conversation, women become unwitting accomplices in perpetuating these myths about periods (and women) being dirty and shameful. We keep pulling the door shut on our own prison cell door without much prompting or reminding because we've internalised so much of this thinking that it dictates our behaviour. 

 Dangerously, our daughters follow our lead, and it continues for yet another generation of self-imprisonment. Of course, we don't wish for a moment for the next generation to follow suit, so it is critical to understand how to say "No." Calmly, without anger or revenge, but to hold strong to our "No" nonetheless. 

The silence and public attitudes towards periods hold women back without us realising it. Anything where we aren't free to talk without grimaces or lame jokes gives you insights into the undercurrent of the culture and beliefs about periods. And women. Our silence is compliance and agreement. 

Ask yourself and be honest, have you potentially been indoctrinated to believe that a perfectly natural bodily function is totally gross? 

Does the sight of your blood leaking on your pants make you panic and fear the reactions of others who may see it?

Why do you think that is? Who's belief is that? Who taught you to feel this way about your normal blood flow and monthly period?

Afterall, without a period, you couldn't be here to read this article. We can't continue the human race without periods, and yet we still can't publicly acknowledge their existence. We still can't show them on television or billboards or Facebook or TikTok. We may disregard why this is important, but if the general agreement of a culture is that we don't talk about periods and we don't see periods - then with all the other cultural, religious and social stigmas and pervasive customs that have been present in our cultures around the world for millennia, and old belief systems that created demonic links to women and their blood, then it isn't hard to understand that keeping silent about periods, or having one, was a good survival technique. After all, our ancestors who talked about their periods were all hanged.

Women's periods need to come out of the darkness because of all the major benefits that could come into the light for women's health. The cultural benefits towards smashing these period taboos would be just as important, and in some ways more so. Without the taboo of periods and menstrual health, barriers to research into period health and uterine health would be removed, and opportunities to solve period poverty  would be opened. We would see more people, organisations and governments addressing problems that 2.6 billion women face without having to spend decades trying to explain why it is a good idea to improve women's menstrual health. 

Culturally, if women weren't discriminated against for bleeding, so many small and big things could change. In places like South Asia, women wouldn't be banned from the temple during their menses and could continue their spiritual practice without discrimination or prejudice. In places like the South Pacific Islands women could enter the kitchen and cook meals for their family without invoking fear in their family members. 

In East Asia, women could use tampons (if they wanted to) without the fear of breaking their hymen and reducing their inherent value being a concern. Currently only 2 percent of Chinese women use tampons due to cultural sensitivities compared to 70 percent of Europeans. While tampon use in itself is irrelevant and not necessarily a better choice of period health care than other solutions, the fear that enshrouds tampon use and links it to a woman's worth creates an arbitrary and externalised value system for women. This can then be used to control a woman's body, mind and minimise her worth and value. That is a dangerous system and does not allow for a woman's true freedom.

In certain areas of Africa, women wouldn't need to leave their home until they stop bleeding or engage in the customs of female circumcision.

In Western countries, where women work long days to overcome gender stereotypes, women wouldn't need to find excuses to take time off work when they menstruate. 

There are so many customs that persist at the everyday level, in every country and region of the world that persist in the general culture that contribute to the shaming of women and a vital part of our anatomy and health. It is juvenile and it is part of an old world system that no longer has a place in our future. 

We have a choice. We have a voice. We can change the future. Now.

Women, we need to ask for more. We need to say no when we see these behaviours and prejudices. We need to let go of our own internal beliefs that we unconsciously hold about our periods being such an embarrassing, mysterious and dirty secret. Embracing our bodies, our periods and our womanhood with the understanding that you are a creator. You can grow life and that gives you incredible power. 

In fact, so much power that an idea was planted inside of your head that makes you weak, dirty and shameful. It is the only way to control you. The only thing that is weak is that argument. How ridiculous that we went along with it! Let's laugh and choose to no longer believe it, or live in accordance with the ideas associated with its inception. 

Understand that by standing up to this, you will be undoing generations and generations of debilitating beliefs. That shit will come up for release and it could get heavy. Don't touch it - walk it out the door. These beliefs aren't welcome in your house anymore. Bah-byeeee!!

By using correct language and our bold, courageous voices to own the power of our period and our womanhood, we can - and will - change everything. 

Alice Walker said it best, "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." You have power beyond your comprehension. Your voice, and your authentic "no" added to a sea of other voices, voicing an authentic and emphatic "no" can do more than you will realise. 

We are unabashed by the taboo of a menstruating planet. 

Reference list:

Marques P, Madeira T, Gama A. Menstrual cycle among adolescents: girls' awareness and influence of age at menarche and overweight. 2022. Rev Paul Pediatr. 2022;40:e2020494. [PubMed]


Congratulations! Your order qualifies for free shipping You are $100.00 AUD away from free shipping.
No more products available for purchase

Your Cart is Empty