Power To The Period!
Never before in history has there been so much global attention for menstruation. Periods were talked about in politics, science, on social media, on the street, in the media, cinema, theatre, in schools and businesses this year. There was no escape! Talking about menstruation is hip and cool (finally!). Here are the top five highlights from 2018 in hashtags.
In many parts of the world, period poverty is high on the political agenda. Not only in developing regions however, also in Europe where children have been missing out on school because they cannot afford menstrual products. In remote areas of Macedonia this problem also plays a large role: 90% of girls miss four to five days of school a month because of #periodpoverty. In contrast to this, in 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer sanitary products in schools and universities. And since only recently, London has a Tampon Taxi that drives around the city, delivering sanitary items to those living on the Streets.
American schools and universities are now promoting free sanitary products, yet according to Plan International, one third of Canadian women under 25 have difficulties affording these necessities. This disheartening fact motivated a decision to provide free period products to those who need it in Toronto, just a few months ago. In the capital city of South Korea, tampons and sanitary towels are freely available in public buildings just like toilet paper, soap and paper towels. The expectation is that the Scottish initiative will spark a global movement. To be continued.
Why should there be low-tax on Viagra but not on sanitary products? This year we saw world-wide demonstrations against this very fact, and with success we should add. In countries such as India, Tanzania, Australia, Spain, South Africa and in cities across America, the tampon tax was abolished during this last year and the expectation that more cities will follow in 2019 is high.
This hot topic seems to come to life every now and then. Just lately, in a Dutch article for Tonic-Vice, it was discussed again: should women take sick leave when they’re ‘on the rag’? Excuse us? People! Of course, there’s merit in being aware of the effects your menstrual cycle can have on your daily life, but if you’re too sick to work or go to school during your period or the week running up to it (think PMS or PMDD), then there’s likely a medical reason at play. In this situation, it would be wise to make an appointment with your doctor.
Period leave is not something that our employers or governments should have to arrange. Should we start talking about Menopause leave? Who is going to check if you’re really on your period and not secretly using hormonal contraception, sitting at home binge-watching Netflix? This discussion adds nothing positive to the recent upward trend seen in latest Dutch Emancipation Monitor. It’s time for a sane new hashtag: #menstruationisnotasickness.
Menstruation has strut its stuff on the red carpet, on stage and in the museum! This year saw periods break through into the art world. 2018 opened with a bang in India with its movie premier ‘Padman’, a funny but serious film following a man who revolutionized the sanitary napkin for women. Following that, a film festival in Paris screened a documentary following The Clams, according to YouTube ‘a badass’ synchronized waterballet group from Australia that promotes period positivity. Also, the short film Period. End of Sentence is on the shortlist for an Oscar-nomination.
This last year also saw menstruation become the theme of cartoons, impressionist paintings, photography, ballet, comedy, street art, theatre, fashion design, catchy video clips, art, board games and books. We want more! Humour and art are the perfect ways to dispel menstruation shame.
Lack of knowledge and ingrained cultural habits cause economic disadvantage and health problems, that’s a fact. But the ‘we help to break through the period taboo’ has also become a marketing cliché. Let’s face it: it’s not always easy to talk about your period. However, in a society where women and men are equal, where everyone has education, where menstrual products are freely available and where media-wide attention is paid to ‘the party week’, can you still speak of a taboo?
The fact that there is little respect for this part of the reproductive cycle is another story. You know, respect can also be demanded. Being bullied at home or school because of your period? Are you made fun of because your sanitary towel leaked? Does your family doctor say ‘dear girl, period pains are part of life’? Then think of that other cliché: women on their periods can do everything men can. Don’t allow yourself to be disrespected in that way. Then #periodpride will eventually banish the #periodshame.
We are curious to see how the red flag flies at the end of 2019.