It’s Menstrual Hygiene Day. Do you even know what that is? If you follow me on instagram (@alala_news) or twitter (@alala_news) you will have seen the thousand and one posts I made about it today. You didn’t know it was happening? NEITHER DID I, until I woke up and then jumped on the beautiful hashtag bandwagon (#menstrualhygieneday, #menstruationmatters). And you should, too.
This day is important for so many reasons. Primarily, it is intended to give awareness to the issues women face around the world because of lack of education, lack of access to santitation products, and lack of equality when it comes to their time of the month.
This is HUGELY important. Women around the world are constantly discriminated against and given less opportunity because they are, first and foremost, WOMEN. Some schools don’t have proper access to bathrooms, so girls around the world miss a week of school every month so they can stay home and bleed. Some girls are told their period is shameful and they are to stay away from public places, places of worship, and men. Many women around the world simply don’t have access to anything to stem the flow of their bleeding, leaving them home-bound.
Why does this matter?
When half of your population is unable to achieve what the other half does, when they are kept from access to quality health care and education, they are at a deficit. And when half of your population is at a deficit, the rest of your country is too.
I’m not saying that this is a purposeful thing that is happening around the world, I’m merely pointing out that it is a true and serious problem. Women need education and girls are unable to make it to school when they bleed. This is so preventable.
And while (in most cases) women in the United States are much more fortunate and have access to many more things, there is still a constant stigma around the most fundamental of female experiences. And really, it’s the most fundamental human experience as well. A uterus HOUSED you, after all.
I’ve always been extremely open and blatant with my own period. It sucks. I bleed a lot. I go through tampons like they are fucking twizzlers (does that make any sense?) and each month I’m thankful that I’m not pregnant and simultaneously so very angry that I’m alive.
A period is a real thing. It happens in real life. No matter where you are, where you grew up, and who is telling you otherwise, a period is a NORMAL part of your life. It is NOT shameful. It sucks, but it does not make you other, different, tempermental, weak, or less than.
Periods are real things. They happen to (almost) every woman. (Of course, I’m not speaking of women who have had their ovaries removed or trans women, but you are lovely little beings of creation also.)
In real life, periods are disgusting, messy, hot, and slippery. They don’t look like the tampon commercials. I’ve never laid on my back by the pool while on my period and bopped my head around because I was just so happy with my tampon. These things just don’t happen. Similarly, I don’t like yogurt nearly as much as apparently every woman in every commercial that has ever existed.
Though we have had the opportunity to progress in this country, there still exists a surprising lack of education and shame around the issue of the our monthly friend. Thanks to a lack of sexual and reproductive education in many states (I’d be mad at you Texas but I know you’re drowning so I’m going to let it go today), girls are entering sexual relationships without the slightest idea of how their bodies work.
And do you know what lack of education and silence around an issue does? It doesn’t – and this may surprise some of you so hold on tight – make a problem go away. In fact, it usually creates more problems. Those problems are STDs and unplanned pregnancies and easily avoidable health problems and lack of access to proper medical care and shame.
Shame is the worst one because it teaches women that they don’t have the right to live their experiences. They don’t have the right to own their story, to own their bodies. Shame makes it much easier to silence, to control, to regulate, and to abuse women’s bodies. When we tell women their periods are to be kept quiet, to be a silent issue that no one talks about, we tell them that a huge part of their lives is not worthy of attention or discussion.
If you do the math, an average woman probably bleeds from age 13-ish to 50-ish. And if we just average it out to about a week each cycle, that’s 12 weeks a year for 47 years. This equals out to 564 weeks in a lifetime and, divided by 52 weeks a year, means the average woman spends 10.85 years bleeding. If you tell a girl she’s gotta clam up about her clam bleeding, that’s almost 11 years of silence!!
Seriously, men, go draw yourself a uterus. Splash some paint on your inner thighs. Go pop some birth control pills. Experience being a woman, really. It’s fantastic. It’s all red wine and hormones and giggling. And it should be. It shouldn’t be silence, lack of basic hygiene and care, and inevitable inequality. Around this world, this is something we can so easily fight.
When women aren’t allowed the opportunity to talk about their bodies and know their bodies, they are easily victimized. It is much easier to tell a girl to stay silent about being sexually abused when you’ve already told her that her body is shameful. It is much easier to keep a girl from eating when you’ve already told her that her body is betraying her. It is much easier to keep a girl from developing into a free-thinking and confident adult when you’ve told her that her body is not worth equality.
I have always believed that the more we shame women into silence, the more they will be abused, the more they will be victimized, the more they will retreat. What better way to instill confidence than by starting with the thing that (almost) every other woman can relate to? What better way to make her feel like a fucking super hero than by telling her that her body has the power to create life? And what better way to give her the confidence to own her body than by giving her the education necessary to make the decisions of when and how she creates that life?
KNOW YOUR PERIOD. IT IS YOUR FRIEND. (IT IS ALSO YOUR ENEMY BUT ONLY BECAUSE IT HURTS YOU LIKE A REALLY ANGRY LOVER.)
I’ve written some poems about periods today on twitter so I will also share them here.
1. Give up thy body, the uterus said/don’t go outside, just stay in bed.
2. Uterus, uterus, little flaky uterus/I didn’t know I was a bird/but my eggs are really humorous.
3. You’re a woman now, they told me/here’s some treats, take your pick/these tampons are expensive/and I feel really sick.
4. I woke up this morning/everything was red/my uterus has leaked/all over my bed.
Have you written a poem to your uterus lately? I think that is a great way to celebrate today. Also, you should go visit www.menstrualhygieneday.org and see how you can help women around the world have better access to quality supplies and education. If today is too busy for you (and I get it, you’re all very important), the website is celebrating women’s bodies ALL MONTH LONG (which actually is only for a couple more days, I have just realized, so GET ON IT.) You can also just donate any time but do it now. Remember, you were once inside a uterus. You basically, at one point, knew what the inside of a uterus smelled like. You can’t unthink that.
Be happy, my little bleeding friends. Happy #MenstrualHygieneDay!