The Period Stigma
Every month since the beginning of time as we know it, women have been living through their menstrual cycles. In our modern western world today, "The Period" (as the menstrual cycle is commonly called) is still despised, snickered at, and the butt of silly jokes told by both men and women.
It seems that any function performed by the female body is inevitably under intense scrutiny, and up for grabs to be molded into any caricature by just about anyone on the internet. A woman's menstrual cycle is no exception.
Women themselves have come a long way over the last several decades. Unfortunately, the discussion over their menstrual cycles has not.
"...Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, and South Korea have legislation in place where a woman can actually take paid or unpaid leave from work due to her menstrual cycle."
If you were born a female, usually between the ages of 12 and 15 - sometimes much earlier - you will get your period. The menstrual cycle is a normal, natural, event that happens in a woman's uterus and ovaries that make pregnancy possible.
The menstrual cycle is necessary so that ovaries can be produced and the uterus primed for pregnancy. In other words, the not-so-glamorous but amazing life-cycle.
Certain places in Asia, including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, and South Korea have legislation in place where a woman can actually take paid or unpaid leave from work due to her menstrual cycle.
Why? Because the menstrual cycle that occurs in the female body is full of complexities, and in some women, it can significantly affect their mood (sadness, depression), body (cramps), diet (intense food cravings), and lifestyle (more cramps) for several days out of the month. A period can be pretty uncomfortable at times.
Many women experience debilitating migraines due to their periods, whether it's several days before, during, and also at the end of their cycle. Cramps are another unwelcome side effect of a woman's period. Some women have cramps that are so nauseatingly awful that prescription medicine is prescribed.
All of these lovely experiences are gifts from our hormones - specifically rising levels of estrogen during a woman's period. PMS or Premenstrual syndrome is a condition where a woman experiences mood swings, cramping, bloating, and food cravings well before her actual period, sometimes an entire week prior. Some women experience PMS more intensely than others.
That being said, most women learn to deal with all of these factors early in their teenage years. It's a way of life that occurs every single month for a woman until her 40's or 50's. For many girls and women, there is really only 1 to 2 weeks out of the month where they are free from the havoc that hormones cause in their lives and bodies.
"...even still, after all this time and evolution, large amounts of men and women are disgusted, misinformed, and just plain spiteful towards this vital component to the human life-cycle."
And this is not a period pity party. The threshold for pain in women is heightened early on in life due to the menstrual cycle. Having your period is no joke.
Women handle it because there's no choice, but even still, after all this time and evolution, large amounts of men and women are disgusted, misinformed, and just plain spiteful towards this vital component to the human life-cycle.
Attitudes like this tend to flow through the generations. If no woman or man in your family talked to you or educated you about your period - or even worse if it was treated as a disgusting curse by other family members - then it's substantially more difficult to become at peace with this inevitable companion.
"In a society where absolutely everything ends up being politicized, the menstrual cycle is bonafide celebrity."
The Political Period.
In a society where absolutely everything ends up being politicized, the menstrual cycle is a bonafide celebrity. In the political world, we may think of elections, campaigns, and very important issues.
But somehow the inner workings of a woman's body make their way into the news and political headlines more than the issues you would think we'd care about, such as hunger, homelessness, war, and climate change.
It seems that for many talking heads and politicians out there, the period is not off limits and apparently quite relevant to politics - at least for Republicans. Everyone from Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly, - and of course - Donald Trump has put their 2 cents in on how women in the workforce, military, and in politics are affected by their menstrual cycles.
“Females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections, and they don’t have upper body strength.” — Newt Gingrich
Of course, there have been many jokes about a theoretical woman president having her period and going nuclear.
Yes, it's funny, because many of us do suffer from terrible mood swings during our cycles.
But that's not to say we become irrational or homicidal, willing to go to war with anyone over our hormones.
There can be a variety of circumstances that affect a man's mood as well - including any given President of the United States - such as depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, adultery, abuse of power, mental illness, physical illness, and so on.
I'm sure there must be at least one president who has suffered from any one or more of these conditions that could have affected a large portion of the decision-making process inside the White House. After all, we're all human.
The Money-Maker Period
The feminine hygiene industry is worth approximately 15 billion dollars.
Individual women are spending at approximately $100 to $200 a year on tampons and pads in order to prevent embarrassing leaks.
The average woman will use over 11,000 tampons in her lifetime.
The official Tampax tampon was introduced and patented in the 1930's, although women in many different cultures throughout history were making their own tampons in order to control leakage hundreds of years before that.
This includes evidence of Egyptian women using papyrus tampons in the fifteenth century, as well as Roman women, who concocted their own tampons from wool.
There has also been recent controversy surrounding women's opinions about feminine hygiene products being taxed by the government. This is an issue that is also relevant not just in the U.S, but in other countries around the world. Many women feel they should not have to pay taxes on a product that simply prevents them from bleeding in any given space.
Since tampons and pads were introduced, there has not been a huge update for women with a better way to manage their menstrual flow. Until now. We are starting to see a fresh openness in the discussion about women's periods as of late, as well as some new inventions. Many of the newest ideas are coming from women themselves.
In 1937, a woman named Leona Chambers patented the first usable, commercial cup.
Menstrual cups have been available since this time, and in the beginning, were primarily made of rubber, and then later, silicone.
Now, menstrual cups are made from medical silicone, because it's hypoallergenic. Cups today are reusable and some can last for 5 years or longer.
Many women are unaware of the menstrual cup simply because there's not much of a market for something that can be used over and over again for years, as opposed to a product that has to be purchased every few weeks.
The menstrual cup is available in many different sizes and forms and due to its reusable nature, it also cuts back on waste. This product is finally starting to gain great word of mouth among women.
"Many women are unaware of the menstrual cup simply because there's not much of a market for something that can be used over and over again for years, as opposed to a product that has to be purchased every few weeks."
Entrepreneur Miki Agrawal is a woman with a unique idea that she's marketing for women on their periods. It's called "THINX," and it's a brand of women's underwear that looks great on and also works like a pad able to potentially absorb a quantity equal to what 2 tampons would take in.
"THINX" also promises for the wearer to feel dry and not weighed down by the underwear.
This product could also help to reduce landfill waste, as there are about 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons dumped into U.S landfills each year, per The National Women's Health Network.
The "THINX" panties come in 3 lace-trimmed styles and the price ranges between $24 and $34 while advertising leak-resistance, stain-resistance, and a reusable lifespan of about 2 years.
The End. Period.
Every woman has a nickname for her period or a certain way in which she refers to it, but it's never a positive thing unless you have a pregnancy scare and you don't want to be pregnant. The bottom line is, every woman gets her period every month, more or less. and that's something half of the world population has in common.
Surely we can come up with some better terms, products, and ways of respecting this event that happens in a woman's body in order for her to reproduce. There are definitely some waves being made that appear to be progressive, but there is certainly a long way to go.
I think women can all agree that there's probably never going to be a "happy period," but there's going to be one indefinitely until menopause kicks in. Let's treat this constant companion with a little more reverence, shall we?
“There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” -- President Donald Trump referring to Megyn Kelly asking him difficult questions during the Presidential debate
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© 2015 Michelle Zunter