It is a fact of life that most women menstruate at some point in their life. In general, women who are of child-bearing age experience a menstrual cycle which concludes with the flow of blood out of the body. This is sometimes accompanied with heavy cramps and other unpleasant side effects. Unpleasant for the woman experiencing them, I mean.
Menstruation is natural
Menstruation is completely natural.Yet it still seems taboo to talk about anything remotely connected to menstruation. We don’t advertise the fact that we have our period. Instead, most women hide their feminine hygiene products, double bagging them when they buy them and shoving them in the bottom of the closet at home. We definitely don’t tell our bosses that we experience heavy cramps due to our period.
A year ago I had a hysterectomy in a last attempt to combat endometriosis and adenomyosis. Before my surgery I always experienced horrible cramps, and not only during my period. Towards the end it was so bad that I needed heavy painkillers almost every day. I had to talk to my boss about it, as the painkillers and cramps affected my work. I remember well the look of horror on his face when I explained what was going on, which made me feel very awkward and a bit embarrassed. But why is it embarrassing to have a health issue?
When I had my hysterectomy I decided to be very open about it. Precisely because I had felt embarrassed during my meeting with my boss. I wanted to show other women in the company that these things are nothing to be embarrassed about. This led to some interesting discussions, but on the whole the reactions I had were positive. Even some of the men I spoke to didn’t really blanch, which I thought was great.
Shunning menstruation is misogyny
Making women feel ashamed of something that is very natural to them is a form of misogyny. For most women, menstruation is part of who they are. Part of being a woman, and not something you have (much) control over. Unless you want to insert an IUD (or get a hysterectomy) there isn’t much a woman can do to stop menstruating. Wouldn’t it be far better to just accept this and normalise something that is already natural?
Imagine if we did. Imagine we talked about menstruation the same way we do about having a cold, or blowing your nose. Asking someone ‘Do you by any chance have a tissue for me’ shouldn’t be any different than asking ‘Do you have a tampon/pad for me?’ Saying ‘My menstrual cramps are very bad’ shouldn’t be any different from saying ‘My nose is clogged up due to my cold’.
Normalising menstruation would also help the medical profession take problems with menstruation seriously. I have shared before how much difficulty I had finding a doctor who took my horrible menstrual cramps seriously – it took me almost 20 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis. That is absolutely unnecessary, but as long as talking about menstruation is taboo, treating it as something shameful and dirty, it will be difficult to change the medical profession as well.