Breaking the Stigma
The past few months I have been on a mission to explore all new and trending menstruation products. I usually become overwhelmed with the number of products to choose from–even buying milk sometimes triggers my anxiety. Except that this time while reading endless reviews and researching menstruation cups, period panties/swimsuits, etc., I wasn’t overwhelmed, I was delighted by all the options. The products, reviews and advertisements gave me hope that for my girls’ generation the period topic won’t have to be so awkward or intimidating. Maybe society is capable of no longer viewing periods as an embarrassing filthy occurrence but rather nature’s gateway for human existence. After all, it is quite literally the first step in preparing a woman’s body to host human life.
I grew up in a very conservative home. My mother hardly gave me an explanation about periods, but did stress the importance of being discreet. In fact, the only reason my mother had this conversation with me was because my older cousin was on her period and needed a pad. I will forever thank my cousin for this timing because my mother was nowhere near ready for the conversation. Almost two months after that conversation, at the age of 10, I got my first period. My mother was honestly waiting until I was 15 to bring it up. That would have been quite the scare! Because of my experience I proudly admit that my girls have known about periods since they could talk. To them, it is considered a female symbol of power, not a life-ruining monthly occurrence.
When I think back on my middle school days, I recall the embarrassment it was for my female classmates to have accidents, or how we had to hide our feminine hygiene products. I remember boys making a mockery out of girls and their periods. Taking it further back than my middle school days, there are numerous myths and folklore about menstruation and females. One is that women can’t tend to plants while menstruating because they kill the plants. How wild is that?! While I feel we are in a time where we don’t believe that, I still think we have work to do to help girls not feel that shame that comes with their monthly visitor.
There are several things we can do to break the stigma:
- Help your girls find the right products that make them feel in control.
- The younger they are when they learn about it, the more comfortable they will be.
- Purchase books to help the young girls in your life better understand what is happening.
- Menstruating doesn’t have to be a secret. You don’t hide having a cold or having a migraine.
- When the time comes for the girl in your life, have a celebration to help them embrace the change. Share personal period stories and make them laugh, not nervous.
- Discuss periods with the men in your household. Encourage them to understand how girls feel so that they may help make it less awkward. It’s okay to tell Dad, “I need feminine products”.
- Explain periods to your sons so they can have empathy towards their female counterparts.
- If your daughters are struggling with it, remember periods always call for ice cream and chocolate. Have fun with it!
This is more than just researching which period panty is best. It’s about empowering girls and normalizing periods.
Erica Barney is a local mom to two girls. She works as a Risk and Compliance Analyst. Erika is passionate about empowering young women to embrace all that comes with being female.