Menstruation And Euphemisms: Why Can't We Call It Just Periods?

From passing sanitary pads between notebooks, to buying sanitary pads in “black” polythene bags from chemist shops, we all have done our bits to promote the stigma around periods.

Priyanka Mathur
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Have you ever wondered what led to the evolution of nicknames for menstruation? Aunt Flo, Moon Time, Down Time, Meter Down, That Time of The Month, Shark Week! There are plenty of nicknames that we have coined for periods over time. To many this sounds cute and cool but what we certainly overlook is the fact that usage of such slang words for menstruation is a part of a much larger problem. Euphemisms are most generally used when referencing to taboos. Taboos are pre-modern mind and there is no doubt that menstruation and taboos have been in a long-standing toxic relationship.


Also Read: It Is High Time We Involve Men in Conversations About Periods

Menstrual taboos vary depending on people, geographies and cultures. Menstrual negativity has been an inherent part of our societies, globally, which needless to say further stigmatises a very natural biological process as something that signifies impurity and diseases. The mindset has frequently been defended as a result of fear of blood, which is as absurd as opposing women to have an option of period leaves. A girl in her teens is thrown at a number of disgusted looks while on her periods which easily exceeds the number of biology lessons on menstruation that she’d be exposed to during her lifetime.

The Story of Menstruation (released in 1946) by Walt Disney Productions is a 10-minute educational video which very succinctly talks about the how’s and what’s of periods. It resurfaces time and again as an educational video from 1946 that dared to use the terms like “menstruation” and “vagina” which even in these apparently modern times such as 2020 counts as being too forward if used publicly. Even though the video is outdated, there are many who find it problematic because of the depiction of blood as white amongst other misogynistic ideas that the video pushes. The point of having mentioned this is to basically highlight the fault in the way we teach younger girls and boys about menstruation which is one of the primary reasons for menstruation taboos to still exist. There is a definitive need to question the methods used to teach children in schools and colleges about menstruation. More importantly, the fact that the topic is taught with a scurrying speed categorically needs to be addressed and highlighted since it is very crucial to be able to enhance acceptability towards menstruation at early ages in life.  Oftentimes we miss to understand that as important it is for girls to know about what bodily changes they will go through with menstruation, it is equally important that boys are taught about periods and its consequences on a girl’s body so that they can at early stages in life develop empathy towards the changes that the opposite sex undergoes. There is an equal need for both the genders to be taught the concept of menstruation which is not as superficial as how we are taught about sex education in schools. Details, consequences and mostly the biology behind it is much needed to be explained for them to understand that it is only silly and laughable to associate periods with something that is dirty or impure or for that matter a criterion for not entering religious places.

Also Read: Periods And Myths: Bleeding Does Not Make Me Impure

For children of both genders, from the formative years the stigma and hushed voices around periods become almost natural, more than the notion of periods being a natural bodily phenomenon. From passing sanitary pads between notebooks, to buying sanitary pads in “black” polythene bags from chemist shops, we all have done our bits to promote the stigma around periods. The societal stares, sniggers and cultural misconceptions have been further assuaged with the choice of brand positioning that the menstrual hygiene products have adopted over time. Advertisements on menstrual products are excessively misplaced and highly regressive. These advertisements are potentially a great source of information for many. Sadly, the only takeaway a teenager could possibly 'take' from these advertisements is that period blood is blue and whites are a big no during 'that time of the month'.

There is an amalgamation of factors that would lead us as a society to accept periods as a concept which does not belong to the outer space. With the Prime Minister talking about sanitary pads during his Independence Day speech and Rajasthan Royals roping in a sanitary pad brand for sponsorship, it is high time that behavioural changes are brought about at individual levels and the usage of code words and stigma around it is challenged in a much harsher way. It is natural that an age-old perception will be slow in moving towards change but there is a need to address the multi-fold factors that contribute to such a perception to be able to replace the negativity attached with menstruation. We need to accept menstruation is a normal process and it is nothing to be ashamed of!

Priyanka Mathur is a public policy, advocacy and communications expert with over 5+ years of experience in the

field. The views expressed are the author's own.

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