I remember vividly one family holiday I had when I was about 8 years old. My family used to spend every summer in a beautiful city by the sea, in Argentina.
We usually went there with other families who were either relatives or friends of my parents with their children. Gee, I loved those summers! This city used to be really safe so as children, we were out by ourselves most of the time.
One day, I was out strolling on the beach with 2 of my older girl-friends. I was 8, so they must have been around 12 and 14 years old. Suddenly, the oldest girl started saying that we had to go back to the house immediately. IMMEDIATELY. I was shocked because that behaviour was so odd. Why would we go inside in such great weather?
Then, right when I was about to ask what was going on, I looked at her and saw that she had blood running down her legs. I couldn’t really figure out where the blood was coming from and I thought it was so weird that she wasn’t even looking at it, so I just asked: “why are you bleeding? Are you hurt?”
She seemed so embarrassed by my question. She started giggling and said, “hasn’t your mom explained to you what happens to women at the beginning of their teenage years?”
Her tone was so condescending that it made me think of some sort of secret I was obviously supposed to know about. I had no clue what she meant. So, though embarrassed, I was plain honest and said ‘no.’
After some more giggling, she noticed that embarrassment had shifted from her to me. I had no idea what was going on! She stopped her nervous laughter abruptly.
What was going on?
Patiently, she started describing what menstruation was. She didn’t use any funny word I wouldn’t be able to understand. She was extremely clear and graphic. I was amazed. ‘So, is that how we know we are ready to have a child? Is that how we go from girls to women?’
Once we got to the house, I ran to tell my mom what an educational stroll I’d had. My mom was chatting with some other grown-ups. I went straight to her, filled with excitement, and burst out: “mom! Jess is menstruating! She told me all about it, and now I know what that means!”
Everybody stared at me. Men were looking at women, puzzled. Women were looking at me, blushing, as if I had said something forbidden.
My mom took me to the other room and tenderly explained that I wasn’t supposed to bring up menstruation in front of others— let alone men. She answered all my questions about it, but she made her point over and over again: periods were women’s stuff, and I wasn’t supposed to talk about them so ‘freely’.
Since then, I’ve been wondering about menstruation.
What’s all this secrecy about?
As I grew up, I tried to do my own research. To my surprise, not much had changed.
For example, in school, they teach you about the biological process going on in your body. They tell you that your period comes every 28 days and that’s all. They don’t teach you about pads, tampons or any other alternative.
If you think about it, we discover menstrual products mainly from advertising. And advertisers, (as we’ve learnt from ‘Mad Men’) are mostly men. So, following my mom’s advice from before, why should they “teach” us about menstruation if they can’t even mention it? Why would men be in charge of something they know little to nothing about?
I’m not trying to show my true feminist colours here. I’m just wondering. Probably you, my dear female reader, have wondered about all this too.
Have you ever felt identified with some commercial telling you that your period is blue? Or that while menstruating, you should feel as good as ever; or that you can wear white pants? No woman in the history of humanity has had blue blood; has felt perfect, or has wanted to wear white pants during her period.
What we DO want and need is menstrual education. One that explains real issues in a way that we can all understand. Kind of what my friend Jess did all those years ago.
I wish she’d told me that menstruation doesn’t mean going from being a girl to being a woman. How can you be a woman when you’re 12?
I wish someone had told me that excruciating menstrual pain is NOT normal. How can it be normal to feel your guts are about to explode?
I wish I knew then and there about the menstrual cup, such a fantastic and environmental-friendly product that helped me see my menstrual blood just as it is.
However, there’s still hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Like Lara Briden says at the beginning of her book, Period Repair Manual, “Something BIG is happening in period health.”
We have woken up to learn so much about our menstrual cycles in the last few years. Even Disney is talking about periods now!
Things are finally changing. It was about time.
Hi there! I’m Ariadna, from ariadnatranslations.com
I’m here to share some thoughts and ideas about language, women/feminism, health and wellbeing, among other interesting topics. If you liked what you read above, I invite you to comment and share in your social media.