MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 11-Aug-15 15:28:48

Guest post: "Why are periods still a big deal?"

Following Donald Trump's controversial 'blood' comments and the furore over Kiran Gandhi's tampon-free marathon, Lucy Bellerby argues for an end to period-shaming

Lucy Bellerby

A Sex Blog of One's Own

Posted on: Tue 11-Aug-15 15:28:48


Lead photo

"Gandhi decided her personal comfort needed to take precedence over others'."

When I was 11, some little grotbag with an innocent-looking face full of freckles and a soul of pure evil went through my school bag. He was looking for a way to ridicule me, and he found it in the form of my sanitary towel. He pulled it out of its wrapping and threw it into the middle of the classroom so that everyone would see, and they all laughed at me for having something as embarrassing and disgusting as a period. Fortunately for me, when I went home crying later that day, my mum taught me that if he did it again, I should waggle my little finger at him, intimating that he was only acting so pathetically because of his own insecurities.

Fast-forward to 2015, and the American presidential election proves that such schoolboy shaming tactics are still rife - and not confined to the classroom. After news anchor Megyn Kelly questioned him about his attitude towards women during a televised debate, Donald Trump claimed that she did so because she had "blood coming out of...her wherever". Not because she was a grown woman with thoughts and opinions, nor because she believed him to be wrong. OH NO. The only possible explanation, as far as Trump was concerned, was that she was on her period - and as all the world knows, periods turn women into wild-eyed maniacs who want to destroy everything in their path, much like zombies or werewolves (who also work on a lunar cycle. Coincidence?). Given Trump's history of misogyny, his comments perhaps aren't surprising. But it's not just him.

Anyone who helps to de-stigmatise periods is doing something brave and important. I may not be making some vagina-bunting any time soon, but isn't it great that there's someone out there who might?

Period stigma is everywhere. The UK still has a 5% tax on sanitary products, due to them being, apparently, 'unnecessary'. I'd love the government to let us know in what way they are unnecessary; maybe they expect us to go back to the olden days and walk about with old rags stowed away in our nethers? On the other hand, perhaps we should all be taking tips from marathon runner Kiran Gandhi, who decided to let her period blood runneth over, literally. When her period arrived the day before she was due to run the London marathon, she decided she couldn't handle wearing uncomfortable sanitary protection while running 26.2 miles. She says she did it in the name of feminism, because "if there's one way to transcend oppression, it's to run a marathon in whatever way you want". What I liked best about Gandhi's attitude is that she'd decided her personal comfort should take precedence over others'; she wasn't going to wear a tampon just so other runners wouldn't freak out over. She didn't care if people stared at her. She'd trained hard for the marathon, and she was going to run it the way she bloody well liked.

Of course, Gandhi's not the first woman to ask us to examine the idea of ‘period-shaming’. Performance artist Casey Jenkins sent people into a spin with her show ‘Casting Off My Womb’, in which she knitted a scarf from wool she pulled out of her vagina. She did this over a month, and the result is a pleasing dip-dyed-looking scarf that charts her cycle from start to finish. The world was, predictably, outraged, and although I admit to having felt an initial ‘eugh, blood’ reaction to her project, I soon got over myself and realised that she’s doing a good thing; anyone who helps to de-stigmatise periods - and everything periods represent - is doing something brave and important. I won’t be making vagina-bunting any time soon - but isn’t it great that there’s someone out there who might?

There are lots of people out there who will assume that period blood is a bodily fluid, so anything to do with it is as disgusting and unhygienic as, say, wee. And they might have a point. But pee comes from men and women and adults and children. We aren't taught from a young age that weeing is something to be ashamed of; how many teenage girls are walking around school going 'OH MY GOD, I hope no one realises I've done a wee today'? Periods are associated with something shameful: developing and continued sexuality, as well as women’s feelings and emotions. Anyone challenging this stigma deserves our applause.

