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  • Writer's pictureBecci

We Bleed. Now Let's Talk About It.



I am 14 years old. It is the first month of summer, the days are getting warmer. My friends and I are walking over the school grounds towards our classroom. I ask a friend of mine if she could walk behind me, “to check”. We both know what that means: I am wearing a pair of white jeans, and I am also on my period (a risky move, I know), so I need to make sure I have not accidentally bled through into my pants before class.

I am 16 years old. I am in a bathroom stall in school this time, and I hear other girls walking into the room. As slowly and quietly as possible, I remove the used pad from my underwear and open the packaging of a new pad, hoping I don’t make any loud sounds. I feel extremely uncomfortable because I don’t want those girls to hear, even though we deal with this issue, it is an unspoken secret.

I am 20 years old. A few friends of mine and I are teaming up to buy menstrual cups – there is a group discount. We talk about the best techniques to insert and remove it. It feels liberating, we are such feminists. Yet this is also so unusual, out of place, a little hidden away from the rest of our lives. These conversations don’t happen in the common room with everyone around, no, we are tucked away in our student rooms.


I am 26 years old. I am hardly even bleeding now because I changed birth control methods, so it is a kind of fake period. Yet, sometimes I experience discomfort: cramps, headaches, fatigue. I work with an open and genuinely loving all-female team, yet I would never ever dream of bluntly stating: “I am bleeding and just wish that instead of working I could sit here in my PJs and eat a sodium overdose amount of fast-food”. It would just make us all uncomfortable.

 

Four little sneak-peaks into an extremely average period life in this Western European world. Probably even better than average. I never had any bleeding for longer than 4, maybe 5 days. I did not suffer from menstruation-related migraines, heavy cramps, or major PMS. This is probably mostly due to my birth control which inhibited my natural menstrual cycle. I am grateful I never had to suffer from big side effects that made my sports, work, school, or social life unbearable. That even required pain killers or calling in sick. A hot water bottle on a mildly cramped lower back is how bad it got - so far.

I feel immensely privileged that I had parents, an older sister, and friends - and to a small extent even a school) to properly reflect on something that happens to us every freaking month. This is the most normal, natural, healthy phenomenon happening to womxn all over the world – and yet I have only ever treated it as a minor inconvenience that just kind of happened. I have never ever thought about the major political, societal and general implications that come with blood showing up on your panties approximately every 28 days (it really varies though!) even multiple options to choose from.

Despite all this privilege, I am angry. Frustrated and angry.

I am frustrated with myself that it took me 26 years and one really good book (Periode ist Politisch – Franka Frei) to properly reflect on something that happens to us every freaking month. This is the most normal, natural, healthy phenomenon happening to womxn all over the world – and yet I have only ever treated it as a minor inconvenience that just kind of happened. I have never ever thought about the major political, societal, and general implications that come with blood showing up on your panties approximately every 28 days (it really varies though!).

I am angry at the rest of the world, for still treating periods like a shameful problem that needs to be hidden away. It took Germany, the country I currently live in, until 2020 to reduce the taxing on “female hygiene products” from a luxury commodity to a standard product. That is around as many years too many as for however long the modern tax system has been in place! And let’s not even talk about that all these products should actually be completely free, because – excuse us - we did not choose to get our periods when we were born.

In Western Europe, humans with a period spend around 5.000€ on period products throughout their lives. This of course is considering all the standard averages: a period from three to seven days, menstruating from age 13 to age 51, leading to 456 total periods over 38 years. The Huffington Post actually has a really fun calculation about the average costs of your overall period "lifestyle", including chocolate and sugary treats for cravings! Imagine what you could do with this money: travel the world, donate to an incredible charity, buy a small farm of rescue animals, invest in a socially and environmentally conscious stock, open your own small business, pay part of your study fees at a fancy university, buy around 500 books. This (and by the way all the money we spend on those beauty products the beauty industry tells us we really need) is what we could use to break the glass ceiling a little more. Just thinking about the economic power of all womxn worldwide combined using this period-allocated money differently, it blows my mind.

But essentially, this is about more than just the financial aspects. This is about shame, a taboo, a stigma. Why are we still taught that we must hide away our periods, even here, in the self-proclaimed liberal world? How come that 14-year-old and 26-year-old me barely talked about their periods outside of their closest circle of friends and family. Why is it still the norm to joke about how “she is probably on her period” when a womxn is in a bad mood? How come that this issue underlying the monthly ruin of your favorite underwear is shushed at every opportunity, but at the same time continues to hold all womxn back in one way or another. There are so many issues connected to periods: social justice, empowerment, fundamental human rights, health care, education, politics. Let’s use our voices. Let’s recognize a healthy body function for what it is and normalize it. Let’s fight this stigma.

I will start to speak up about my period. I promise myself to continue to learn about my body, my rights, and all related issues that come with my menstrual cycle.

To all those fellow bleeders out there: will you, too?


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