In recent years, there has been a movement among women’s rights activists to educate the public about the harmful cultural stigma surrounding menstruation. This movement, that pushes for “period equity”, aims to make it possible for all women of all ages to manage their period hygiene in a humane and dignified way. Although this mission seems simple, it is actually a deep-rooted and complicated one.
There is almost a universal culture of shame that surrounds women and menstruation. So much so that according to UNESCO worldwide, lack of access to period products is one of the reasons that many school-aged girls in developing countries miss classes. One study by UNICEF showed that 35% of girls from Niger sometimes miss classes due to the shame surrounding their periods. Other cultures across the world isolate girls from their homes and families when they’re on their periods. In conclusion, the stigma surrounding menstruation combined with structural obstacles preventing school-aged girls from easily accessing hygiene products interfere with their education. And it’s a problem.
Recently, three middle school girls went viral with their creative response to their principal’s refusal to offer free period products in the girls’ bathroom.
According to a Tweet by reproductive rights activist and President of Pro-Choice America Ilyse Hogue, students at a middle school in the U.S. “organized for free tampons in the bathroom” because their school didn’t offer any. Apparently unmoved by the students’ display of activism, the male principal the students’ request. In his response, he stated that students would “abuse the privilege” of free period products in the bathrooms. Rightfully, the students took issue with this reasoning. Three of the female students responded with an eye-catching bit of activism: none other than tampon-shaped cookies, complete with blood-like frosting and strings.
The Tweet describing the girls’ reaction to their principal went viral, racking up over 9,000 retweets and almost 60,000 likes. Not only were people outraged that the principal refused to provide period products to young students, but they were also upset that he labeled access to menstrual hygiene products as a “privilege”. As the non-profit organization PERIOD so eloquently states on its website: “menstrual hygiene is a right, not a privilege”.
Since the Tweet went viral, the girls that made the cookies have founded an organization called The Revolutionary Girls’ Baking Society, that aims to “bake a difference” through “one bizarre confection at a time”.
According to the newly-formed website, the three anonymous girls decided to form the society once they and their families were encouraged by “the groundswell of support” from the public. The website also provided an update to the situation at their middle school. According to the statement, the “principal and the school board are now working to make sure every girl in [the] town will have the products they need readily available so no girl misses a day of school”. The Society added that they “are very grateful that the school has taken our action seriously and is making a change”.
Although it’s exciting that these young women were able to make a difference by their activism, the bottom line is, many young women are still negatively impacted by the stigma surrounding menstruation. “Period poverty” is real and it is globally pervasive–America is no exception. According to a recent study commissioned by PERIOD and Thinx, one in five teens has struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all. Keep in mind, menstruation is a bodily function that most women experience almost universally–the fact that there are still so many obstacles surrounding period management if proof of society’s inherent disregard for women and women’s health.
As usual, the internet expressed its own opinion about a male authority figure asserting a harmful influence over girls’ bodies.
Twitter was pretty vocal about what many considered the principal’s ignorant comments about privilege and menstruation.
This Twitter user was confused out how “abusing” tampons would work:
The fact is, due to their privilege, many men are ignorant to how expensive period products are and how they can be difficult to get your hands on–especially when you’re in a pinch.
This Twitter user was frustrated with the principal’s lack of education on the topic of period poverty:
Once the principal’s argument was investigated further, it became obvious that it held no ground.
This Twitter user exposed the double-standard and built-in misogyny of refusing to offer hygiene products to help handle a normal bodily function:
It’s brilliant arguments like these that expose the hypocrisy of structural sexism and how it works against women at all stages of their life.
No doubt about it, women have struggled more than anyone to convince the world that the right to make decisions about their bodies is theirs. Ana Estrada, a woman currently confined to her bed, knows this truth. After spending five years of attempting to convince Peruvian officials that she has what’s best for herself in mind, she has finally made a breakthrough.
Recently, Estrada was able to convince Peruvian officials to make a historic decision, regarding her own assisted death.
Euthanasia is largely illegal in the Roman Catholic country of Peru, but Estrada has been granted an exception.
Euthanasia is a practice that is illegal in many countries across the globe including Peru where access to abortion and same-sex marriage are also banned. Still, Estrada made a decision for herself to commit to a five-year legal battle after she decided to end her own life “when the time comes.”
Recently, Peru’s government ruled not to appeal a court ruling which recognized her right to “a dignified death.”
“It is an individual case, but I hope it serves as a precedent,” Estrada, 44, explained to Reuters in a recent interview. “I think it is an achievement not only of mine, not only of my cause but also an achievement of law and justice in Peru.”
Estrada, who is a psychologist, has lived with the rare disease called polymyositis for three decades.