By Lucy Bellerby

Twitter: @bellers_

GarminGirl Tue 11-Aug-15 16:46:44

Yet you Get many many women buying into it all , claiming they have PMT and need chocolate hmm many threads about it on here.

My teen girls showed me the article about Kiran Ghandi. Big deal. I ran the same marathon and had had bleeding on and off throughout training and on the day itself... menopause kind of leaves you unaware of when a period may happen. You deal with it by wearing black leggings which just about every runner owns. That's what the running community does.

My girls thought it weird as periods in their age groups aren't, and never have been, taboo.

Flingmoo Tue 11-Aug-15 16:57:05

how many teenage girls are walking around school going 'OH MY GOD, I hope no one realises I've done a wee today'?

This reminds me of something totally ridiculous. When I was at school (a state comprehensive girls' school) girls on their period would go into the toilets and ask a friend to press the button on the hand drier so that it would make lots of noise and no-one could hear them change their pad. Somerimes they would literally say "I need to change my pad, turn the hand drier on for me!". Broadcasting it to everyone in the vicinity so pretty pointless!

Did anyone else ever witness this pointless activity as a teenager or was it just my school?! (When I say witness, I'm pretty sure I participated in this bizarre ritual too... it was just the done thing!)

pretend Tue 11-Aug-15 16:59:27

I'd rather not discuss periods generally, and am always surprised at how freely others sometimes talk about them.

Which is odd really, as I'm not a prude. I've just never been comfortable with them as a topic of conversation.... blush

Nooname01 Tue 11-Aug-15 17:03:51

Hear hear OP.

I've got 3 boys and a girl and I make a point of being very open about my period, emptying my mooncup (:-)!!!!) in front of them and talking about what and why periods are.

I think it's important to bring children of both sexes up to see them as a natural normal and non disgusting part of life.

Mrsjayy Tue 11-Aug-15 17:13:27

Periods are not taboo or a huge deal they are part of life a waste product im just not ready to not wear saintary protection and shout it from the rooftop that im having a period most girls and women its a private part of their lives. Fwiw i get horrific PMS im in agony please dont pull patronising smilies like its nothing

amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 11-Aug-15 17:14:40

Sorry, emptying a mooncup in front of anyone' let alone your sons is utterly gross. A form of exhibitionism.

And that runner was gross too.


tribpot Tue 11-Aug-15 17:16:42

My ds has just started sex ed (not called that) in Year 5, and they have all learnt about periods. When I was at school we were taken off to learn about periods without the boys, as if it was a somewhat taboo subject. (The girls did still have a private session, which I trust did not involve a demonstration of the sanitary belt, does anyone remember those? Before stick on pads apparently our ancestors had to clip the pad on front and back, was anyone really using one of these in 1982??)

I don't get why running a marathon without a tampon was a good idea, I would have thought the blood on her legs would lead to chafing. Still - if she wanted to do it, it's a free country. Likewise the vag-knitting thing. Whatevs - sounds like attention seeking rather than a serious piece of art (although Emin also famously used a bloody sanitary towel in her 'bed' installation, did she not? - but it's not hurting anyone so <shrug>

Also credit to Heather Watson and Petra Kvitova for talking about the effect periods have on their sports performance. Less eye catching than playing Wimbledon with blood on your legs or pulling yarn out of your hoo-ha, but possibly more useful.

Icedfinger Tue 11-Aug-15 17:17:24

I'm a teacher and taught y5. In the summer term we always covered puberty which included periods.

In one class a girl fainted because she'd never heard of them and was so distressed. I did it all fairly lighthearted and 'it's not a big deal' but she was sobbing afterwards. I vowed that no daughter of mine would get to 10 not knowing.

Mrsjayy Tue 11-Aug-15 17:19:06

I think emptying a mooncup infront of children is ridiculous but each to their own i guess i dont see the need i dont get the obsession with celebrating womb lining and blood clots

pretend Tue 11-Aug-15 17:20:30

Agreed, waving it around in your children's faces is fairly gross, and pointless.

I don't think there's a stigma against periods in this country. We don't confine women to straw huts for the duration or ban them from male company.

