Opinion: Periods are normal teach your sons about them

Periods are Normal, Let’s Talk About Them and Listen

Growing up in a household that was equal parts women and men, I was exposed to the concept of periods and menstruation very early in my childhood. My sister started having periods when I was about ten,10 and I naturally had questions about why she was lethargic or moody. When I brought these questions to my parents, I was given an explanation and told that periods are normal and part of approximately half the population’s lives. ABut as I got older, I met boys my age who had no concept of periods and actually had some very unfair opinions about them. But it was adults’ comments thatwhich really stood out to me. From misogynistic comments about how, “it must that time of the month” when their wives got upset with them, to “She’s just that way because she’s on her period,” I watched as people brushed aside the concerns or needs of the women around them as just a side effect of a period.
I’m not alone in this observation of women being demeained for menstruating;, a study by THINX found that 42% of women had experienced period-shaming, with 20% saying that this shaming had come from a close male friend or family member. The study goes further to explain how 44% of men had made jokes about a partner’s moods while she was on her period. Many women also report having hidden menstrual products while traveling to the restroom because they were concerned someone would say something or make a joke.
Period shame is rooted in the patriarchal society which exists today. Such a society relies on the denigration of women and their needs. By writing off genuine complaints or concerns as “period drama,” society achievrchives its goal of subjugation. This in turn leads to increased stigma towards periods and thus further leads to the denigration of women and their needs. This feedback cycle creates an environment in which women’s needs are not taken seriously and creates male dominated power structures and complexes. Not all issues facing women are solely caused by period stigma, but this stigma does play a part in many facets of sexism and misogynistic behavior.
Women are not immune to spreading period stigma, either. Many women engage in self-shaming language or avoid using words like “blood” or “menstruation” and instead say “it.”. This leads to what Lee and Sasser-Coen described as “menstrual moaning” or the tendency of women to discuss their periods as entirely negative and, interestingly, as external entities rather than normal processes of their bodies. This disconnection from oneself leads to self-stigmatization, with women feeling inferior due to their own conceptions of periods. The paper was clear that discussing issues related to periods, such as painful cramps or excess bleeding, was different from “menstrual moaning.”. Discussing issues is a way to relate and connect on the legitimate struggles of menstruating;, “menstrual moaning” is a practice which self-denigrates. One study from 2004 found that many women could not list a single positive result of menstruation and that many thought such an answer “could not exist”, despite the fact that menstruation is a process which ensures women’s bodies remain healthy and which enables the creation of another human being.
In modern society, women and girls are bombarded by the stigma that periods are “dirty” and that their bodies are “unclean.”. So what can we do as a society to counter these stigmas?
First and foremost, we need to stop discussing periods as gross or taboo. They are a natural part of roughly half the population’s lives and enable the continuation of the human species and aid the health of women’s bodies.
Secondly, discussions of periods in adolescence should not be limited to young girls. Young boys should also be given an explanation of why new boxes may be appearing in the bathroom and why their female friends or family members may be experiencing certain effects such as cramping or bleeding. The goal is to inform adolescent boys of what a period is and that it is not an abnormal process. Young boys may not need to know how to use a tampon, but they should at least know what it is and what it’s used for.
The final thing we can do as a society is recognise the needs of womens as legitimate. We need to call out others and ourselves when we make denigrating jokes about menstruation, engage in open communication about our needs, and take women seriously. Women are more than their bodies and natural functions, they are human beings with feelings, thoughts, emotions, and opinions. To compress all that complexity down to “she’s just upset because of her period” is deeply disrespectful and only pulls society backward. We all have to work together to make equality, and respecting periods and recognising them as normal helps us all closer to that goal.

Sources referenced and Further Reading
United Nations resources: