Newsflash: uteri bleed. This statement seems so innocuous, but even discussing menstruation is often considered taboo in many societies, including, to some degree, ours. Period-shaming is a worldwide problem that varies in extremity from culture to culture. Menstruation is more than just socially stigmatized, however. The US is facing huge problems relating to menstruation that urgently need to be addressed, and we can’t get rid of the stigma surrounding menstruation or resolve the national issues involving it if we’re too ashamed to even discuss periods.
We as a society (all genders included!) need to be progressive and practical enough to discuss menstruation from a place of knowledge and compassion. Here are five easy ways to become more #PeriodPositive!
1. Stop using exclusionary, gender-specific language when talking about menstruation!
We need to reevaluate the way we speak about periods! Menstruation is often spoken of using language that completely excludes trans people and those who don’t conform to gender binaries. People with uteri bleed whether they identify as women or not. Please stop using exclusionary language that correlates periods to gender!
2. Don’t be ashamed of your period
I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, a condition that causes me to bleed heavily for seven days every other week. So I speak from a place of first-hand knowledge and experience when I say that period leaks happen, and they aren’t anything to be mortified about. I’ve had lovers get grossed out or even angry with me for accidentally bleeding on sheets or my panties. Babes, never tolerate that kind of awful behavior! Menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of.
Also, please don’t be embarrassed to buy tampons, menstrual cups, pads, or Midol! There shouldn’t be anything embarrassing about buying period-related products, because there’s absolutely nothing inherently shameful about periods.
Talk about your period! It isn’t something that needs to be whispered about behind closed doors, or briefly mentioned using code words and euphemisms. If you need to cancel a day out with friends because ol’ Aunt Flow came to town and you want to do nothing but lie in bed with a heating pad watching Ryan Gosling films, say so! There’s nothing wrong with discussing periods. In fact, I’ve found talking about them to be empowering.
3. View periods as time for self-care
I used to see my periods as an absolute curse. But my whole relationship with my body began to change in positive ways when I started embracing my periods. I began to be more period-positive when I realized that menstruation is a time for self-care. Light candles, get away from screens and read a book, buy yourself flowers, indulge your cravings, masturbate/have sex (orgasms are great for cramps!), meditate. Be kind to yourself and embrace the cycle. Don’t let periods be times of embarrassment, shame, and negativity. Take care of yourself, pamper yourself and just breathe!
4. Never let anyone get away with period-shaming
Around the world, menstruation is often a huge taboo. In some cultures, bleeding babes are seen as untouchable, dirty and impure. Sometimes, they’re even sent to live elsewhere during their periods, or denied access to community gathering spots. Harmful superstitions and myths are perpetuated about menstruation, too. Some cultures tell those who are menstruating not to bathe out of fear that bathing would cause infertility, while others don’t let menstruating people go near livestock or crops because they’re afraid menstruation is poisonous. People are stigmatized and ostracized because of menstruation on grand scales.
This is why it’s so important to be educated, open, and positive about periods — and why it’s vital that we don’t promote the stigma by letting people get away with period-shaming behavior of any kind, whether it’s extreme or small-scale. Is your lover giving you shit because you bled on the sheets? Is a friend refusing to be seen with you while you wait in line to buy tampons? Call them out! Raise a ruckus. Educate them. Because the more people know about something, the less stigmatized and scary it becomes.
5. Get familiar with (or involved in!) national menstruation issues
There are some serious period-related issues going on in the US right now that we need to have the courage to be productively talking about. We need to figure out how to help the homeless cope with menstruation on a national scale, and the issue of supplying the incarcerated with enough menstrual care items needs to be addressed, too. Taxes on period-related items are also currently being debated nationally. Educate yourself! All the info you need to get caught up on period-related issues is always just a Google away. Two great resources to check into are: periodpositive.com and homelessperiodproject.org.
It’s time to evolve the way we think and speak about menstruation in an effort to become more period-positive. We can do this by being careful to include all genders in discussions of menstruation, refusing to be ashamed of our periods, viewing periods as times to self-care and recharge, and calling people out and trying to educate them whenever you see period-shaming occurring. Familiarizing yourself or getting involved with projects seeking to find solutions to national menstruation-related issues is another great step to take on the journey to period-positivity. Together, we can end the stigma!
Comments on How to be period positive in 5 easy steps!
This is full of great advice! I just want to gently raise two points.
