I'm 21 years old and I've been having a period for the last 9 years. That's almost 470 weeks or about 3,250 days of experiencing period symptoms. Every 28 days I have to center my entire life around my period. What can I do with a pad on? How long I can do something before needing to go to the bathroom to switch out my tampon? Is my flow light enough to have sex? Is my pad visible through these pants? And don't even get me started on the period poops.
Periods are so much more than just a little bit of blood every month and it's evident that a lot of men don't fully grasp the concept of the pain and discomfort that a period puts a woman through. When a man doesn't seem to grasp why a woman wants to lay down all day on the worst day of her period, naturally, I want to educate the man in question. I want to tell him how our symptoms during our cycle include so much more than just bleeding. I want to be able to list the effects on our body: the uncomfortable bloat, the unbearable cramps, the aches all over our bodies, the headaches, the overall fatigue. And that's just the surface for some women.
But a large majority of men refuse to listen to what nearly every woman has to go through every month, or they simply neglect to comprehend the severity of the symptoms. I've talked to men who appear to be listening and understanding, but then respond with something along the lines of "Well, I'm sure it's not as bad as getting kicked in the balls." And of course, I wouldn't diminish the pain of anyone getting hit/kicked, especially in a sensitive area, but a woman has to deal with her painful period symptoms consistently for anywhere between 3 to 9 days.
The lack of open conversations about periods go beyond just close-minded men, who have never had to experience period symptoms. Women all over the world have gotten so used to the idea that periods are a taboo conversation topic, that they shy away if the topic ever comes up in public. The suppression of period talk has lead to young women and children believing that this natural bodily process is disgusting and that they should feel ashamed about it. On the surface, this may not seem like a huge problem, but there are tons of women who have grown up fearful to bring up their period symptoms, normal and abnormal. A woman could go her whole life not realizing that smelly or discolored discharge is not normal, just because she was conditioned to believe that her vaginal health is not an appropriate conversation to be had.
A fairly recent experience I had was the other night when I was having dinner with my parents and sister. The conversation was about my sister's friend who wasn't feeling well. My sister was explaining her symptoms: runny nose, sore throat, nose bleeds, etc. My parents listening attentively to her the entire time, unphased by any graphics of her using a bunch of tissues in one go. But as soon as she said, "and she's on her period right now, so she's losing a lot of blood," my parents lost it. Saying "oh, gross. Stop. That's enough. We're eating." And all of those types of comments trying to end the conversation, while pretending to gag. Yet we can have conversations about excessive nose bleeds, a guy getting decapitated in a car accident, or a student sneezing in my stepmom's face.
Sure, there are settings where certain things shouldn't be discussed openly, but periods are largely not discussed anywhere. And yes, schools will give their best attempt at educating young girls in the 5th or 6th grade. But these curriculums hardly graze the surface of what these young women should be expecting when their first period comes along. Many young girls can't even turn to their mothers to ask questions about their developing bodies because their parents have created this unwelcoming environment or because they do not even have a woman figure in their life to even attempt to ask questions to.
Fortunately, in 2020, girls are able to turn to the internet and get even their weirdest and most awkward of questions answered. There is a new wave of woman empowerment going around in which women on all platforms are becoming more confident in their bodies and the bodily functions that come along with them. Women are spreading body positivity through not shaving, openly discussing periods and symptoms, talking about sex and the dangers and pleasures that come along with it. Women empowerment is on the rise, and I am here for it, but there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in real life. It's easier to have an open discussion online about periods where you can block the haters and support the followers, but in real life, it's harder to establish and maintain a narrative with close-minded people.
It's 2020 and there are far too many people that still cringe at the mention of a used a tampon. We're headed in the right direction, but we need to work harder to #normalizeperiods.