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MENSTRUAL HEALTH

Why We Need To Stop Period Shaming & Destigmatize Menstruation

It’s time to celebrate your period, not hide it. 

Why We Need To Stop Period Shaming & Destigmatize Menstruation

Periods: a natural biological process experienced by billions of women worldwide, yet something that remains surrounded by stigma and shame. From period blood to stained clothing, society has woven a narrative that convinces us to perceive menstruation as nothing short of embarrassing and, dare we say, gross. But why does this stigma persist, and more importantly, how can we break free from its confining grip?

In March 2023, Kenyan senator Gloria Orwoba got her period unexpectedly while walking into parliament–wearing a white suit. Being the period stigma fighter that she is, she decided to roll with it. Despite her courageous response to the situation, she faced criticism and was labeled "indecent," prompting calls for her to leave. This incident underscores the ongoing stigma surrounding menstruation in our society. 

It’s 2024. Why Is There Still Stigma Surrounding Periods?

Once upon a time, menstruation was celebrated and viewed as a blessing from the gods in ancient civilizations. But not long into the first century, shame and embarrassment seemed to become the norm when it came to periods—and is still a recurring theme today.

Societal norms have enforced the concept that discussing menstruation is inappropriate—leading to a culture of silence where it's rarely mentioned openly. This silence continues to foster feelings of shame and embarrassment. Because of this, women may internalize negative attitudes toward their bodies and biology.

Media representations worsen the stigma by depicting menstruation as dirty or unsanitary. Advertisements often portray menstrual blood as blue instead of red, reinforcing the illusion that periods should be hidden and sanitized. These portrayals not only perpetuate shame but also contribute to a lack of understanding and empathy surrounding menstruation.

The Medical Significance

From a medical standpoint, menstruation is a vital aspect of reproductive health. The menstrual cycle involves a complex interplay of hormones and physiological changes, preparing the body for pregnancy. However, despite its biological importance, menstruation is frequently overlooked or minimized in healthcare. 

One contributing factor to this neglect is the longstanding marginalization of women's health concerns in the medical field. Throughout history, women's bodies and experiences have been marginalized, resulting in limited research and comprehension of menstruation. This knowledge gap has fueled misunderstandings and added to the stigma surrounding menstruation.

A glaring example of this is endometriosis. Even though this condition affects 1 in 10 women, it remains poorly understood and underfunded. People with endometriosis often encounter disbelief, dismissal, and inadequate medical care. Treatment options can sometimes cause more harm than good. With women’s health issues (like endometriosis and infertility) on the rise, it’s critical to raise the standards and start talking about menstruation. 

Breaking the Silence

Combating the stigma surrounding menstruation requires a multifaceted approach that addresses societal attitudes and medical misinformation. Education is key in challenging misconceptions and encouraging understanding. Providing accurate information empowers women to embrace their bodies and reject shame.

We must challenge cultural norms that perpetuate stigma and silence around menstruation. This involves advocating for inclusive and accurate representations of menstruation in media and popular culture. Normalizing conversations about menstruation creates a supportive and accepting environment for women.

The Importance of Empowerment

Breaking free from the stigma surrounding menstruation is not just about challenging societal norms–it’s about empowering women to take control of their bodies and their health. When women feel ashamed or embarrassed about their periods, it impacts their self-esteem and overall well-being. By destigmatizing menstruation, we can help women feel more confident and empowered in their bodies.

Combating the stigma surrounding menstruation is essential for promoting gender equality. When we shame women for their natural bodily functions, we perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and reinforce patriarchal norms. By challenging these stigmas, we can work towards a more equitable society where all individuals are free to express themselves without fear of judgment or shame.

How to Make a Change

Normalize conversations through open dialogue and education

Encouraging discussions about menstruation in schools, workplaces, and communities helps dispel myths and allows for a better understanding of this natural process. Implementing comprehensive menstrual health education programs can empower individuals to embrace menstruation with confidence and pride. Practical steps include incorporating menstruation into curricula, providing resources for educators, and hosting workshops or seminars to address questions and concerns openly.

Celebrate menstruation through positive campaigns and initiatives

By highlighting the beauty and significance of menstruation, we can shift perceptions and promote acceptance. Positive campaigns can include social media movements, public events, and artistic expressions that celebrate menstruation as a normal and essential aspect of female physiology. Additionally, supporting initiatives (like Period.org!) that provide menstrual hygiene products to underserved communities helps ensure access to essential resources while challenging the stigma associated with menstruation.

Advocate to amplify voices for change

By advocating for policy reforms, funding initiatives, and healthcare access, we can address systemic barriers and promote menstrual equity. Supporting organizations and grassroots movements dedicated to menstrual health advocacy amplifies collective efforts and drives meaningful change. Individuals can also engage in activism by sharing personal stories, participating in awareness campaigns, and challenging discriminatory practices that perpetuate stigma.

Moving Forward

Destigmatizing menstruation is not an easy task, but it’s a necessary one. By educating ourselves and others, challenging societal norms, and promoting understanding and acceptance, we can create a world where menstruation is celebrated rather than shamed. It is time to reclaim our bodies and our experiences and embrace the beauty and power of menstruation. Together, we can break the silence and empower women to feel proud of who they are, period and all.

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