I’m not going to use code words such as “ride the cotton pony” or “Aunt Flo is visiting”. Where there is hiding there is shame, so I am going to be open and normalise this.
Australians have started a menstrual revolution. Yep, this is no longer secret women’s business: No secrets, no shame, no taboos or myths. Let’s get this discussion out in the open… Menstruation is for everyone. All genders. No more hiding. No more stealth ninja missions either to conceal a tampon and hand it to a workmate who has been surprised by a rogue code red.
When we first brought silicone menstrual cups to Australia in 2007, the vast majority of the population had no idea what they were.
We started doing health and wellbeing expos to start educating and raising awareness. Some people were brave enough to ask what cups were about. Once we told them and explained, many looked pained and embarrassed and walked off saying, “No thanks, not for me”.
The idea of a cup, seeing your blood, or re-using something, would shock and repulse a lot of people. It was seen as something vulgar and disgusting. And to talk about it in public and to strangers? What on earth were we thinking?
Although portrayed as fun-loving larrikins, many Australians are traditionally very conservative.
Talking about periods, menstrual hygiene products and ways in which we can manage our cycles is still seen as “secret women’s business”. So secret in fact, that women don’t really talk about it.
It’s a shameful, private burden.
Who remembers TV advertisements of women in tight white pants and blue liquid on sanitary pads, and the males in your room squirming uncomfortably?
Who remembers their mothers smuggling you reading material when you reached ‘that age’ along with a paper bag containing disposable pads and clean undies “just in case” to save the embarrassment of discussing something as mortifying as periods?
Or the secret whispering from mothers, “I’m doing the shopping, do you need anything for the bathroom cupboard?”
So, it has unintentionally been passed down to us over generations to be ashamed to have ‘that time of the month’. Over time we have subconsciously passed on the notion of period shaming and allowed it to dis-empower us.
Luckily for us, times are changing at an increasingly rapid rate. Fast forward 11 years. Many people have now heard about menstrual cups and other sustainable options for period hygiene – and are excited, passionate and happy to talk about it! We are finally accepting that menstruation is normal – and that we all need to learn how to manage it.
Many of those people who were, at first, repulsed by the idea of a menstrual cup have now come around to the idea and taken the “life-changing” plunge.
They’ve even started spreading the word to their family members and circle of friends. We are having conversations about our own ‘wow’ moment about the switch to a menstrual cup: whether it is: convenience, the financial savings, health benefits, or environmental sustainability.
We have discovered that there are choices, and that we are allowed to make decisions.
A genius man is suggesting we glue our vaginas shut to solve the whole ‘period problem’. Let’s just say it didn’t go down too well with the Mamamia Out Loud team. Post continues after audio.
We have realised that if six million Australian women menstruate every month, and produce on average a shopping bag full of plastic rubbish per cycle that can take up to 500 years to breakdown in landfill, then our current methods of menstrual hygiene are not sustainable.
We are realising that to spend money every month on unsustainable products is money wasted, and that the bleaches, dioxins and fibres that go into our bodies monthly are not necessary and potentially harmful.
We have realised this by talking, researching, losing the period shame and releasing the power within, that was always there but now more strong and confident.
We have the self-esteem to consider what is the best option for our bodies and the self-confidence to make an informed decision to try a sustainable hygiene option.
We are open to educating ourselves about our anatomy and physiology, so that we can find products that are healthiest for us.
We are proactive enough to use our periods to halt the damage to our environment by using all-cotton disposable, reusable cloth pads, period underwear and menstrual cups.
Education about sustainable menstrual hygiene options is starting to happen in schools. In co-educational classes. Those who don’t menstruate are able to finally understand and empathise with those who do menstruate.
Finally, after decades of conditioning to secrecy, shame, menstrual hygiene in Australia is changing. The shame has gone.
Periods are becoming what they always have been: normal. A normal part of life. So, join the revolution. For your own sake.
What are were doing wrong and how can we change it.
Instead of phrases like “Aunt Flo is visiting” or “ride the Cotton pony,” we should remember that periods are a normal bodily function, we should treat them as such “Menstrual or Period Hygiene”
Make it common-place.
While menstruation used to seem secretive or a mystery, implying that they are gross or unhygienic makes them something to be ashamed. Instead keep it positive and start with talking about periods at an early age and use the correct terminology.
Disbanding the ‘gross factor.’
Periods things aren’t a medical emergency and sanitary items don’t have to be bleached white, plastic-wrapped, single-use or hidden away. It’s not an emergency, there will be blood, consider re-usable options.
The environmental impact.
Environmental catastrophe- 500 years in landfill, whereas all all-cotton disposables break down within five years and menstrual cups, period underwear and pads last for years and leave little or no carbon footprint.
This episode of Mamamia Out Loud: Everyone Has A Get Off Scream, Mia, Rachel and Jessie talk about the viral sex column about masturbating after sex, Swedish death cleaning and just not being a morning person. It’s a thing.