Cosmopolitan recently published an article called 7 Reasons to Stop Your Period. To be honest, my initial reaction was one of anger and frustration. We hear so often through social media, popular culture or even conversations with other women how periods suck. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, it has become the dominant opinion.
Despite my initial reaction, after reading this article, there are two points I absolutely understand and agree with: 1) that menstruation might not fit with your gender identity; 2) you just don’t want to get your period. Those are valid points, and I support every single person’s right to choose what is best for their body. My concern comes in, however, when we don’t have enough period-positivity to counteract the period-negativity. Without it, how we feel about our periods can become choice by default.
Take, for example, the instance of a premenarchal girl who is interested in learning about what her period will be like. She begins to pay special attention to conversations her mother or sister have about their periods, how periods are portrayed in the media, in movies or on TV, and she may even turn to the internet to Google some questions. What if all she hears about periods is that they suck? What if she stumbles across this Cosmo article and reads that periods can get in the way of your athletic performance? Or that they are messy, painful or expensive (points 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the article)?
The influence of period-negative rhetoric on a young girl can be vast. Particularly because girls who have never had a period have no experience upon which to compare the information they are being exposed to. If we tell young girls that periods suck they are more likely to view their experience of menstruation through a negative lens. And if we constantly tell girls that their periods are going to hurt they are at increased risk of interpreting their periods as painful.
We need to start paying close attention to how we talk about periods. The framework we use can be very suggestive for a lot of women and girls and we risk perpetuating menstrual stigma and stereotypes.
Most importantly, we must begin to combat the overwhelmingly negative rhetoric that surrounds menstruation. (This also applies to young boys—more on that in another post, soon.)
In research I conducted for my thesis (an examination of the reliability, relatability and rhetoric of menstrual health websites in relation to the needs of premenarchal girls), I analyzed nearly 50 of the top website results that discuss menstrual health. Of those 50 websites, only two, let me repeat, two websites used any form of period-positive language. That is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to us all.
My intention here is not to convince every person who has a period that they should love it. I have no expectation that people are going to be celebrating or shouting how much their periods rock from the rooftops, and I have no desire to demonize those who choose to suppress their periods, I merely intend to make the conversation more inclusive of a period-positive perspective. With that being said, here are seven reasons to keep your period:
• It’s a monthly reminder that you’re not pregnant
• It can make you more intuitive and creative
• It is a window into your health
• It can be relieving, an emotional detox
• It can increase sexual pleasure
• It can help you feel in touch with your womanhood
• It’s a badass reminder that you can create life
This list can be a lot longer. Join us in creating a more period-positive world by sharing your thoughts on why we should keep our periods: #PeriodsDontSuck
Amy Sutherland is a period-positive advocate and graduate student at the University of Minnesota where she is currently researching and writing her thesis on how menstrual stereotypes and stigmas affect health outcomes in women and girls. Read her full bio here.