The painful disease progressively attacks her muscles and has resulted in her need to breathe with a respirator most of the time. According to NBC, a court ruling from last week granted that state health insurer EsSalud to provide “all conditions” needed for Estrada’s euthanasia. The court also ruled that the event must occur within 10 business days of the date that she decides to end her life. According to NBC, “EsSalud said a statement it would comply with the ruling and form medical commissions to develop a protocol for such cases. The court ruling also cleared anyone assisting Estrada in her death from facing charges, although local law still prohibits anyone from helping people to die.”
Estrada is the author of the blog “Ana seeks dignified death” which she began writing in 2016. In an interview with Reuters, she explained that she made the decision to end her life when she realized she was no longer able to write.
“My body is failing, but my mind and my spirit are happy,” she explained. “I want the last moment of my life to continue like this, in freedom, with peace, tranquility, and autonomy. I want to be remembered like that.”
It’s been said before that humor that mocks normative values can be funny only “if the humor is non-threatening.”
Truth be told, however, most of us known when sexist humor is more harmful than it is funny. According to Research Gate “jokes targeting women were perceived to be less funny, more offensive, and more sexist than jokes targeting men. Additionally, greater perceptions of threat were related to greater perceptions of jokes as offensive and sexist. However, women were not more threatened than men by sexist jokes. While these findings were not entirely consistent with our hypotheses, our findings suggest disparagement humor targeting lower-status groups is perceived more negatively than disparagement humor targeting higher-status groups and these perceptions may be inextricably rooted in threat posed to lower-status groups.”
Women and men of Reddit seem to be able to understand this truth because recently, they’ve been taking these jokes and calling them out for what they are: ridiculous and not so funny.
Check it out below!
“Downplaying how horrible periods can be. I’ve seen so many men act like women are being babies on their period and it’s just enraging.”- OverallDisaster
“To couple with this: downplaying our emotions because of periods. Anger or sadness can’t possibly be because of a bad situation, it it must be because sHe’S oN HeR pErIoD.”- InnocenceMySister
“Literally. And it’s funny because the hormone that increases during a woman’s period that apparently makes them so “emotional” is testosterone.
Edit- My comment has been getting a lot of upvotes so I just want to take this opportunity to tell you all this. I know it can be hard being a woman and things can feel really bleak/tiresome sometimes (especially since it’s 2021 and we haven’t made nearly as much progress as we should have in regards to gender issues) but just remember to keep your head up. Things won’t be like this forever. They have to improve. Hopefully.”- aetnaaa
“I have pcos which also causes painful periods. Before I knew I had it, I never understood how other women could just “get used to” having periods. Lots of women also downplay how bad periods can be because they don’t know how painful some of our periods really are.”- tropicalparadise27
“Oh man and the first time a cyst ruptures… you’re laying on the bathroom floor thinking this is the end ans now you die and why didn’t I clean the bathroom more since this is where my body will be found.”- TaysteePotayto
“Same thing happened to me dude. I was in college, my roomate thought I was dying and I was like naw, don’t you also vomit till the point of fainting crying because of the knives in your intestines on your period? Not normal I guess.”- porkbunasaurus
“Or when women with easier periods act like other women are lying! I’m very lucky and have never had a difficult period, it’s light with very few symptoms. But that doesn’t mean that I doubt other women when they share their experiences. Just because mine is generally okay doesn’t mean that others don’t have excruciating pain.”- shadesofpink44
“Everyone has different experiences so I can only share mine. I get PMS about a week before I start and I start to get irrationally irritated or sad. Sometimes my boobs hurt or I can’t go to the bathroom for several days. I actually get super hungry the few days before too. Then when I start my period I have horrible cramps in my pelvic region and lower stomach. Sometimes they’re so bad they take my breath away. Sometimes they wake me up in the middle of the night and they’re so bad I could cry. I also have (TMI) really bad digestive issues and constantly have to go to the bathroom. I also get migraines with mine + sometimes that causes nausea. Not to mention the fact it’s uncomfortable having to wear a pad or tampon which can cause irritation. For me the first two days of mine are super heavy so I’m bleeding a lot, and the more you bleed the worse your cramps are. Its bad when you start bleeding a lot and you stand up and it all just gushes out. It’s just honestly horrible for me, especially the first two days but then mine kind of tapers off and gets better, but mine used to last up to a week. I can’t say I block it out as I’m very aware of the pain but I try to take pain medication, wear comfy clothes, use a heating pad if necessary. Sorry this might all be TMI lol, but there’s just so much going on and I think it’s good to build awareness about it!
