Period Shame

Communication Studies major Autumn Bowman sitting on campus
This article is part of a running series with Rowan University’s Healthy Campus Initiatives. This collaboration aims to educate students about personal well-being options. For further updates, follow @RowanHCI on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Meet Autumn Bowman, senior Communication Studies major, who Autumn Bowman sits outside of Bunce Hall.wrote this article to start a health discussion.

She shares: “There are a lot of topics that we avoid talking about because of stigma, and stigma breeds secrecy. Stigmas can only be broken by creating open spaces for communication. As someone who studies communication, I think creating open spaces for sexual and reproductive health can help explore these health topics in a more open and honest way.”

“You’re becoming a woman.” As wonderful as this sounds, this is the first introduction to period shame young people with uteruses experience. Even in America, a more period-tolerant country, our language surrounding periods barely ever includes the word ‘period’, or —God forbid — ‘blood.’ Advertisements for period products had never even shown blood on their products until 2011 and even now, even mentioning periods can get met with a groan of disgust, or an accusation of oversharing. But why are they so taboo? 

Period shame is the social stigma surrounding menstruation created by  misconceptions and misunderstandings. One study conducted with backing from THINX, a menstrual product company, concluded that its effects have an incredible reach. For example, the research survey showed that 58% of women have felt embarrassed simply for being on their period and 44% refer to their period by different, ‘more palatable’ names. By being made to feel ashamed, people with uteruses are less likely to have fact seeking behaviors surrounding their period. And, since not many people speak freely about them it can be hard, especially for young people, to get real information about what is happening with their bodies. 

Later in life, these same people continue to experience ridicule over their periods. Almost half, 44%, of men have admitted to making comments about their partner’s mood while they were on their period. These stereotypes reinforce a need to keep periods a secret. However, periods also come with a lot of pain — which is expected to be masked by those enduring it. If it isn’t spoken about and it’s supposed to be a secret when it’s happening, how can it be fully understood and accepted as a healthy and normal? 

In a society where people with uteruses make up half of the population, it doesn’t quite make sense why something the vast majority experience is seen as something to be ashamed of. There is no reason to be ashamed of a healthy body performing its natural functions. Without periods and uteruses, humankind would not exist. Conversations had about periods are not inappropriate — they are vital to providing factual, empowering information, to counteract the societal shame we have instilled in people with uteruses. 

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Story by:
Autumn Bowman, senior communications studies major

Photography by:
Alyssa Bauer, senior public relations major

Reference

Siebert, V. (2018). Nearly half of women have experienced ‘period shaming’ . Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2018/01/03/nearly-half-of-women-have-experienced-period-shaming/

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