I was in class the other day, and my teacher made the statement “I think men (AMAB people) make a really big deal about bleeding, bleeding isn’t that out of the ordinary for a lot of us, though.” When she said this, I really began to realize how much I have given into the period hype and rationalized period taboos. So, I took a deep breath and asked myself, “where does the menstrual hype come from?”
To give some context, let’s look at what a period actually is. Around once a month, when an AFAB person’s body is ready to release an egg into the uterus, hormones are released from their brain that makes their uterus lining thicken, among other physical and emotional changes. After a few days, if your egg is not fertilized by a sperm, your uterus lining begins to break down and is released through your vagina. Pretty straightforward, right? Just a natural, bodily function. However, since the beginning of time, it seems, periods have been both taboo and overhyped.
Across religious centers, boardrooms, and bedrooms, periods are still viewed as though they have a major impact on the menstruator when, in reality, almost all of the negative impacts that menstruation can have on a person are direct results of the societal taboos surrounding them. I am certainly not the only person who has been asked if the reason for an emotional outburst is because I am ‘hormonal’. Our bathrooms and supermarkets are set up so that not only non-menstruators but our fellow menstruators get to interact as little as possible with the reality of our monthly uterus shedding. Why so much hype? Why are periods such a massive taboo in our culture?
Any menstruator will tell you that although periods and PMS can be annoying, on the whole, they do not prevent us from being efficient or work to the same caliber as our non-menstruating co-workers and peers. The real debilitating factor in menstruation comes from the stigmas and hype surrounding it. Looking at our mainstream media, the catalyst for this societal hype is easily apparent. Everyone has seen ads for pads and tampons in which the actress pours an unknown blue liquid onto the product to demonstrate it’s absorbency. Women are frequently belittled and objectified in our media as well, which goes hand in hand with the over-hyping of our menstrual cycles. The over-hype can be seen, however, in not just menstrual media representation, but with female/AFAB nipples and breasts. Evolutionarily, breasts and female nipples are for breastfeeding, very much a non-sexual purpose. However, in television and advertising, breasts are often used to enhance the sexual appeal of products or characters (this, of course, is completely fine when it is from the prerogative of the individual, but not when it is exploitative). Evidentally, breasts are seen as inappropriate, vulgar, or overtly sexual when used in sexual and non-sexual contexts solely as a result of the media that is fed to us by advertising companies. As it appears, our bodies are either sexualized or stigmatized in order to sell us products that conform to the artificial expectations placed on us by society and it just turns into a cycle from there.
As you can see, there are two extremes with reproductive representation. It is either overtly sexualized or covered in so many taboos that those who have AFAB bodies don’t even feel comfortable talking to friends about completely natural experiences. When periods are stigmatized, not only do economically privileged menstruators suffer, but low income and no income menstruators suffer because of a lack of access to menstrual products and resources. Period struggles like PMS, hormone-flux induced depression, lack of access to products, the list goes on, are all amplified or created from the over hype of what it means to bleed out of your vagina.
Periods are not exciting. They are not inherently debilitating. They do not prevent menstruators from being level headed. They are not abnormal or unhygienic. They are not scary. They should not be shrouded in mystery.
My period happens once a month. It results from my reproductive hormone cycle. It doesn’t affect my consentration or my comfort. These are my experiences. They are different for all period havers. But at the end of the day, they are just a natural experience.
Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!