Project Lunar: Menstruation, Gender, Feminism And Politics
– GUEST BLOG BY MOLLY ALDRICH-WINCER –
I’ve wanted to write about periods for a long time. However, I was hesitant to voice my opinions. We’ve all been socially conditioned to not talk about messy topics, the tricky subjects that might make people feel uncomfortable.
But the more I thought and read about menstruation, the angrier I got that we are discouraged to talk about something that affects so many people, every single day. I turned to social media to help me out with my blog series, Project Lunar. This way I had a spectrum of people to talk about periods. The result includes menstruation, gender, feminism and a little bit of politics.
So, periods and what I have to say about them. Menstruation is a big issue, difficult to summarise, but I think these three basics should be covered:
1. Periods are not just blood
People who get periods will often experience a variety of symptoms for the duration of their cycle. Menstruation impacts people physically and emotionally. Therefore it can influence your behaviour at school, work and university. Your period can also have consequences for your relationships with others. Physical symptoms can leave you feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious. I don’t think the solution is ‘special treatment’ such as the controversial menstrual leave that has been introduced in some organisations.
However, I think more acknowledgement of periods and how they affect individuals is really important – particularly in circumstances where your performance is being monitored. This doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for others (especially people who DO NOT get periods) to make comments about someone’s behaviour like ‘Are you coming on your period? You seem really angry…’. Inclusive design springs to mind as a solution for this issue. Making workplaces and education and environment where everyone can thrive. This includes when people get periods.
2. Silence = lack of education
By making any topic a taboo, you limit the opportunity for debate and discussion. Menstruation falls into this category. I remember being split up into ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ in primary school to be taught about tampons and pads. This was problematic for a number of reasons.
First of all, any divide based on the non-existent binary gender system is inaccurate and can trigger dysphoria. Secondly, people who don’t get periods should still be taught about them. How menstruation works, what to use, how to look after yourself, etc. Because even if you don’t get periods, you’ll definitely come across someone who does.
3. We need more gender inclusive period chat
All this talk of ‘Real women have periods’ and ‘Let’s talk about the time of the month, ladies’ is exclusive for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s not just women who get periods. Without going into the spectrum of genders, there are lots of people who do not identify as women, but who get periods. For example, non-binary individuals. When we talk about periods as a ‘women’s issue’, we can trigger dysphoria and exclude lots of people, despite menstruation being an issue that so many of us deal with. There are also people who identify as women, but who don’t get periods.
Another problem with making period chat gender exclusive, is that it inhibits conversations and debate. If we want to lift the stigma heavily weighing on this topic, we need to get people (regardless of identity) to talk openly about it. A simple solution to this problem is to always use inclusive language. Switch pronouns to ‘they’ and say ‘people’ instead of women. You should avoid making assumptions; often we humans surprise each other.
About the author
Molly Aldrich-Wincer is a Sussex-based business development advisor and blogger who is passionate about equality and inclusion. Her guest blog series is called Project Lunar: Periods & Politics. Its aim: to start a global gender inclusive discussion about menstruation and why it’s still a taboo topic. You can find her on Twitter via @maldrichwincer