‘Why Aren’t We Comfortable Saying The Word Menstruation?’
You are a woman, so it’s natural to have menstruation. Then why it is unnatural to talk about it openly? One of the most taboo topics in India – a woman having period or “holy shit!” she talking about it publicly – catches strange reactions altogether. And, it’s true that some still act like fools when the topic comes up.
Every woman would agree with me that the times we have to hide our tampons or sanitary pads, or get embarrassed if somehow period stains get visible on the clothes and people make snide remarks, it plainly annoys us.
Well, 30-year-old Stephanie Góngora (going by the Instagram handle @casa_colibri, where she has more than 250,000 followers) recently took social media by storm by Instagramming a video of her in a yoga pose while she bled through a pair of white yoga pants.
‘I am a woman, therefore, I bleed,’ Stephanie wrote in the video’s caption.
“I showed my leak online in an attempt to bring attention to a topic that I feel has been shrouded in silence for too long. Menstruation. Menstruation Shaming. Menstruation Embarrassment.”
Excerpts from the interview:
What urged you to share menstruation pictures online?
I’ve always had a very heavy flow, which means that no matter how careful I am, I typically experience a leak or two each month, even if just for a few moments before I can get cleaned up. The few times that it has happened in public and I haven’t had an extra change of clothing or had access to a bathroom immediately (for whatever reason), I remember feeling immense shame and embarrassment. There always seems to be this effort to hide bodily functions, especially menstruation, when it comes to females. And I’m not saying that anyone should parade around proudly with blood on their pants. That would get pretty messy and probably ruin a lot of your wardrobe/car seat/desk chair. What I am saying is that, in my experience, many women have had a leak or two in their life, so if it’s something that has happened to most of us, why are we so ashamed by it? Why are we so embarrassed by our bodies and their ability to create life?
“I was promoting empowerment by NOT being embarrassed.”
I showed my leak online in an attempt to bring attention to a topic that I feel has been shrouded in silence for too long. Menstruation. Menstruation Shaming. Menstruation Embarrassment. Heck, even Menstruation Education and the lack thereof. I’m lucky to have access to a wide variety of menstrual supplies. Other women around the world often miss school or work because they don’t have a way to adequately contain their monthly blood, and they are afraid of what might happen if someone sees a spot or two of it on their clothes in public. I don’t think that’s acceptable. I don’t think that a young girl who bleeds through her shorts in class should have to live with cruel nicknames and be the butt of disgusting jokes for the rest of her high school year. I don’t believe women should have to hide tampons in their sleeves and call the shedding of their uterine lining by silly nicknames because the men (and some women) around them aren’t comfortable saying period or menstruation.
Instead, I want people to acknowledge that menstruation is normal, just like urinating, defecating, or sneezing. Sometimes you sneeze, and something flies out of your nose. Would you feel a tinge of embarrassment if other people are watching? Maybe, but then most people would just grab a tissue, laugh it off, and move on with their day. WHY? Because it’s just something that happens. We recognize that it’s an unavoidable accident, and it’s NORMAL. For many women, experiencing a leak or two each cycle is normal. Yet, it if happens in public (maybe even after a sneeze, haha!), it’s not just as simple as grabbing a tissue, making a joke, and moving on. We are often haunted by any public display of period blood or even the thought of it, and I just don’t think that’s fair.
I knew that in today’s society, no one really reads. It’s the sad truth, but most of the internet scrollers are about shock value. And since I was promoting empowerment by NOT being embarrassed by what my body does, I figured I should just go with the flow (pun intended), and maybe, just maybe, my statement of NOT being ashamed would help some young woman lessen her embarrassment the next time she experienced something similar.
How’s the response so far?
As expected I believe. It’s fairly black or white with a smidgen of grey in the middle. Many people love it. They feel empowered. They are happy that someone is breaking the silence. Many were thankful, excited, or just ready to help break the stigma that menstruating women are filthy and disgusting.
