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Do You Know Period Shaming Is Unique Bullying?

Period shaming is so common place in our everyday world that until now, we hardly question it.

Changing the world with women and girls Act!onaid

A quarter of UK women face period stigma as millions miss school, work and exercise.

Act!onaid

28 May 2022

Currently there are 1.8 billion women in the menstruating age range, making up 26% of the global population. Despite which we feel unable to talk about our menstruation, period cycle and openly handle feminine hygiene products without shame or fear of judgement.

Period shaming is a unique form of bullying that targets individuals on the basis of their menstrual cycle. It encompasses a range of negative attitudes, behaviours and practices that can make those who menstruate feel embarrassed, ashamed or discriminated against because of a natural biological process.

Who is Affected by Period Shaming?

Period shaming affects females, girls, women and individuals who menstruate, including non-binary and transgender individuals. It can impact people of all ages, but young individuals, especially those experiencing their first periods, may be particularly vulnerable due to lack of information and societal taboos surrounding menstruation.

The most vulnerable females are often those living in poverty or in countries where periods are heavily stigmatised. Not having access to menstrual products or education also makes you susceptible to period shaming. This in turn can lead to further health risks and socio-economic disadvantages.

ActionAid conducted a survey which revealed that more than 31% of women felt ashamed, anxious, or embarrassed when people have seen them taking period products to the toilet.

What is Period Shaming?

Period shaming is a unique form of bullying that targets females who menstruate. It is based on the idea that periods are unclean and taboo and that those who experience them should feel embarrassed or ashamed.

  • Negative comments from partners, family members, friends or peers about menstruation.
  • Feeling embarrassed or anxious about buying or carrying menstrual products.
  • Being ridiculed or isolated for having a period stain or needing to manage menstrual hygiene.
  • Using coded language or euphemisms to discuss menstruation, reinforcing the idea that it’s something to be hidden.
  • Feminine Hygiene Products marketed by using the message that menstruation is something dirty or shameful that needs to be hidden or masked.

It can take many forms, from subtle jokes to more overt teasing and even physical intimidation. It can also be found in the media, where people with periods are often portrayed in a negative light.

When Does Period Shaming Happen?

It often happens during moments that require managing menstrual hygiene, such as buying menstrual products, dealing with period stains or simply discussing menstruation.

Period shaming can also be used to control and oppress women, particularly in some cultures where periods are seen as a sign of weakness or inferiority.

Men and boys can also be victims of period shaming if they don’t conform to the traditionally masculine ideal.

Where Would Period Shaming Affect Me Physically & Mentally?

Period shaming can occur in various settings, including schools, workplaces, homes and public spaces.

It can have serious physical and psychological consequences leading to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It can also lead to a lack of access to menstrual products, leading to further health risks.

Period shaming contributes to a culture of silence and stigma. This has a detrimental effect on females feeling able to talk about their periods openly, as well as their overall sense of self-worth. This can further lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of support.

Here is an article by Livi a student, who has experienced shaming first hand.

Why Does Period Shaming Happen?

Period shaming is often rooted in cultural, religious and societal norms that view menstruation as unclean or taboo. Misinformation and lack of education about menstruation contribute to perpetuating these stigmas.

Period stigma isn’t just limited to the UK and is just as prevalent, if not more, in other countries across the globe – and not just the countries where period poverty is more of an issue.

Here is an overview of how some other countries look at menstrual health.

  • In India and Nepal, in some communities, you can’t sleep inside your own home if you are menstruating. For centuries, the Nepalese people practiced Chhaupadi, which is the ritual of banishment of menstruating women and girls – typically to a shed or courtyard away from the house.
  • Only 2% of women in China use tampons because of a widespread belief that using tampons would break the hymen, which has traditionally been thought to be a marker of virginity.
  • In Afghanistan, women are told that they cannot shower during their period or they will become sterile.
  • Whilst in Morocco and Bangladesh, women are forced to use tea towels, sheets, newspaper, pieces of mattress or even mud to manage their cycles.
  • 44% of French women and 57% of Americans feel period shame.

The first step to educating others about period shaming is to make sure they understand the issue and its effects. It’s essential that people are made aware of the psychological and physical effects of period shaming and that there is a greater understanding of the biological process of menstruation. This can help to break down the stigma associated with periods. This can be done through resources, campaigns and initiatives that focus on period education and encourage open discussion.

It’s important to focus on creating an environment where people feel comfortable talking about their periods without judgement.

Another important step is to ensure people have access to the menstrual products they need. This can be done through lobbying for free products in schools and workplaces, donating products to those living in poverty and raising awareness of the issue. It’s also important to remember that it’s not just about changing attitudes, but also taking practical steps to make sure people have access to the products they need.

Tips for Educating Others on Period Shaming

One of the quickest ways to remove the stigma associated with menstruation is to have open and honest conversations about it. 

We can generate a sense of harmony among people with periods by opening up about our bodies, how we feel during our periods and the obstacles we experience.

You may believe that what you experience during your period is unique to you, but if you open yourself up to discussing it with friends, family and your doctor, you will discover that you’re not alone.

Practical Tips & Tricks

When you first start your periods you will want to find the best products which are comfortable and suit your bleed. Pads and menstrual pants sit outside your body, cups and tampons inside.

If you like to swim you will need to use either a menstrual swimsuit, menstrual cup or tampon. Pads which fit inside your underwear can not be used for swimming.

Leaks happen when your product is full or it was not positioned correctly.

Use a night time product or a higher absorbency at bedtime. Make sure it is fitted well as you will move around while asleep.

General timeline for changing pads is 4 to 8 hours, this depends on the heaviness (how much you bleed), the type of pad and your comfort.

General timeline for changing tampons is 4 to 6 hours although you can safely leave a tampon inside you for up to 8 hours. When using tampons you must use the lowest absorbency for your flow.

General timeline for changing a menstrual cup is 12 hours.

General timeline for changing menstrual underwear is a day.

Leaks will happen, all through your life, they are unavoidable.

To wash blood from a fabric use COLD water as soon as possible. Good tip is to have a spare pair of underwear in your bag when you have your bleed.

Your body will be hotter, raised temperature due to hormones, when you have your period.

Help & Support

In the UK, organisations like Bloody Marvellous, ActionAid, Bloody Good Period, Girlguiding and the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) offer support and resources to combat period stigma and promote menstrual equity.

Internationally, Unicef, Days for Girls, Unicef India and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) work towards improving menstrual health and rights globally.

13 Menstrual Justice Organisations Working for Health Equity.

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