Hashtags Chip Away at Menstruation Taboo//Annika Johnson

Photo from: www.helloclue.com

For centuries menstruation has been a longstanding taboo. Women have long felt uncomfortable and embarrassed to discuss their menstrual symptoms, often at the expense of their own health and well-being. While Menstruation is a healthy and normal bodily function, many people struggle to say the word “period” out loud without embarrassment. We are taught from a young age not to speak of our periods, not to acknowledge our bodies and our experiences; by censoring our language, we continue to promote fear and stigma regarding menstruation.

A survey conducted by Clue and the International Women’s Health Coalition revealed over 5000 euphemisms for the word “period”.  Within English speaking countries the most common were:

Aunt Flow
Time of the month
On the rag
Red tide/river/sea/moon
Code Red
Monthly visitor
Mother nature
Lady Time
Crimson wave/tide
Bloody Mary
The blob
Shark week
Having painters in

Unfortunately, this taboo does not just exist in our social lives, but it also impacts what we are willing to discuss with our healthcare providers. Failing to share our menstrual symptoms with our healthcare providers can pose significant risks to our health. Menstruation taboo has also led to a significant lack of adequate research on menstruation, which is unacceptable when examining the high prevalence rates of conditions such as dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and PMS.

However, it appears the “Red tides” are changing, and women are tired of trying to cleverly disguise such a normal and frequent event. Recently, Clue rolled out their “#Justsayperiod” campaign, which is aiming to eliminate period euphemisms. As they state on their blog, “If we can openly talk about these things, they won’t be such a big deal anymore. Words matter — they shape our feelings about our bodies and their place in the world.”  The hope at Clue is to shine a light on the way we talk about our periods, and to “Bring menstruation out of the shadows.” #Justsayperiod joins several other menstruation hashtags aimed to deconstruct the taboo, such as, #Menstruationmatters, #Periodproblems, #Tweetyourperiod, #Redsummer, and #Happytobleed. The use of such hashtags is a loud proclamation from women that we no longer feel the need to hide our menstrual experiences. As Rosa Pippas, founder of #Tweetyourperiod stated,

“Most of the world has to deal with it, so why should it remain hidden? Why should be we be forced to accommodate the disgust and fear of men? Why are we not being accommodated? The shame and silence of the period is just one pillar in the foundation of oppression women are trapped under.”

Seems like it’s time to start calling it what it really is, for the sake of women’s health- period.
~Written by Annika Johnson




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