This is the sixth installment in our Period Series. This series aims to help teens understand the changes that they're going through without feeling ashamed. We'll try to dispel all the myths that your teen may read or hear and help them better understand that menstruation affects everyone and is a natural part of growing up.
- Dear tween me, let’s talk about your period, sweetie
- INFOGRAPHIC: Which menstruation product is the best for you?
- 10 myths about periods that you may still believe
- Bloody hell! That's not fair!
- First period celebrations and not-so-celebrations
More and more people are starting to change the conversation surrounding menstruation. In recent years, there has been a rise in sanitary pad drives, organic menstruation products and protests about pink tax. We celebrate the people who are making these open conversations possible:
Zizipho Ntobongwana: organic sanware entrepreneur
This 23-year-old owns an organic sanitary pad and tampon business called Sheba Feminine. The idea came to her while she was studying at UCT and she began to think about the chemicals used in menstruation products. Ntobongwana knew she had to do something about eliminating these harmful chemicals and began doing some research.
In an interview with Destiny Magazine she discussed how she wanted her brand to "represent the genuine lived experience of a menstruator." Her company operates from Cape Town but she is working hard to get her products in more mainstream stores to give more menstruators the option of using safe products.
Cass Clemer: transactivist
Cass Clemer is a transactivist who is dispelling the notion that periods are only for women. This is obviously not true, as transmen, gender non-conforming and/or intersex people also menstruate. Cass has been very brave sharing their story with the world, as they have received death threats on various social media platforms for the work they do. They have also published a colouring book that follows Toni the Tampon (a gender-neutral character) and their friends as they educate people about menstruation and gender and the stigmas around them. Toni wants people to shift the conversation about periods so it's more inclusive.
Also read: What is intersex?
21st Century Women: movie spelling it out
The 2017 film written by Mike Mills follows the life of a teenage boy, Jamie, and the women in his life: his mother, his best friend and the tenant that lives in his mother's house. In one particular scene, Abby, a character played by Greta Gerwig, is sitting grumpily at a dinner party because she's menstruating. When asked if she has to tell everyone about her cycle, she describes her period as 'emotionally transformative'.
Kiran Gandhi: free-flower
If you're a fan or familiar with M.I.A, then Kiran Gandhi is not new to you – she's M.I.A's drummer and ran the London Marathon while she was on her period, without a tampon. She got her period the morning of the marathon but still wanted to compete. She didn't want to be inconvenienced by stopping to change her tampon during the marathon so she opted to free flow. In an interview with Dazed, she said it was absurd and oppressive that she should compromise her wellbeing just so that other people didn't feel grossed out.
Also read: Boobs, body hair and bravery
Sawyer DeVuyst: transmodel
Sawyer is the first transmodel to be featured in an ad campaign about menstruation. THINX is a company that makes period underwear for people with periods. Sawyer talks about his experience with periods while he was transitioning in a short film for the campaign.
He said, "I didn't start hormones at all until I was 27 or 28. So that leaves me with five-ish years of identifying as a man but also getting my period. I would wear multiple pairs of underwear with a pair of boxers on top of that just to make sure that I didn't leak anywhere or that no-one one knew that I had my period." He models for the company because he wants to give a face to the topic of menstruation in the trans community and for it to no longer be shameful.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf: activist
This American lawyer brought attention to menstruating homeless people, girls in developing countries and inmates who do not have access to menstruation products. She wrote a book about pink tax called, Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equality. She writes, "In order to have a fully equitable and participatory society, we must have laws and policies that ensure menstrual products are safe and affordable and available to those who need them". She's a strong figure in the movement that aims to normalise menstruation and she's not about to slow down any time soon.
Also read: How to speak to your son about puberty
For sticking with the Period Series. I hope that you have learned to appreciate what your body can do. Periods can suck, I won't argue with you there, but these's a beauty about what the uterus can do as well. From the mood swings and cravings to cramps... you're a champion for going through that even month. Don't be embarrassed about your period, learn to talk freely about it with your friends and family members and continue to dispell the myths about menstruation.
How will you continue to be a period warrior after the Period Series? Send us your stories and comments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish them. Do let us know if you're like to remain anonymous.
Sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive Parent24 stories directly to your inbox.