Shame: Sisters by Blood and Embarrassment

That’s right, we are going to talk about your period.  And if you don’t have a period chances are there are a number of women in your life who do.  What are the first things that come to your mind when you think of “that time of month?”  Is it something positive?  Or is it something less than favorable?  Chances are you’d rather not think about it at all and you’d really rather not talk about it.  It is important to do so though because nothing is used more to devalue and minimize women’s experiences, emotions, and feelings than her period.

It is referred to as gross or disgusting by both men and women.  I can think of a lot of disgusting things.  Baby spit up, or poop, or snot…basically anything that comes out of a baby.  🙂  In all seriousness though, if you’ve ever worked in a camp kitchen on bacon day, in the food industry in general, or had very much contact with children you know there are a lot of disgusting things in this world.  There are also those things which my grandmother called “disgusting” and would fall more under the category of upsetting or morally wrong.  Stories that are all too often in the news about rape, murder, kidnapping etc. fall into this category, and (if you are like my grandmother) so do car salesmen, bills, and gas prices.  So, which is it?  Revolting or immoral?  While you think about it, let me pose a third option.


That’s right, this thing that a lot of women have come to think of as a curse is completely and totally normal.  In fact, it is concerning if you do not have a period or have an irregular one.  So, why is it that there is so much shame associated with having a period?  Why do women, no matter their age, often feel embarrassed buying products at the store?  Why does that embarrassment extend even to a female checker?  Why are women afraid to share period stories and experiences with other women?

I would argue that it has a lot to do with patriarchy and limiting women’s (perceived) power.  Not to get all Xena, Warrior Princess on everyone but a woman’s body is an amazing thing.  Really think about it.  In theory, women have the ability to grow another human being inside of them.  How cool is that?!  It is also an incredibly powerful thing to be the life-giver of humanity.  They say giving birth to a child is one of the most empowering experiences a woman can have.  And especially women who give birth naturally say they leave the experience feeling like they can do anything.  I digress though.  The fact that women bleed every month means that their bodies are preparing to grow a child.  Their bodies know to get rid of the old stuff if there is no need for it and the process starts over again.  It’s really an amazing process.  So, what better way to down play and limit the power of this process than to attach a negative connotation to it and make women feel ashamed of their own bodies.  Women have already been stereotyped as overly emotional and irrational beings.  I can not count the number of times when I have been sad or angry that someone asks me if I’m on my period, or says something along the lines of “she’s PMSing” and I know I am not alone in this.  Many of my female friends hear similar statements to dismiss their feelings.  The conversation then turns to the woman having to defend her emotions or whatever she was talking about.  It is extremely invalidating and degrading to not be taken seriously just because you have a period.

And it is not only men that do this to women, but women do it to each other.  That is probably the most frustrating thing for me: to have another woman question my emotions when (I’m sure) she gets equally as frustrated when someone does it to her.  Instead of sharing in the experience and supporting each other through it, because let’s be honest, having a period can really suck sometimes, we continue to force each other into secrecy.  So, here’s to the biggest known secret ever…our periods!

Until my next period post check out these articles:

So Will Periods Attract Bears or What?

The Mainstream Media Is Out to Convince You That Periods Are Terrifying

Reproductive Writes: Do We Need To Bleed?


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