Period stigma harms menstruators. We must shift our negative attitudes toward menstruation to promote change
It is no secret that menstruators have been taught to hide their periods throughout history. We all remember the old tampon-up-the-sleeve trick in school because, god forbid, someone knew it was that time of the month!
But why does this stigma even exist in the first place? It actually stems from years and years of cultural and sociopolitical beliefs. Since menstruation has been viewed as solely a "women's issue" through most of history, it is associated with all of the negative attitudes and shame that women have often been burdened with.
For this reason, people who menstruate are often met with external and internal shame and stigma around their periods. There are attitudes that frame menstruation as something "dirty" and "debilitating." And, there are people who believe periods make menstruators irrational, angry, and even mentally or physically ill.
In early scientific research, there are reports of menstrual blood being "toxic" and having negative effects on crops and nature. The term "menotoxin" was coined in 1920 by a doctor named Bela Schick, referring to the phenomenon of flowers seeming to wilt faster after being held by a menstruating nurse. This has since been disproved, but the theory still lingers in some scientific methods today.
Currently, we are entering the era of a phenomenon called the "modern period." This era consists of viral events sparking global conversation. The event we think of is the photo of a runner named Kiran Gandhi going viral after she got her period running theLondon marathon, and continued to run instead of stopping.
Although menstrual stigma is still very prevalent, global conversations are happening and old beliefs are being rethought when viral events happen and expose menstrual inequity. With society's views slowly shifting due to this exposure, we hope that menstruators around the globe won’t have to hide their menstrual products or feel any shame or stigma regarding their periods one day.
This is a day that Free Periods Canada is tirelessly working towards!
Original article written by: Mary Bourke on Jul 29, 2021
Revised and updated by: Rebecca Gouthro on Jul 15, 2022