Today is #MenstrualHygieneDay, which for those of us that bleed doesn’t exactly sound like the most fun thing to celebrate. But given that menstruators around the world are still facing stigmas about this very basic bodily function, it’s important (and unfortunate) to remember just how much of a privilege access to menstrual hygiene is, and why #menstruationmatters.
Why is it that the minute someone buys a sanitary pad in a Pakistani store the staff rush to put it in a brown bag #menstruationmatters— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) May 26, 2016
There are myriad ways menstruation is treated as a burden and taboo, from the tampon tax to cultures that believe women are incapable of holding prestigious jobs because of their bodily “imbalance.” It also regularly causes young girls to miss school.
Last year, Reddit user p_i_see_you posted about the horrific treatment her 12-year-old daughter received when she tried to leave class to use the restroom and handle her period. According to the school’s confusing bathroom rules, students are only allowed to use the bathroom a certain number of times before being sent to detention. “She said she asked the teacher, but the teacher told her no unless she wanted to explain why she needed to go,” wrote p_i_see_you. “IMO, a 12 year old girl shouldn’t have to stand up in front of her class and tell everyone she’s on her period.” Her daughter wound up bleeding through her pants.
In an update earlier this week, the original poster said her story “got a lot of news in my town, mostly from the school calling me a bad mom for not answering the phone when my daughter called because I work nights.”
It’d be nice if we lived in a world where a 12-year-old wasn’t only forced to announce she’s on her period, but where publicly speaking about it wouldn’t cause her shame.
According to researchers at the University of Melbourne, hiding one’s period is still the goal for many menstruators—and brands. “If you analyze the advertisements from sanitary product companies, most of them are ‘Buy our product because we can offer you a more effective way to conceal menstruation,’” Dr Carla Pascoe told ABC News.
Menstruation is not just a woman’s issue, because it’s not just women who menstruate, and because anything that hinders one person’s ability to live a comfortable, clean, and open life affects everyone. It affects everyone when girls can’t go to school. It affects everyone when people are taught to be ashamed of their bodies.
Periods aren’t gross, PMS isn’t a joke, and rubbing hot peppers on tampons is never funny.