We all like to Google ourselves. We type our names in the search box and take a look at what’s returned: There’s the stream of people who aren’t you; a few signs of your working life; some profile pictures; family members and for me, my name on the 100 year old tombstone of a small child whose grave lies not far from where I grew up.
What doesn’t come up when I Google my name is menstruation. And I have been happy with that.
We all work hard to keep this thing under wraps when it comes to that-time-of-month, from slipping a tampon up a sleeve as we leave the desk for the loo, to avoiding white trousers and tying jumpers around waists. Goodness, I thought as I deliberated on this article, imagine if someone connected me to menstruation and guessed I get my period.
And as with all good taboos, as soon as you say that stuff out loud, it crumbles. Half the world is with me on this one. So with international Menstrual Hygiene Day coming up on Saturday, it’s finally my time to break the cycle.
If you are also sick of the taboo around periods, here are six ways to change the conversation:
1. Watch this inspiring TED talk
Social entrepreneur Aditi Gupta has designed Menstrupedia, a comic seeking to counter the fact that in India, three out of every ten girls don’t know what menstruation is at the time of their first period.
2. Pay attention to how advertising is breaking the mould
From hosting a hilarious First Moon Party, to challenging #LikeAGirl stereotypes and recognising that trans men get periods too, there are signs that blue ink isn’t the only option to reach consumers.
3. Learn about periods in space and time
Academics such as Carla Pascoe have written about the history of menstruation in Australia, and Space Gynaecologist (best job title ever) Varsha Jain recently released research into the cycles of female astronauts.
4. Watch this interview with actress Essie Davis (when it cuts in at approx. 45mins)
Notice how rare it still is to hear anyone talk about a period dilemma in public as honestly as this, let alone someone who got it while naked on a Broadway stage surrounded by white sheets.
5. Learn about the product revolution
If you don’t know about menstrual cups or period pants you should. Once you lift your jaw from the floor that these things exist, be proud of the Australian start-up companies (such as ModiBodi or Juju) leading the way with innovations of more environmental, less expensive and healthier ways of managing periods.
6. Visit the Menstrual Hygiene Day website and follow #menstruationmatters
Around the world, women and girls face real challenges when it comes to hygiene. Only 34% of schools have flushing toilets in India, 48% of girls in Iran believe periods are a disease, in Nepal girls are forced to stay indoors when menstruating and in Kenya many believe going near a cow when you have your period can make the cow ill. In the absence of sanitary options, many women use mud, clothing, newspapers or old rags. Around the world, communities and NGOs are working to change this, and here in Australia charities such as Share the Dignity are doing great work helping women in need.