There’s a moment in my adult life that really stands out whenever I think of sexism.
A few years ago, a girl that I knew fairly well dropped me an IM at work to ask if I had any tampons. I didn’t, but, I offered to ask around for her. Even sat across a desk from her, I could hear her hammering furiously at the keyboard, desperately replying ‘No, No! Don’t say anything!’
And that was that. Except it wasn’t.
Too embarrassed to ask our (male) manager if she could nip to the shop, she went on to deliver an amazing campaign pitch to her team of four. With a wedge of toilet paper crammed into her underwear.
And, suddenly I felt resentful that this fabulous woman, had to (finally) discreetly hitch a tampon up her sleeve and slink off to the toilet in silence. Because, whilst skimmed knees, avocado fingers and paper cuts are all a-ok. The only bleeding that is actually healthy, is completely unacceptable. Especially within the workplace.
So, here I am – a woman scorned – talking about periods.
I grew up in a pretty matriarchal household and there was always a level of complete honesty there. From around the age of 10, I knew what a tampon was, I understood why I had a menstrual cycle and, most importantly, I knew it would hurt.
Because, whilst my family tends to be pretty healthy, they all suffer from pretty horrific period pain. And around the age of 15, it became apparent that I would too. Gut-wrenching cramps and a day a month spent pretty much living in the bath made it apparent that I needed to sort out something that would manage it better – cue montage.
There was the pill (I forgot to take it), the injection (acne for days), another pill (remembered to take it, but the cramps weren’t worth it), condoms (great short term solution, long term relationships, not so great) and finally the implant. The implant was my saving grace. It didn’t kick my hormones into overdrive and it resulted in periods around every few months, but the unpredictability of it was frustrating.
Which is what led me to having a chat with the gals over at ModiBodi, who kindly sent me a pair of their period pants to try. I’ve wanted to move in a more sustainable direction with my periods for ages, but, I hate moon cups, so Period Pants are the obvious (well, only) alternative. And despite my initial scepticism, I’m a convert.
And, it’s great that we have more choice now. But, I still feel jaded.
I feel angry that women have only recently discovered they don’t need to take a break on the pill. Or, that women can reel off high school sex education around wet dreams (affecting around 8% of all men), whilst periods are taboo. I’m angry that we have to seek out information about our own bodies, that we’re taxed on it as a luxury. That girls in the UK have had to use socks in school, unsure as to whether their painful cramps are something to worry about, or completely normal.
I’m frustrated that we don’t talk about contraceptives in terms of helping your cycle, rather than damaging our mental and physical health.
And the solution to all of this?
Well, let’s start with a conversation. Talk about your painful cramps and the clots, walk to the toilet without stuffing your tampon up your sleeve. Discuss with your doctor if your period changes. Get a moon cup, period pants or whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Because there’s a power in periods, and more importantly, there’s a power in talking about them.