There's a difference between something being stigmatised, and something being private. I would no more announce my period than I would announce the consistency of my last poo, but that's simple manners.

A stigma is when someone thinks the worse of you for something. I would never think the worse of anyone for being on their period but neither do I particularly want to see it or know about it.

Mrsjayy Tue 11-Aug-15 17:21:56

I was in primary school 34 years ago we got sex education in primary 7 boys and girls we got shown films and the male teacher told both sexes about periods <shrug>

GobblersKnob Tue 11-Aug-15 17:54:11

It's not 'waving it around in your children's face's' though hmm

Both my children have accompanied me to the loo since they were tiny, they have yet to stop. Hence they have always seen my sanitary protection, and in an age appropriate way, known what it was for.

I use washable stuff and so it is also often drying on the line, or radiators too, dd has been known to sneak one away and put it in her pants, she can't wait to have her own.

itsbetterthanabox Tue 11-Aug-15 18:03:59

There is stigma. Women are frequently accused of only acting a certain way because of their period or told they are being emotional because of it etc.
Young girls are bullied for starting them and boys tell them they are gross.
The fact moon cups are considered disgusting by most people.
I don't know how a child would not see your period tbh. You must use the loo around them when they are little and its important both sexes know what periods are.

pretend Tue 11-Aug-15 18:07:11

My two year old does see it because I don't get a moment to go to the loo myself. Presumably at some point she'll stop accompanying me and I don't think I'll be making an effort to keep the watching-me-using-sanpro bond going....

If people are dicks around periods, it's because they're a dick, not because there's a "stigma". Any man who says "ooh are you on the rag?" if you're pissed off is an immature twat and unfortunately the twattery of teenage boys is well documented.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 11-Aug-15 18:13:40

rinsing a Mooncup isn't grosser than changing a plaster or bandage in front of someone, FFS.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 11-Aug-15 18:15:11

Op, the VAT on sanitary products is as low as it can be within Eu law - I understand the UK government opted to or campaigned for such products to be in the lowest band. VAT is 5% not the standard 20%

YonicScrewdriver Tue 11-Aug-15 18:16:49

For those of you icked out by this runner - if she had run with a nosebleed (or played rugby or similar) - would you be equally icked out?

pretend Tue 11-Aug-15 18:43:01

To me it's seems grosser.

I don't really want to be dealing with semen either. I'm an equal opportunities ick finder.

Ledkr Tue 11-Aug-15 18:56:33

Oh fgs.
This is just silly.
No stigma here whatsoever.
3 adult sons who were all aware of periods and happy to pop to the shop for tampax.
2 dds one started her periods recently and takes it on her stride.
No real need to flaunt it around though.
Bit of discretion and privacy the same as if I have a crap and above all I will do anything I need to make it more comfy and less Intrusive on my life.
I find a couple of painkillers and some sanitary protection see to that.
Bleeding onto my clothes or furniture just make the whole thing more hassle.
As for chocolate, if you are feeling emotional or uncomfortable why not cheer yourself up with a treat?
Massive overthinking imo.

Ledkr Tue 11-Aug-15 18:58:08

And if you get a nose bleed you generally mop it up dont you?

Scoobydoo8 Tue 11-Aug-15 19:01:54

There was a thread on MN where a SD ( I think, not a DD) had left a used tampon lying on her bedroom floor amongst the usual mess teenagers leave.

There was so much paranoia on the thread about how could she do that and how gross! Jeesh. It's a normal human function. Ok not pretty but really - why was that the big problem? and not the huge other probs the girl was having.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 11-Aug-15 19:05:35

Ledkr, not necessarily in the middle of a game of rugby, no.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 11-Aug-15 19:06:05

I think Trump's attitude is the worst though!

pretend Tue 11-Aug-15 19:08:21

Well Trump has always been a sick hasn't he? So no surprises there.

If my dd left a used tampon lying around I'd hit the roof. It's unhygienic, for a start.

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