First, as someone with adenomyosis and endometriosis, I can’t see myself ever being “period positive” in my own life. My period is absolute hell. It will never be a time of reflection and self-care, I’m lucky if I can make it a time of even basic functioning/getting up off the bathroom floor. So while I’m totally 100% on board with openness, good public discussions, and stigma reduction around periods, I also want to make sure my fellow “periods are hell” folks know it’s okay to hate your period too, as long as you’re not turning that into self-judgement or unkindness towards yourself.
Second, related to the above, masturbation/orgasm may be wonderful for some folks with cramps, but it’s the absolute worst thing for mine. Orgasms are my go-to for almost any other problem (headaches, fatigue, stress, anxiety) but there’s a one week window around my period where orgasms are out of the question unless I want to be in total agony.
Again, super awesome article with great points about the big picture! I just want to make sure those who can’t be period positive are included, as I often feel out of place in feminist circles that frame periods as wonderful symbols of life’s natural cycles and something to be embraced and loved.
I recently underwent surgery where I had a huge amount of endometriosis removed, a large cyst on my uterus removed (golf ball size), and wedges taken out of each ovary to help with PCOS symptoms. My periods now come regularly (once a month), have much less pain (I used to be curled in a ball on the couch for 5-7 days), and overall I feel much better in my mood and energy level. I know surgery isn’t an option for everyone, but if it is, I highly recommend you ask your doctor if you are a candidate. I suffered for 20 years before I found an answer.
I guess this is my version of period positiveness in spreading the word about my experience and what worked for me and I hope maybe it can help others. Rock on you beautiful people!
Surgery isn’t an option for me unfortunately (connective-tissue disease), but I agree that it’s important that people know these options exist!
Yeah I’ll be “positive” about my period when it stops making me want to kill for a week and then die for two days. The fact that I don’t want kids makes it all the more obnoxious, since it’s all for no good reason 😛 But, I’m not ashamed of it. It’s a not-super-exciting-and-kinda-messy bodily function, like sweat or snot. Not something I *want* to show off but if it happens, I’ll live, ‘cuz bodies are bodies. Any friend or partner who gives me actual shit about those things (beyond maaaybe a little gentle ribbing) is outta here.
Haha, I’ve wondered if that’s a factor for me too. I don’t want kids, so there’s nothing magical or symbolic about my cycle. If there was a safe, non-hormonal way to get rid of it forever, I would take it in a heartbeat.
I was in the same boat. No embarassment or shame, just frustration and physical discomfort.
I’ve known I was childfree since I was 19. A year and a half ago I got my tubes removed and an endometrial ablation (they essentially burn out the lining of the uterus). Now instead of enduring a week of crippling anemia, I deal with 2 days of spotting.
For the first time in 20 years, I don’t dread my period.
Endometrial ablation is a thing! Although you might have trouble getting your doc/insurance to cover it if you don’t have period problems.
Yeah, it’s okay to be grossed out by your period or not love it or celebrate. Nobody should be ashamed of having a period, or shamed for it. But it’s also okay for other people (even if they don’t have a period!) to be grossed out by period blood. It is blood, and it is unsanitary. It might be natural but that doesn’t make it less gross (just like poop and pee are natural and gross).
Also, kind of messed up to “call somebody out” if they are embarrassed about buying tampons. Because that’s the way to help them feel better about periods, by publicly shaming them?
Yes. I don’t understand the whole “let’s always talk about periods and not be ashamed of accidents” mindset– periods are a bathroom thing, like pee or poop. A gross thing that comes out of your body when you are in the bathroom. I know I don’t want to hear about people’s pooping habits all the time, and I don’t see why it’s any different from periods.
(I do agree that people should not be shamed or shunned for menstruating, however. I know in some countries it is much different and I am lucky that I am not ostracized from society for it.)
Except it’s NOT. Period blood doesn’t only come out of your body in the bathroom, you have zero actual control over whether or when or where or how much blood your body produces, and there’s no expectation that you learn to be able to control it either. I can stick absorbent foreign objects in my body to attempt to prevent leaks, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll work all the time, and not get over-full or move in such a way that there’s leakage while I’m asleep, busy doing other things, not near a bathroom, etc. You shouldn’t be shamed for leaking onto panties or sheets any more than you should be shamed if you get snot on your hands when you sneeze.
