The Period Stigma, and Why it Needs to Go

The Period Stigma, and Why it Needs to Go

Halina Dreger

Girls are taught from their younger years that their bodies are- to some extent- disgusting. At a certain age, at least most females will start their menstrual cycle and get their periods once every month, bringing plenty of pads and tampons into their possession if they are lucky enough to afford them.

Although this process is natural, and nearly every woman has endured hundreds of periods, there is still a certain stigma surrounding periods that often makes girls feel as if their bodies are gross and something to be ashamed of.

I was 12 when I got my period for the first time, on the cusp of 13. A sixth grader, I had only just learned about menstruation a year before and was terrified to go to school after my mother sent me along with a bag of pads. What if I was the only one who had it? What if it leaked all over and people laughed? What if people thought I was weird for using the bathroom every day? So, throughout the next school year, I was cautious whenever I went to the bathroom to change my pad. I would rip out the old one if no one was there or while there were other toilets flushing, carefully opening the new package so that no other girl would know that I was disgustingly female.

Gradually, things got better, but I knew that I still wasn’t supposed to talk about it to some extent. It was awkward for me to tell my dad I was out of tampons, and I still heard guys laughing about menstruation at school.  Even now, in high school, it is rare that I find a male who I can say the words “pad” or “tampon” or just “period” around and not receive an, “Ew!” or, “That’s gross!” in return, as if my body suddenly becomes something revolting for one week every month.

Research suggests that I am not alone in my findings. The New York Post reports that a “period research company” called THINX  conducted a study of 1,500 women, of which 58% reported that they had at one point felt shameful for no other reason but being on their period. Equally horrifying is the fact that 500 men were also included in the study, and more than 250 of them said that they thought it was improper for females to discuss their periods in the workplace.

The period taboo in no way, shape or form benefits our world. In countries like India, according to “Dignity Period,” the stigma is so extreme that some females are forced into isolation while menstruating, while many more are not allowed to cook or go into public areas. By holding onto period humiliation in the United States, we are not doing anything to help such women.

In addition, difficulty talking about periods can lead to difficulty discussing the ways in which we can improve comfort and sanitation for many who cannot afford period products. According to Bustle, 88% of women across the globe do not have the means of obtaining feminine hygiene products, which includes 1 in every 8 women below the poverty line in America. If we can’t talk about these things, how will we fix them?

The stigma surrounding female menstruation should no longer be a trend. It should no longer be funny to joke about periods. Girls shouldn’t have to be worried about others hearing their pad wrappers in the school bathroom, and no one should be ashamed of the natural functions of their body.