By Julia Kemp
Shameful whispers to a friend, tampons tucked secretly in the pocket of my sweatshirt, code words to hide the truth of my stomach pains—I’ve dealt with the stigma behind periods for my entire post-pubescent life. Half of the students at Westmont experience periods, so why must we keep it a secret? Who are we hurting by revealing the very natural and common experience? I believe that periods should be openly talked about, and I believe that reinforcing the unspoken rule (keep your period a secret!) is harmful to everyone.
First of all, referring to menstruation in a hushed way perpetuates the idea that the female experience as a whole should not be discussed. Silencing women when it comes to menstruation leads to the erasure of a women’s voice in society; women are taught from the moment they reach puberty to stay silent about their pains and experiences. Whispers of “do you have a pad” and “it’s my time of the month” make girls feel as though they cannot speak openly about the things that they go through. Period stigma instills the idea that women do not have a voice, and that natural, normal experiences are wrong or dirty.
Not only are women told to be silent about their periods, but the idea of a period itself has turned into a joke or insult toward women. When a woman is angry, she must be PMSing. When she’s sad, it must be because it’s her time of the month. Attributing every female emotion to menstruation not only reinforces the stigma around periods but also invalidates the very real thoughts and feelings of women. Joking or insulting women about their periods leads to objectification and discrimination. Women become inferior beings whose emotions are only swayed by hormones or cramps rather than real anger or sadness.
In order to end the stigma behind periods, women should feel comfortable speaking openly about their experiences. It’s not her “time of the month,” she’s menstruating. It’s not “code red,” she bled through her pants. Also, schools, workplaces, and institutions should provide women with the resources they need during their period, and make sure that people who menstruate feel supported during the very regular and normal experience. Finally, women should not feel as though their emotions are blamed on hormones or the pain from their periods; female emotions are real, whether they are experiencing PMS or not. Periods are powerful. Periods are necessary. Periods should not be a secret.