2015: The year menstruation made the big time

Girl walking | lizniland.com

I know it’s not even June but I’m calling it. And it’s about time.
They’ve been all over the news this year and whether you see them as a necessary evil or a deep connection to the divine feminine, periods are something around 50% of the population will directly experience. Hopefully through their experiences with the various ladies in their lives (from mothers to lovers), the majority of the other 50% could hardly claim ignorance to them either.

The way periods and menstruation are dealt with in politics, advertising and general discourse however, could easily make you think Brick Tamland is the main source of some peoples’ sex-ed.

The blue liquid loved by advertisers, whispers of “that time of the month” and pretty floral packaging make it seem like it all has nothing to do with the “blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide“. The kerfuffle these realistic images caused is proof of that: just as many men & women seemed to shout it down as offensive and unnecessary as those who praised it.

So why are we so euphemistic about a perfectly natural and essential bodily function?
Is it because men have traditionally run the show when it comes to media and advertising? No, I don’t think it’s the fault of blokes alone that we ladies feel like we have to smuggle tampons into the work bathroom and that lube & nicotine patches are considered more essential to public health than sanitary products. I’m not going to dive too deep into the wave of “tamponomics” sweeping Aussie politics right now, but if you haven’t signed the petition to have the GST removed from sanitary products, please go do it here.

It seems to be relatively unheard of to talk about periods with other women (other than in a whisper when you need to deal with a surprise guest) let alone with men or on a larger stage. We ladies are most definitely part of the problem. For a current example that struck me as interesting: of the assortment of premiers, chief ministers and treasurers Triple J’s Hack program spoke to about lifting the tampon tax; MPs Dave, Tim, Andrew and Tom were quite happy to scrap it. Gladys, Liberal Treasurer for NSW, wasn’t keen to give a position yet and wants to discuss it further. Thanks fellas but Gladys, come on sister!

The last taboo
I loved the story that came out earlier in the year of female tennis player Heather Watson blaming her poor Australian Open performance on her period. Journos said she broke “the last taboo in sport” by speaking of it. I really don’t think we can blame the lads for letting it get to that point. Why is it such a rarity for women, especially those in sport, to talk about how their period affects them? Because surely it does. Surely Cathy Freeman was watching the calendar in the lead up to Sydney 2000. Performance aside, most girls wouldn’t be putting their hand up to wear that skintight onesie on day 29 of her cycle.

I think women fear being seen to have any weaknesses that relate to their gender. We aim to look tough, seamlessly put together and in control. I know I, and a handful of my friends, loathe the idea that we’ll fall into any kind of stereotypical emotional-chocolate-feasting mess and endure headaches, cramps and other general crappiness. Even if it becomes reality, it has got to get pretty bad for us to consider calling in sick to work or skipping the gym. It might mean we have to pop a painkiller to get through an afternoon meeting or drop a few reps but we’ll do what we can to soldier on, without letting anyone in on the details (at least until a Friday night wine with a close mate).

The tide seems to be turning steadily.
Pioneering underwear makers Dear Kate recently put together a video series of women talking about their “first time” and Hello Flo’s The Period Fairy is another fun one to check out. These are social media-friendly, won’t make awkward Brick Tamland-types run for the hills and will hopefully contribute to more conversation, better understanding and continued cross-gender education in our community.

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