One woman has made it her mission to end the stigma around menstruation.
We’ve all done it: hidden our tampons at the bottom of our basket in the supermarket. We’ve all felt the humiliation of dropping a sanitary towel out of our bag. We’ve all felt awkward knowing people in public toilets can hear us opening our hygiene products.
But it’s 2017. Why is this still happening?
Over half the population has to deal with periods, those dreaded few days every month where our hormones take on a life of their own. Our womb feels like it’s being chopped up from the inside, we have to clean or chuck out a pair of blood-stained underwear and we crave chocolate on a whole new level.
The shame, however, that comes with being on your period is by far the worst part of it all.
Bridget Hamilton runs a personal campaign to fight for an end to the stigma.
“Periods are still a topic we are told we should keep hushed about,” says the 25 year old. “I think even nowadays you find people buying items like towels and tampons along with a stack of other random items in the hope that the cashier won’t notice.”
Stella Creasy is a Labour politician that’s fighting the tampon tax. She’s argued that tampons aren’t a luxury product as some MPs have suggested. You’d think buying tampons is exactly the same as buying loo roll. But Bridget doesn’t like to draw a comparison between having a period and going to the toilet “because it gives an impression that periods harbour germs or are in some way harmful”.
However, she does explain the similarities.
“Although periods are a completely natural occurrence just like sweating or peeing/pooing, you’d be far more likely to ask your flatmate to pick up some deodorant or loo roll than menstrual care products for you. You need toilet paper, you need care products. But society treats them differently.”
“You’d be far more likely to ask your flatmate to pick up some deodorant or loo roll than menstrual care products”
She claims that “menstrual stigma is an enormous taboo around the world and although we are in a privileged position compared to many other nations, we still have a long way to go.”
It is worth noting that many countries still don’t have menstrual care products, and for that reason, we’re leaps and bounds ahead of parts of the world. However, “as near as one generation ago, women barely spoke about periods at all and there was little to no education around them,” Bridget says.
“My aunt told me their neighbours used to have to burn their sanitary pads on a shovel in the back garden. That’s less than 50 years ago! That sort of stigma and shame is ingrained and we’ve got to keep fighting to weed it out.”
Bridget explained what she’d like to see happen in order for the stigma to eventually be beaten.
“I would like to see supermarkets improving some of their signage around towels and tampons,” she says.
“I think the way we advertise the products themselves also needs to change. However, I think the catalyst will be education. If we can teach those who menstruate that it’s not shameful, it’s not dirty and it’s not taboo, then perhaps we’ll stay away from all the extra stuff, stride up to the supermarket counter with just our tampons in our hand and have done with it.”
What a refreshing thought. No shame. No embarrassment. Happier periods. Who knew education might be the missing link?
This article featured in issue 1 of Stand Up Magazine, which you can order here