As far as tips the biggest thing is just to be understanding and patient, never diminishing someone’s experience or pain. I also like when guys don’t act grossed out by it, to me it’s a sign of maturity when a man is able to listen and have an open conversation about it.”- OverallDisaster
“Indeed, I think that as a society we’re starting to grapple with the fact that pedophilia is far more common than people assumed. I remember that I was started to be catcalled at 11 and my teens and early 20’s were the highest, and now in my 40’s never happens and is awesome. Men know they’re sexually harassing children, and get away with it because people turn a blind eye, blame the kid, or chose the believe the obvious lie of: I had no idea she’s 12, she looks like a woman, I couldn’t tell her age, like wtf?!
“Yeah, it’s absolutely insane. I remember getting catcalled (very aggressively) as a 7th grader by grown ass men. I always thought it was because I looked older until I recently saw a picture of 12 year old me. Nope, looked like a child. I was utterly shocked, sad and disgusted at the same time.”-Shaboinker2
“This, just today I was catcalled and basically harassed to the point where I had to step back inside my house. I was simply standing in the front yard with my kids. That’s all I was doing.”- HumanAdhesiveness360
“That’s not it except for especially shitty guys.
It’s more likely that the men in question have had little to no experience with women and thus don’t have enough samples to distinguish between friendliness and flirting.
Plus, a shy woman’s flirting might be less obvious than an outgoing woman’s friendliness, so if they had a shy girlfriend before their calibration could be skewed.
Or they could just be interested and made a move in the hopes of success without assuming anything. Men have to approach frequently to get dates, so asking out literally anyone you find attractive is a fairly common strategy.
Men aren’t a monolith any more than women are and there are loads of explanations that don’t require the guy to be an asshole. Most of the time, the dude’s probably just lonely.”- Odinh153
“The way the medical community approaches female reproductive health in general is awful. A close friend wants to get sterilized because she already has two kids, gets awful depression during pregnancy, and post partum depression that makes her suicidal. She’s happy with her family and out of genuine concern for her daughters, wants to be sterilized so she can be the best mum possible to them. Basically no long-acting contraceptive methods are suitable for her… IUDs either cause persistent bleeding or keep dropping out, implants cause awful bleeding for months etc etc…
But my partner called up a vasectomy clinic, booked an appointment on the phone, and it was done in under a week. No questions asked, no “what if you change your mind”… my friend’s life is genuinely at risk if she gets pregnant again, and it would leave two kids without a mother, but years of trying can’t get her what a man can have for asking once.”- kellerae
“It is infuriating how women are treated during childbirth. Actually abused in other countries.
Also, what I hate is that women always say, well “it hurt but it’s okay”; usually when their tear or episiotomy is stitched up with either no local anesthetic or an insufficient amount. No, it is not okay! Would a man have a vasectomy without anesthetic?
Really annoying how we are expected to grin and bear it.”- Suse-
“I just went to the GP to get an extension for my time off work after having ovarian cyst removed. The male gp said to me “I used to be really stingy about giving time off work to my patients until I got a really bad chest infection myself” I was a bit taken aback in his comparison of a bad cold to my abdominal surgery.”- camelsdonthavetoes
“inappropriate behavior from men, especially from a young age. If a boy hits a little girl he “just likes her”. That little boy grows up thinking there’s no repercussion for violence, and keeps hitting women. The cycle just goes on.”-professional_joe
“I know way too many women who think it’s normal to have to do most of the housework and childcare, plus the mental and emotional load of household management, even if they also have an outside job. Also to manage their husbands as if they are children who can’t be expected to remember to make appointments or buy their own clothes or things for the children or holidays or take care of menial tasks without reminders and help.”-FranzLuciferdinand
“My mum managed my dad a lot when I was a kid, but he has genuine problems remembering things, and fortunately I internalized it as ‘Dad can’t remember things so Mom keeps track for him’, instead of believing that all wives manage their husband’s schedule and that’s the natural way of things. He did his fair share around the house and also in our housing co-op. Now that I’m older it makes me sad to know that my parents’ fairly equal arrangement is not the norm.”- ohdearsweetlord
”dressing little girls in a way that makes it difficult for them to move around. your four year old should not miss out on valuable play because she doesn’t want to mess up her clothes or hair. her appearance should be the last freaking thing on her mind. it makes me so angry to see little girls having to sit on the sidelines while their brothers and male cousins play rambunctiously because their parents put them in a dress and expensive shoes. i hate the bullshit propaganda that little girls “naturally” prefer playing quietly indoors and/or alone. sure, it may be true for some little girls (just like it’s also true for some little boys), but you cannot tell me that socialisation doesn’t play a massive role in what kind of play children “naturally” prefer.”-parezcounapina