Women have been ‘surfing the crimson tide’ long enough

We need to talk openly about menstrual health

Once a month, I find the best way to spend the minute break between my classes is frantically searching through my bag for a tampon that isn’t there. 

As I rush into class 15 minutes late, the cherry on top is that explaining the reason behind my delinquency is completely out of the question.

But I doubt I’m the only student who feels like “Aunt Flow” visits at the most inconvenient times. And the worst part is, we’re shamed for talking about it.

Being unable to talk openly about such an integral and regular part of women’s health simply acts as an extra hurdle to scale. 

Women can’t help that they menstruate. Getting a period should not be something that is held against women at work, school or even in the White House (I’m looking at you President Trump). But even in otherwise progressive societies, it still is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfectly period-positive. When I’m reaching into my purse for my phone and accidentally throw a tampon onto the floor I’m just as embarrassed as the next girl. But if we all try to be more accepting of the various aspects of femininity, we can start to change the world’s depiction of female health for good. 

The period was historically and culturally viewed as a curse bestowed upon women in many cultures. In some of the more extreme cases, women underwent degrading rituals associating shame with menstruation. 

Disheartening practices of this nature are still implemented in some parts of the world today. 

Even in the U.S., period shaming is ingrained in our culture. 

We raise women to believe their “lady problems” should be kept quiet, especially when around men. This rhetoric is repeated by mothers, teachers and even doctors. 

Most women will spend ten whole years of their lives menstruating, but the vast majority still find it hard to publicly acknowledge that their period exists.

In the height of the feminist movement, women were advocating for being treated exactly the same as men, which at the time meant not recognizing aspects of being a woman that are unique to being a female. Advertisements for pads and tampons started to reflect the idea that the only way women would ever be treated equally was if their period ceased to exist.

Some advertisements still reflect this idea. 

Always-brand menstrual products markets a “sport” line with products that claim to make it possible for women to be just as active on their period as they are off. While this frame of mindset isn’t inherently bad, it still makes it seem like having a menstrual cycle is something abnormal that needs to be patched up and forgotten about. 

Our blatant refusal to acknowledge a natural part of the reproductive cycle causes women to feel an unpreventable part of their life is something bad. 

Thinx period-proof underwear came out with a commercial recently that contrasts the typical depiction of periods. The ad comically shows what it would be like if men also had menstrual cycles and states “if we all had them maybe we would be comfortable with them.” 

Most major network television channels refused to run the ad until it was edited to be more “appropriate.” CBS originally banned the ad altogether because it claimed the content was “too graphic.” 

It’s great that some menstrual product distributors are trying to be more period-positive but the media’s general disgust at Thinx’s commercial only proves how much further we still have to go. 

Women all over the world lack access to proper menstrual products and many times don’t even have the right to talk about this major dilemma.

According to Cora. a menstrual product company, there are 25 million women in the U.S. alone who live in poverty and are unable to purchase female sanitary products with food stamps. This doesn’t account for women in developing nations who have even less access to proper care.

UB’s recent addition of free pads and tampons in select bathrooms puts it a step ahead of most other public places when it comes to female health, but this is only a start. 

It’s time for everyone to start talking about menstruation without disgust and shame, so we can dismantle the roadblocks in the way of proper female health care in our country and around the world.

Because menstruation is not an option, period. 

Opinion desk can be reached at opinion@ubspectrum.com.