Results from a recent global survey conducted by feminine hygiene brand Libresse seems to confirm the unfortunate - menstruation is still a taboo topic and a large majority of individuals who menstruate still feel that there is a lot of shame attached to being on your period.
The survey sample, which included over 10 000 men and women aged 13 to 50 from France, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, China, Malaysia and South Africa revealed the following rather astounding findings:
"More than half (52%) of women in the workplace would rather ask their boss for a pay rise than admit they are having their period in the office. The same number of parents would rather talk about sex to their daughters than periods.
"Horrifyingly, 56% of teens said that they would rather get bullied at school than talk about their periods with their parents. The survey suggests that women and girls still feel self-conscious and ashamed of menstruation, even to the point of feeling uncomfortable when purchasing tampons or pads."
These results are perhaps shocking to us because we make up a small percentage of people who are active on social media platforms such as Twitter, where menstruation is spoken about so openly and regularly.
am i bleeding though my tampon or did I just pee on the string : a series— Meghan Rienks (@MeghanRienks) December 11, 2018
However, offline the period stigma is still very much alive. It's time we ushered in a new wave of embracing the inevitable monthly and that involves actually speaking about it.
Libresse brand manager Mpho Nojiwa is of the opinion that compared to the European countries surveyed, South Africans are "way ahead of them in terms of educating our girls on menstruation and talking openly about periods and vaginal health with women of all ages."
Evidence of this can be seen in an example as small as how menstruators approach the feminine hygiene aisle without trying to bury their packet of sanitary pads or tampons under the rest of their shopping items.
I no longer feel any shame while cruising down an aisle to pick up my monthly stash of pantyliners, tampons and washes (I don’t use soap but I find that a bottle of Nature Fresh intimate cleanser works for me).
But it's only recently that I have stopped feeling mortified whenever I have leaked onto my bedding. For years I would wake up every couple of hours to make sure that didn’t happen.
I remember seeing photos and reading about Kiran Gandhi running the London marathon in 2015 while she bled freely. Earlier in 2017 in the U.S., Steph Gongora posted a video during her period when her flow was strong and she experienced a leak while filming a yoga practice. I applauded their courage to de-stigmatise menstruation. And there are many ways that ‘menstruators’ are shamed.
READ MORE: Poll – women will abuse menstrual sick leave
In South Africa Zizipho Ntobongwana (a young entrepreneur who has launched a new organic sanitaryware range) talks about menstruators because not only women get their periods – so do people who identify as non-binary and trans men and it’s important to be more inclusive.
Talking about new ways of describing things, I think it’s time we came up with an alternate description than sanitary ware or feminine hygiene products, which reinforces the idea that periods are supposedly dirty.
It's problematic that menstrual blood is considered dirty and women are excluded from cultural and religious spaces or traditions during their flow. So in order to start changing those mindsets, Zizipho is asking women to share, online, stories about their first period or most embarrassing one.
Using the hashtag #ownthemoment, she hopes to break barriers and for everyone to feel more comfortable talking about the topic.
READ MORE: Mind the p word during Ramadan
She’s not just concerned about the social impact of menstruation, but also wants to drive a conversation around environmental and body consciousness. Her tampons, pads and pantyliners are all made of 100% organic cotton and are biodegradable. They are sourced and made in Europe though. How much thought have you put into what you use every month and where this waste goes?
These are just some of the questions some of us who are fortunate enough to be able to afford products every month can ask.
Zizipho also wants to change the way we experience menstruation. You can buy her products (prices range from R55 – R74 and a tote bag that costs R190) online and they’re available in Cape Town and will be in Joburg shortly and there’s no delivery charge. She hopes that one day our government will remove taxes and demand companies put ingredient labels on these products.
Another recently launched company also wants to change the way we approach our periods and life in general. They’ve started Feel Good & Co, which aims to give South Africans products that not just make them feel, but also encourages them to do good too.
They’ve chosen Modibodi, which is a range of underwear that says that it’s leak- and sweatproof (can absorb levels of up to two tampons) and replaces tampons, pads and pantyliners. It also caters for women of all shapes, sizes and ages.
Feel Good & Co promises to donate a pack of pads for every five pairs of underwear you buy from Modibodi to an organisation called Jabula Dames. They collect and give out sanitary pads to those in need.
View this post on Instagram
I am a woman, therefore, I bleed. . It's messy, it's painful, it's terrible, & it's beautiful. . And yet, you wouldn't know. Because I hide it. . I bury things at the bottom of the trash. I breathe, ragged and awkward through the cramps, all the while holding onto this tight lipped, painted on smile. . Tampons? Shhh. We don't say those words out loud. Hide them. In the back pocket of your purse, in the corner of the bathroom drawer, at the very bottom of your shopping cart (please let me get a female cashier). . Events or engagements get missed. I'll tell myself it’s the PMS, sure, but it has more to with the risk of being "caught," at what...I'm not quite sure. . And I’m lucky. . Over 100 million young women around the globe miss school or work for lack of adequate menstrual supplies, & fear of what might happen if the world witnesses A NATURAL BODILY FUNCTION. . WHY? . Because hundreds of years of culture have made us embarrassed to bleed. Have left us feeling dirty and ashamed. . STOP PRETENDING. Stop using silly pet names like Aunt Flo because you're too afraid to say "I'm bleeding" or "vagina." Stop wasting so much effort hiding the very thing that gives this species continuity. . START talking about it. Educate your daughters. Make them understand that it can be both an inconvenience and a gift, but NEVER something to be ashamed about. Educate your sons so they don't recoil from the word tampon. So when a girl bleeds through her khaki shorts in third period (pun intended), they don't perpetuate the cycle of shame and intolerance. . This #StartSomethingSunday , I want to highlight @corawomen . . Cora Women is a 100% Organic tampon company. . But that’s not all. They are also breaking barriers. Making it ok to talk about periods, even on social media. Providing personalized, delivered tampon/pad orders right to your door. AND for every box purchased, donating a box of sustainable pads to girls who can't afford menstruation products. . Fuck yeah. That's the kind of stuff I can galvanize behind, NO money OR product needed. Just a mission I support on a topic we should ALL be talking about. . THIS IS JUST A LEAK, NOT FREE BLEEDING ???
Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.