More than half of girls would rather be bullied than talk about their periods, and that’s heartbreaking
Periods are completely and perfectly normal. Yet, they’re still so taboo, kids will go to some serious lengths to avoid talking about them.
A new study by Bodyform, shared with HuffPost UK, showed that 52 percent of the 1,000 girls surveyed would rather be bullied at school than talk to their parents about their periods. Additionally, 43 percent said that periods are “off-limits” for discussion, and a staggering 87 percent said they have “gone to great lengths” to hide their periods.
This is ridiculous. Something completely natural should never be the source of this much shame. It shouldn’t be the source of any shame at all.
But we all get it. We’ve all been there. When I was in 7th grade, I remember getting my period unexpectedly during history class. It bled through my pants — just one tiny, hardly noticeable spot — but I was mortified. I tied a sweatshirt around my waist and booked it for the office, where I called my mom to tell her I was “sick,” and stood awkwardly while I waited for her to pick me up, afraid to sit on anything lest I bleed all over it. When my mom found my stained underwear in the laundry the next day, she asked me about it, and I refused to say the word “period.” I remember being so embarrassed I couldn’t even look her in the eye as I told her she could “guess what happened.”
So, um, guys, why are we still letting periods be this taboo thing? Why aren’t we having open conversations with boys and girls and just normalizing menstruation already?
“Historically women’s health and women’s issues have been hidden or traditionally not spoken about,” Dr. Radha Modgil told HuffPost UK. “Things are improving in this regard but it does seem like not talking about periods is still an issue that we need to break.”
Nadia Mendoza, co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team, has another take, but one that’s problematic in itself: She says we avoid talking about periods because of how gross they are.
“They are unpredictable, leak through underwear, pass in clots, can be any and every shade of black-red to brown, cause chronic cramps, affect mood, and leave you wandering around with something that resembles an adult nappy or a piece of string dangling between your legs. They ain’t pretty,” she told HuffPost. True, but also this kind of thinking is part of the problem. Bodies do a lot of things that are gross — that distinction doesn’t belong solely to menstruation.
Mendoza adds, “What isn’t okay, is the fact periods are entrenched in shame.” OK, that part we agree with.
If we want to break the stigma surrounding periods, we have to start somewhere. Comprehensive sex education would be a solid step. But parents, it can be as simple as talking to your kids (of all genders!), beginning at early ages. Seriously, we need to be talking to kids about periods way earlier than when they actually hit puberty. Like, as early as possible.
We need to foster an environment where we openly discuss menstruation — why it happens and why it’s nothing to be ashamed about. If there’s no more mystery around periods, maybe there will be less shame, and that’s what we need to work toward.