It’s not shameful, but it IS still gross. Snot in your hands when you sneeze is gross, and you go to wash your hands or grab a tissue because not only is it disgusting, it’s also a health hazard. Menstrual blood is no different. I wouldn’t shame someone for leaking onto panties or whatever (it happens to all of us), but I WOULD expect her to go to the restroom to take care of it as best she can. There’s a difference between “being shamed for something” and “this is not a bodily fluid people want to encounter in public”.
Whether or not menstrual blood is gross is a separate issue from whether or not more open and frank discussions about periods should take place. We need these discussions not because they’re fun, but because the silence on this is why related medical issues are currently poorly understood, overlooked, and undertreated.
I actually kind of revel in my blood. No joke. I’m stoked that I have a body that can carry and nourish life with my uterine lining. And I water my plants with it. They get super happy when I do that.
I definitely don’t think it’s gross…I free bleed most of the time (I have a good supply of black panties and pants and skirts) and I kinda get off on the fact that I’m bleeding all over the freaking place, especially because it is considered ‘gross’ by so many. Yep, I’m weird.
Yes, and if you’d ever leave blood on my furniture I’d never ever want to see you again. Free bleeding is fine, but don’t expose other people to your bodily fluids.
This was a great article, and I both liked your point about inclusive language– which is fairly common in modern feminist period talk– and then ACTUALLY following through with it, which is not.
Please remember, though, that just because periods shouldn’t cause shame, that doesn’t mean that those feeling shamed should feel bad, or culpable for that shame.
See, I’m one of the men buying tampons not for his girlfriend, but for himself.
I’m trans, so there is basically no way for me to not feel crappy about my period. Periods are a great time to revel in the intricacies of one’s womanhood and femininity. But it’s emotionally really hard when having a period is something I know my body should NOT be doing.
YAS! Normalizing periods! Though if you hate your period, there are options not to have it! I had problems with the birth control pill making me very ill, and with endometriosis, my doctor recommended a IUD, and it was AMAZING! For three years I had no periods, I absolutely loved it, but got it removed to try to make a tiny human. Which because of the endometriosis, took a year and a half, ugh. Getting used to periods again was awful, especially since the period arriving represented another failed cycle, and since being off any kind of birth control has resulted in a really heavy flow. However by the end I had gotten to the point where I had gotten much more comfortable with them, helped by the amazing products available now. Thinx period panties are a godsend to anyone with heavy cycles, a safe backup so you don’t have to wear liners of pads all day “just in case”. Don’t suffer with miserable periods just because you don’t like how “unnatural” an IUD is, typing on a computer to people who potentially live across the world is unnatural.
I will never be period positive, sorry. I have no inclinations to romanticize the uterus cast-offs that plague me every month. It’s messy, gross, smelly, and inconvenient.
As an important corallary to point #1, I am a woman who does not have a period. For me, this is because I take birth control continuously because the alternative is 14-day-long migraines every month. Other women have medical issues as I do, are transwomen, or are past menopause. For me, the “yay, girls rock, my period is a blessing from the divine goddess and a celebration of my feminine beauty” stuff can make me feel really left out. So, just as you keep in mind that some men/non-binary folk have periods and that doesn’t necessarily make them feminine, please also keep in mind that some women don’t have periods and that does not negate their femininity.
This! And I’m really glad you mentionned it in the article!
Non-binary, though biologically female. My period has never been worth mentioning, 1 day of light bleeding and one of spotting. No moods, or spm, or cramps, maybe a bit more libido? Which raises the interesting question of wether me leaning more towards a masculine identity is hormonal? (The few times I was on continuous birth-control, were the ones where I was the most feminine)
Sorry, I went off track there. What I meant to say is “yah for feminine power.” And good for you if your period helps you reconnect with your inner Goddess. However, periods are not essential to feeling feminine. I get them, sorta and I’m still non-binary. I don’t get the hype; to me, they are just a part of life, not integral to my identity. I imagine some who don’t have them must certainly feel more feminine than I do.
I like your point about not ever woman having a period. I haven’t had a period in over ten years because of my birth control method and I couldn’t imagine ever having it come back. I would be miserable. Part of the reason I decided to do away with it in the first place was because my cramps were absolutely debilitating. Another par of the reason is because I decided long ago that I would be a child free individual and when it comes down to it, the whole reason for a period is the reproductive process. If I’m never going to reproduce then why should I go through the pain, mess, and irritation of a monthly period?
