Period taboo: how to fight against these preconceived ideas?

Lately, driven by influencers on Instagram, engaged brands like Elia, and podcasts, we're hearing more and more about periods in the modern world! But there is still a lot to do: taboos still persist.

Why do we talk about period taboo?

We talk about the taboo of menstruation when we talk about theomerta around the subjects of menstruation and the female cycle, which have difficulty finding their place in everyday life. When a woman has her period, she is generally conditioned not to let anything show. Pain, menstrual cramps, migraines, fatigue, sanitary protection... So many inconveniences and discomforts that are passed under silence. Among high level sportswomen, menstrual flow is also a taboo subject, and is just beginning to emerge in the media. Indeed, what could be a more normal explanation to explain a drop in performance? It is a physiological situation like any other.

This taboo around menstruation sometimes goes further: it can also be accompanied by stigmatization, prejudice and intolerable superstitions. In France, women are supposed to miss the mayonnaise when they are menstruating, Indian women can't go near food or visit temples during menstruation in order not to contaminate anything... These false popular beliefs contribute to keep this taboo alive andaffect women's lives and rights.

What are the false beliefs about menstruation?

There are several false beliefs about menstrual flow, which have their roots in different cultures and origins.

Menstrual blood is not clean

The first stigma is that menstrual blood loss is dirty: associated with the female genitalia, which is often misunderstood, menstrual blood is often considered impure.

In contrast to the blood that flows in our veins and symbolizes life, menstrual discharge symbolizes death: the death of an ovum that should have been born, of a lack of fertilization... However, women are not only a baby machine! Most men are also reluctant to have sex during their period, because they don't want to get dirty or because they are afraid of seeing their penis covered in blood.

Menstrual bleeding is intriguing because of its variations in color and appearance: the presence of clots, from pink to black to brown blood. The menstrual flow can take on many aspects depending on its position in the cycle. It therefore appears less clean, less smooth, than a fresh and vigorous red blood, pumped by the heart.

Menstrual cycle pain is normal

Women have learned since the dawn of time not to talk about their periods and therefore not to complain about them, thus keeping their menstrual pain under wraps. This has contributed to the fact that women of the next generation perpetuate the idea that it is normal to suffer from pelvic pain during each cycle: we are also the first culprits of this omerta! If menstruation can cause a slight discomfort or a tugging in the lower abdomen, it is not normal to have unbearable menstrual cramps: a consultation with the gynecologist or health professional is necessary.

This lack of interest in menstrual pain and disorders has accentuated the lack of knowledge of the subject and in particular the delay in diagnosis of gynecological diseases or conditions such as endometriosis, toxic shock syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, etc. A woman who gets upset has often been told at least once in her life, "are you menstruating or what?A woman who gets angry has often had at least once in her life the remark "but you have your period or what?", while like everyone else, we can have good or bad days, regardless of the hormonal variations of the cycle or a supposed hysteria ...

We can't talk about our periods without shame

Today, it remains complicated for women to openly and simply say "I have my period". We see in particular the development of expressions or formulations more imagined: thus, women have "their moons", "ragnagnas" or "the English which disembark".

In the same way, when a girl asks a friend for a sanitary protection, or if she has a task while getting up from the chair, it is often whispered discreetly so that it is not known... Sad reality! The time is not so far when the blood of the flow was represented in the ads by a blue liquid, more hygienic, more "marketing". From now on, many brands, including Elia, have managed to give it back its natural color!

While the word seemed to have been liberated in the West, new studies have in fact revealed that one person out of two would find it inappropriate to talk about it in public. 46% of French people think that the mother remains theonly person to talk about menstruation.

But in other countries, like India, Nepal or Africa, superstitions around menstruation go beyond shame: some menstruating people have even lost their lives or committed suicide, victims of these intolerable traditions and beliefs.

Impossible to play sports or swim with your period

Another common misconception is that it isnot possible to play sports during your period! On the contrary: sport alleviates menstrual cramps by warming and relaxing the uterine muscle tissue. Sporting activities calm the contractions of the uterus and allow you to better bear the pain.

As for swimming and water sports, although our hygienic society sees a problem with swimming during menstruation, there is no physiological contraindication: we do take baths! In any case, there are hygienic protections adapted to swimming: tampons, cups, menstrual bathing suits... There is no shortage of solutions to enjoy a few laps in the water like everyone else!

What are the consequences of the taboo of menstruation in France and in the world?

When half of the population concerned does not dare to speak about its daily life, its menstrual cycle or its menstruations, that can have consequences on the liberation of the word and in a general way on the society.

Menstrual precariousness

Menstrual insecurity is defined by the difficulty for women to have access to hygienic protection. In France, there are 1.7 million women who suffer from it. This phenomenon is particularly present among people living on the street, but it is also found among students, people with precarious employment or women in prison.

Dropping out of school

Who has not been indisposed at a young age, asking her parents for a note of apology for school! This taboo around pain, being comfortable with one's body during this period, is at the origin of a high rate of absenteeism. Some girls may even suffer from dropping out of school when repeated absences occur, thus shattering their future.

Yet, we know thatwomen's education is a very important point in a just society. On the other hand, access to sex education, biology and physiology courses also allows everyone to have a better understanding of the body and the female cycle. Lack of knowledge and fear of what is not known are generally at the origin of false beliefs: rules must be explained!

Social isolation

Being menstrual can also result in social isolation, in some countries where they are considered impure and undesirable in their own home.

What can be done to fight against the taboo of menstruation?

From ignorance and fear, taboos are born. It is therefore important to understand the physiology of the female cycle, whether for young girls and boys or for adults:

  • It is a natural and physiological phenomenon: resulting from the degradation of the endometrium following a lack of fertilization, the uterine mucosa is evacuated through the vagina in the form of a bloody discharge, with or without clots, and whose color and viscosity can be variable
  • Don't be afraid of the vocabulary: menstruation, menstruation, vagina, vulva... These are not vulgar words, but rather accurate words to describe the female anatomy.
  • Women are neither crazy nor hysterical: menstruation is neither the systematic cause nor a condescending excuse for anger. Hormonal variations throughout the cycle are, however, a scientifically proven explanation for mood changes that may occur with PMS.
  • Period blood is not dirty: whether it is blood from the arteries or from the breakdown of the endometrium, it is blood, and it is part of the body's natural secretions, like so many others.

Remember: menstruation is not and should not be a taboo subject! It is a completely natural phenomenon, neither dirty nor impure. On the contrary, it's a topic that should be talked about.

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