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?