Period Pains

Opinions Uncategorized
by Marisa MacDonald, Noa Racin, Clare Tourtelotte and Mads Traxler, Opinions writers, Sports Editor, Opinions writer
graphic by Denise Chan
The Stigma Surrounding Aunt Flow

We’ve all heard the phrase “it must be her time of the month,” and I can confirm with certainty that this statement is the last thing a pained woman wants to hear while literally bleeding out of her uterus. I remember during the “Growing and Changing” unit in fifth grade, someone in my class saw period blood on a toilet seat and rushed to tell everyone about how disgusted they were, not thinking about the person they were shaming. I was also on my period at the time and was nervous that it was my fault, even though it couldn’t have been anyone’s fault, let alone my own. 

The fear of being exposed like this has made friends of mine feel uncomfortable excusing themselves from class to change their tampon or tend to their cramps. I have also heard people make jokes about a woman being on her period just because she’s upset about something, which completely disregards actual premenstrual syndrome (more broadly known as PMS) and whatever is making the woman angry. 

This further feeds into stereotypes about women being “too emotional” without considering the fact that women have plenty to be upset about. When someone makes a comment blaming periods for a woman’s feelings, I tend to become even angrier, which only directs more  teasing and disrespect towards me. All in all, we must stop shaming women for things they can’t control, especially when we’ve made so much progress for women’s rights in other areas.

Growing Pains

I couldn’t help but gawk at the projected screen in front of me. The fifth-grade puberty video detailed that my body would gush blood for days; this was my future.

After the video finished, my guy friend teased me about what awaited me. It was my first taste of the stigma associated with menstruation. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to react. Was I supposed to be ashamed?

I had managed to forget that experience by the time I reached sixth grade. But then my Bat Mitzvah came along, and much to my surprise, I got my very first period midway through the service. I started freaking out, spending the rest of the service in denial, distantly hoping I wouldn’t stain my white dress. I had never felt more embarrassed.

Shame chased me throughout middle school. I’d begun to learn of the stereotypes associated with people who menstruate, which only heightened my discomfort. In the media, women on their periods were portrayed as hormonal and irrational. Such negative depictions made me feel stained during my periods: I would walk to the bathroom with my entire backpack, hoping no one could tell a pad was hidden inside. Once I finally got to the bathroom, I would get embarrassed of people hearing me open a pad.

As I got older, I found solace in my friends who had similar experiences, and I learned that the best way to combat the stigma surrounding menstruation is to be proud of it. It is important to be comfortable with your body, and accepting that is how we can change the world.

Dealing with Disrespect

One of the worst feelings in the world is to be belittled. For someone to look at me and toss aside what I do, think and say breaks me to my core. It is a horrible experience, one that, unfortunately, many can relate to.

Whenever I express anger, sadness or any vulnerability, someone (usually a male) will speak up and ask in jokingly insulting terms if I’m “menstruating” or if it’s my “time of the month.”

In a group setting, what follows is usually laughs from the rest of the group, which escalate when I get irritated. When I question their motivation for being so insensitive and ignorant, I’m met with a chorus of “you’re overreacting” and a quieter, usually snickered, “maybe they’re right.”

What frustrates me the most, though, is the way people dance around the word “period.” They can picture what I may be going through enough to insult me about it, but not enough to confront the uncomfortable truths about what is really happening to my body.

Even if I am on my period, no one has the right to invalidate my emotions, and regardless of my emotional state, they have no right to look down upon my feelings and actions with a smirk. It sometimes feels like they’re on the outside looking in, as if they’re in on some inside joke I don’t get about my period.  

This disappointingly common experience is humiliating, disrespectful and everything in between. Even if you think someone’s being “hormonal,” I urge you not to mention it because the week-long hell that half of the population experiences every month should not be made worse by degrading comments.

On Wednesdays We Destroy the Patriarchy 

There have been countless times where I have heard boys say, “Why are you so mad? Is it your time of the month?” Women constantly face derogatory comments like these, and it is about time we figure out why. 

The idea that girls have to be on their period to feel annoyed, relates to centuries-old expectations for women to be calm at all times. People feel like they need an explanation if we are mad, but I hate to break it to you, there is such a thing as being upset, and it has nothing to do with our menstrual cycle.

Such sexist and false ideas emerge because of a lack of education, especially among men. No, we are not ticking bombs ready to explode if someone annoys us; if anything, we have to act tough and emotionally bullet-proof to disprove the illusion of weakness. 

But why is having a period seen as a weakness? Why is it something we should hide? The answer is simple: we are living in a patriarchal society without proper education on female anatomy. Boys make no effort to fully understand what we go through, so when we are upset, we do not fit into the “feminine” mold — a lie that echoes the power dynamics of our patriarchal society. 

In the face of these lies, women are powerful, beautiful and confident. We are fierce in the face of ingrained misogyny and strong in the face of seemingly harmless comments like, “it’s her time of the month.” 

So boys, the moral of the story is, educate yourselves. It is not my (nor any other woman’s) job to educate you, and frankly we are tired of it.