Walking up to the till with my two boxes of sanitary-towels and my frozen Quorn pieces, it did not cross my mind that I would be making the male cashier awkward. My main thought process was distracted slightly with the pain shooting through my uterus as “my body is smashing my body out of my body” (in the words of fabulous stand-up comedian Cameron Esposito). But as he avoided my eyes, sheepishly putting them into bag inside another bag so it would be discrete, I questioned whether I was supposed to be ashamed?
Recently seeing a press release about the most “embarrassing bathroom products”, Tampons and Sanitary Towels topped the list at 56%. How can this be right? More than half of women are embarrassed to buy something necessary to their health and well-being.
You could argue that it’s getting better to talk about menstruation, and in many ways I suppose it is. But there is still a long way to go. Look, for example, at advertising for sanitary products. Do we ever see representations of what it is actually like or is the focus rather on fragrance and it passing quickly?
Even more obviously just think about how many euphemisms we can think of for periods. ‘On the Dot’; ‘Time of the Month’; ‘Aunt Flow’; ‘Crimson Wave’ and – the advertising favourite – ‘Mother Nature’s Monthly Gift’. Euphemisms emerge in the English Language when what we are talking about becomes ‘taboo’. I mean, if we’re going to think of euphemisms why not describe what is actually happening. A particular favourite of mine is from No Strings Attached – “It’s like a crime scene in my pants.” Or, even more shockingly, why don’t we just say we are on our periods?
Periods hurt; I’m not going to pretend I’m not on it or speak in euphemisms to make you feel comfortable. I am going to complain and get some recognition. Periods are not shameful. They are bad-ass. Game of Thrones had it right, in one of its more feminist moments, when Ygritte said “girls see more blood than boys” (aside from the assumption that only women can have periods). I think we should be comparing periods to bloody battles.
Sportswomen rejoiced when Heather Watson revealed that she struggled in her 2015 Australian Open loss due to “girl things,” leaving her feeling “very light-headed and low on energy.” I’m sure a lot of us can empathise, right? Yet, why was it so revolutionary when this was mentioned? Why are we not questioning the blatantly sexist policy that at Wimbledon female tennis players are forced to wear white and entitled to no more than two toilet breaks per match? Why did CNN’s article about it start “How much information is too much information?”?
Now, I’m not suggesting that this is a level of openness that everyone should attain. But, we should be allowed to talk about our periods wherever and whenever we want. So, no Mr Cashier, I don’t want you to put my sanitary pads in a discrete bag. My periods might be disgusting to you, but I’m not going to shut up about them.