“Women around the world often miss school or work because they don’t have a way to adequately contain their monthly blood, and they are afraid of what might happen if someone sees a spot or two of it on their clothes in public. I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
Others…didn’t like it. I got a lot of snide comments stating that I should share a video where I’m urinating through my leggings or defecating in public. And I’m not saying that there isn’t a different stigma about women and using the bathroom, but that’s for another time. Haha. I had other people just sling curse words or call it disgusting. A few especially vocal individuals telling me that I should kill myself. All really just supporting the idea that despite what a few people claim as acceptance, there definitely still is some misconception about the menstrual cycle. There’s some memes going around (of course), but they don’t particularly bother me. If people want to showcase their ignorance by turning everything into a joke or a lewd statement, maybe it will help showcase WHY this is still a problem and bring more attention to it where it counts.
There were some people who liked the message, but not the delivery. I understand that. I know not everyone would show their stain, and I’m not asking them to. But I’ve got a thick skin, and was willing to risk some lashouts to get the message to more people.
Did you draw inspiration from a personal space and that led you to be an advocate of breaking this particular taboo?
Yes. As described above, I’m a VERY heavy bleeder. I was a gymnast growing up and was constantly having nightmares about bleeding through my light-coloured leotard during my big floor routine and just having to finish despite of it. I had a few small leaks in high school and college, but my excessive anxiety and stress around the subject kept them to a minimal. That being said, I wish I would have cared less. It would have been a lot healthier from an emotional perspective.
“I appreciate the men who speak up on the subject.”
What do you think stops people in general to have an open discussion about menstruation?
In my experience, there’s just a stigma around it that starts really young. I remember 4th grade. They sent the boys out of the room when the girls learned about periods. Why on earth would we do that? Are they not part of this cycle of life too? Why not normalize the talk for both sexes right from the beginning? Also, although many ancient cultures hold bleeding women as prophetic or sacred, I feel that has long since changed into more of a disgusted silence surrounding the whole subject. Now, I know many women AND men who are more than happy to talk about periods. They recognize that it’s just another bodily function that happens to a good portion of the population. But I think the response to the video also showcases how many people do not feel that way. How many people think periods are something to be hidden. Something secret. If we continue the silence, we continue the cycle of shame and bullying and embarrassment that surrounds a women accidentally having a little leak in public.
Why do you think women, especially, need to be in-charge and talk openly about this like you did?
I appreciate the men who speak up on the subject. I really do. The support is laudable, and they are a big part of the solution. But the women…we are the ones experiencing it. (Please note that I’m generalizing here. I recognize that some women do not bleed, and other trans persons do/don’t as well regardless of any gender they might subscribe to). In order to create waves in their arena, in order to manifest change, we women must first stop thinking of ourselves as filthy or gross on our period. That is step one. We need to be able to talk to each other about it. Talk to our partners, our gynos, our friends. If WE aren’t comfortable talking about something that so many of us experience, how can we expect those who do not bleed from their vaginas to be comfortable. And that is why I think the ladies need to steer the ship on this one.
“Although many ancient cultures hold bleeding women as prophetic or sacred, I feel that has long since changed into more of a disgusted silence surrounding the whole subject.”
Many still are ignorant about this topic; they don’t discuss it publicly, what could be the solution?
I think baby steps are still steps. They are still progress. Talking about it with your friends is a great beginning. Even just starting to look at yourself and thinking, “I am not disgusting. I am not dirty. I’m just bleeding, and I am not ashamed.” Education in schools needs to be increased to include all genders and to work towards acceptance and understanding of something that is often out of our control. There are charities out there that not only provide products to girls in need, but also help them learn to talk about something like this, something shrouded in taboo. Regardless of what small steps you make, the key is not staying silent, not staying stuck in a rut of embarrassment, shame, and cruel intolerance for something that brings life.
Feature Image Credit: Instagram
Join Us on https://www.facebook.com/SheThePeoplePage
Follow Us on https://twitter.com/SheThePeopleTV