I can completely get behind the normalization and destigmatization of periods. That is something our society, for the well-being of all uterus-owners, desperately needs. However, I can’t get behind the idea that I should be positive about periods themselves. Thanks to “benign” fibroids, my periods were excruciating, at a pain intensity that often kept me in bed, rocking back and forth trying not to scream. Self-care candles, books, and flowers couldn’t have helped ease that- what did was a hysterectomy, not a difficult choice for me since I’ve never wanted kids. I don’t have periods anymore and it is absolutely liberating.
Yes to more frank and open discussions of periods. Yes to period talk being normal. Yes to more medical research and greater priority given to menstruation issues. But being positive about periods themselves is too much of a blanket statement. It ignores for some of us, periods rob us of days from our lives.
Most of what you say, I like, but I have to step back. You said, “Call them out! Raise a ruckus. Educate them. Because the more people know about something, the less stigmatized and scary it becomes.” So here I am. I’m calling you out, and trying to help educate you, so you won’t be so stigmatized and scared of cultures whose practices around periods are different from yours.
I know modern, intelligent, independent women (and other menstruators) who find spirituality, self-reflection, and self-care through some of the practices you decry. For example, refraining from touching during their period, or using the language of purity and impurity to signify a different state of being while on their period. Let’s have some respect for the religious and cultural choices of these adults and not assume their period-related practices are a kind of third world victimhood.
Just as you should be careful when judging other people’s modest dress or hair covering traditions, please don’t just that assume unfamiliar cultural period-related practices are forced or based in shame.
This is the first time an article on here as made me seriously consider leaving the site for good.
Having my period is hell on earth for me. It’s painful and messy and screws my emotional responses up for two weeks out of a month, and has a very high chance of setting of rapid cycling of my bipolar. Period positive people seem to be all ‘oh but maybe it’s this, maybe if you got surgery/medications/a cup/therapy/just accepted it you’d be better off!!!’. Except sometimes none of those things are a solution or an offer. I could spend twenty minutes here talking about all the things I have tried and why none of them have worked, but you know, I really shouldn’t HAVE to. It should be just as acceptable for me to hate having my period and view it as a massive inconvenience without being told how much I must hate myself and really just feel ashamed of my body.
If other people feel or want to feel positive about their period, good for them. But this sort of disgustingly cheery, ‘you too can be period positive AND YOU SHOULD WANT TO OBVIOUSLY’ is incredible off putting and tone deaf to the realities of why many people DO hate their periods. And then to go on and imply that everyone who dislikes having their period or does feel shame should be called out and forced to recognize ‘how wrong they are’ is just … bullshit.
I’m so sorry. This article set me on edge, too, with the idea we should just love our uteruses and be positive. I honestly worry that attitude can lead to minimizing how severe periods can be and invalidating the experience of people who suffer because of them.
Also, they’re just annoying. I’m currently pregnant and the very best thing I can say about it is no periods. It’s bliss. And I don’t really even suffer for them – they don’t embarrass me, they’re just a pain in the arse.
Ryn, I’m sorry your periods are so bad for you. Have you ever considered using a birth control method that would lighten or eliminate them entirely? I’ve been on the shot for years and I haven’t had a period since 2005. A friend of mine is on the pill but she takes it continuously, skips the placebo week, so she also doesn’t get a period anymore. Seems like that might be something for you to look into so you don’t have to suffer through them :/
Thank you for very neatly proving my point. “But have you tried … THIS????’
Yes. Yes I have tried it. Shall i list off the fifteen different types of hormonal birth control I have tried? Or shall I go into detail about the incredible difficulty I have had with doctors being horrific about how skipping periods is awful? Maybe listing off the side effects that made me decide to go off the one kind that somewhat worked for four years will satisfy you?
I’ve tried it.
I apologize for offending you by trying to be helpful. A simple “Thanks for the suggestions but hormonal methods don’t work for me” would’ve sufficed.
Brink’s reply to you was thoughtless, so I wanted to add that I’m one of those people who would be very tempted to say, “But have you tried this?” I’m working on not doing that, not being that person. There isn’t an easy solution for everyone. I have friends who don’t want surgery because they hope to have children someday or whose hormonal issues are more complex than mine were. I’m learning to watch out for my blind spots. Thank you for opening up to us.
I don’t think I will ever be positive about my period, except that I’m always glad when it arrives because it signifies the end of the two weeks of absolute torture caused by PMDD. I lose half my life (two weeks a month) to that garbage, to the point where I wish I didn’t have any of the hormones or “equipment” at all.
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