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'My period is my blood - not a political statement'.

The reason for the Newsweek cover story about period shaming is admirable. Dropping the stigma around periods, and effectively ‘owning’ our own menstruation will help highlight persistent gender inequalities and bring to (rose tinted) light some pressing, very real, women’s rights issues.

The thing is. I don’t know if ‘dropping the stigma’ around periods is best achieved by running a tampon on the cover of Newsweek, under the header There will be blood, and then telling readers to ‘get over it’.

It’s a sensationalist, dividing, arguably off-putting way to open a conversation about very real, very important issues. Such bold shock tactics are more likely to fuel the hysteria or discomfort around women’s periods than encourage conversation. It will make people cringe, cover their eyes, mock and dismiss the realities and the challenges of monthly menstruation. It will not make people think.

It also feels counter-intuitive. Will facing a hand-sized tampon on a blood-red background over our morning coffee really help us (or more accurately, the men of the world) in 'getting over it'?

Or will it just add to the exact same 'women on their periods are unstable and irrational' message that we’re trying to denounce?

If we want to improve the language and discourse around menstruation, and discuss issues around equality, shouldn’t we then lead by example?

If we’re going to criticise (completely justifiably) the comments of politicians like Donald Trump banging on about “blood coming out of Megyn Kelly’s ‘wherever’”, shouldn’t we refrain from language that is (arguably) just as simplistic and inflammatory?

"There will be blood" is threatening. "The crimson tide is turning" is antagonising. Phrases like "when girls first start on their periods they embark on a decades-long journey of silence and dread" make me want to curl up and wait out the decades until it’s over.

I don’t feel empowered by this language, and it doesn’t make we want to talk about the very real issues surrounding women’s periods and how they relate to gender equality.

When Donald Trump takes a complex issue and dumbs it down into a tabloid-worthy catch cry, we are outraged. We laugh at his stupidity, talk about ignorance and lament the fact such a complicated, important issue has been reduced to a headline. Why are doing the same when we're talking about women and their periods, and the issues facing  menstruating women around the world?

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Some of these issues include: The luxury tax on sanitary items, which sees women pay a 10% surcharge on tampons and pads, is widely unjust. At least 500 million women around the world lack adequate facilities for managing their periods is outrageous. And that comments of people like Trump, or the Democratic politician Dr Adgar Berman who, in 1970, suggested women could not hold office because of their “raging hormonal imbalances” should be shamed.

The Newsweek article does discuss these very heavy, very real issues, and places them alongside the ‘period reclaiming’ movement of the last 18 months, explaining how 2015 was dubbed "the year the period went public" by Cosmopolitan. 

This 'going public' involved Kiran Gandhi running the London Marathon without a tampon on the first day of her period, reigniting the 'free flowing' movement of women who are privileged enough to have the choice to free flow.

It certainly is a freedom when you have the facilities to wash and clean these clothes afterwards. And a freedom when your male dominated community doesn't have the power to shame you into staying home from work or school because your "dirty" and "untouchable".

In developing countries, 'free flowing' is not a choice and it's certainly not empowering.  In Kenya alone, 850,000 young women miss a total of 3.5 millions days of school, EVERY MONTH, due to a lack of sanitary items to deal with their periods. The consequences of this go beyond the school yard, leading to a greater drop-out rate and a lack of education.

For these women, there is nothing liberating about fowling freely. Instead, flowing freely detracts from their place in society, hampers their education, has huge implications for their future and reinforces (yes, reinforces) gender power imbalances within the community.

Kiran Gandhi after finishing the London Marathon.

Just because I’m not choosing to 'free flow' – and I'm also not tweeting my menstruation cycle, jumping on the #happytobleed hashtag or signing a petition for a Facebook 'on-my-period' emoji – doesn’t mean I don’t care about the menstruating girls in Nepal who are banished to a dark room.

Or the women in Kenya using leaves and bark in the place of sanitary pads.

Or that 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by inadequate menstrual hygiene.

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Or that homeless women in the Western Word don't have access to sanitary items.

Or when women are dismissed as incapable, irrational and unreliable for having their period.

Or the fact we pay a ridiculous amount for a packet of tampons.

I care about these issues deeply, and I want to contribute to a conversation that’s about finding solutions and encouraging equality. But there’re more effective, inclusive and inviting ways to have this conversation, that don’t involve tampons on magazine covers or seeing red on my Insta feed.

Using blood as if it's a horror movie special effect should not be the centre of this discussion. The tampon is not our burning bra. By all means, lets talk about periods and the challenges faced by menstruating women around the world, but let's take the hysteria out of it because hysteria (side note: 'hysteria' comes from the Latin word 'hystericus' that literally means 'of the womb') just plays into the hands of those who want to dismiss, ridicule, objectify women's periods and the issues surrounding them.

Let's not get distracted with 'reclaiming' our periods, and let's participate in a conversation that is as educational as it is empowering. Let's talk about these issues without using trivialising, divisive shock tactics, in the hope both men and women might participate and fight for change.

Why is this important? Because the complex issues and injustices surrounding gender equality and women's rights run deeper than the freedom to discuss period blood on social media – or the fact Jennifer Lawrence can openly talk about choosing her Golden Globes dress to suit her menstrual cycle.

Yes, starting the conversation is important. But starting the right conversation is imperative.

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http://hercollective.co/ is an Australian feminine care brand that has launched a crowdfunding campaign to hlp women in the developing world. They're working to provide sanitary pads and reproductive health education programs to adolescent girls in Kenya. For every box of tampons we buy in Australia, her/ will donate one month's supply of feminine products to Africa.

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