Project Period 2016 #whyhideit

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This article was first published on Facebook on 7th April as part of a year-long monthly series on periods with testimonials particularly about the act of hiding sanitary products.

Before I begin this post, I have to shout out to the (potential/hopeful) abolition of the so-called Tampon Tax in the UK: the 5% tax waged on sanitary products because they’re classed as ‘luxury items’.

Hiding ‘it’ isn’t just about having to keep your sanitary product of choice out of sight, it’s also hiding your period in general, or else couching the thing in vivid metaphor. Remember when in the nineties classic, Clueless, Cher tells her teacher: “I was riding the crimson wave, I had to haul ass to the ladies’ room” as a way of explaining her lateness? Hiding ‘it’ can mean being in agony but not wanting to tell your teacher or employer it’s because of your period. It’s asking your friend in hushed whisper whether she has a tampon or pad because mother nature has brought your monthly gift unexpectedly early. Blergh, more metaphor.
As I’ve got older I’ve become much more open about talking about my periods. I still, however, find myself saying “sorry if this is TMI” beforehand, as a disclaimer. Should I have to do so? Isn’t it other people’s problem if they’re grossed out by something as natural as menstruation?
Like many women and girls, I have various anecdotes about my periods. For example, I remember being in my first year of university and my female housemates coming into my room and asking why I was sitting on a towel on my bed. “Oh, I don’t want to stain my sheets”, I replied, as if that explained things. I used to only wear sanitary towels because that’s what my mum had done, but found that they didn’t offer enough protection. Shocked, they told me to try tampons – they would change my life(!), they said. Even though they came with a handy, Ikea-style instruction manual I was baffled at them, and it took a few days to get used to them. I suffered in uncomfortable silence because I was too embarrassed to say “I’m eighteen, and I don’t know how to use a tampon.” Once I got the hang of it it really did revolutionise things. You can SWIM in them. Not that I ever go swimming any more, but it’s nice to have the option. I am now confronted with a new and similar challenge of wanting to transition to the more environmentally friendly and cost effective Mooncup, and I am again confused as to how to use it. The countless online articles and YouTube videos on the subject reassure me that I’m not alone. I’m not the only woman who doesn’t have an affinity with her genitalia.
I could go on, but I’ll save that for another day. Thank you to Rachael Midlen and June Sun for inviting me to join this project where each month we open up about our experience of hiding our periods. #whyhideit?

*Photo credit to Rupi Kaur.

About the Author

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22-year-old grad student at Oxford University's Dept. International Development. Here you will find mini-essays/long articles on some of the issues I find most interesting at the moment.

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