Throughout the ages Menstruation has been associated as a taboo topic that isn’t talked about.
When I first got my period, I wouldn’t even say the word. I would say my “dot,” playing with the word, or my “womanly moment.” I was so embarrassed even to pick up pads and tampons at my local drugstore. I would drive farther away to go to a pharmacy with a self check out, so no one could see me purchasing what I needed every month as a woman.
My shame for having a period, being a woman, something so natural that we all experience, that half of the world experiences, was not ok. And yet this shame is drilled into us from a young age. We’re taught to hide our menstruation products in pouches, told that it’s dirty, and have to experience PMS? How did it become something that evoked shame?
First we have to look at menstruation back in ancient cultures. The idea of menstruation was at first considered holy, it was understood as a sacred time when there was an energy of rebirth and connections to the moon. In certain Native American tribes, the first period was a cause for celebration moving from girlhood to womanhood and the girl would make blue cornbread, blue because of a drop of her blood coloring the bread, to mark the occasion.
The shift in thought linking the period to this taboo subject might have occurred according to feminist scholar Vicki Noble when matriarchy of society changed over to patriarchal hierarchies about 3000 years ago. The idea of creating a stigma around the woman’s body kept men in power, kept them in charge, and used shame to create a sense of control of women.
Within these matrilineal tribes, there was a goddess- worshipping culture. Think for instance of one of the first statues we have in the history of art, the Venus of Willendorf from 25,000 BCE, her voluptuous curves and body are highlighted. Historians think she might be a fertility figure or a good luck totem, so fertility was a focal point in this early society.
In the 5th through the 15th century, women used rags that they would wash out on their periods, hence “on the rag,” and this was when it was considered dirty and shameful, especially in association with religion.
Menstruation today stops girls from going to school in some countries, it makes men call women “moody and irrational” during the month, and in some cultures women aren’t allowed to go to places of worship during their cycle for this stigma.
We need to start talking about our periods openly and publicly. Our cycle is a beautiful part of a women’s life. It’s a time of rebirth, of changes, and not something to be feared. As a part of a women’s health company, I’m now openly conversing about menstruation with my friends and boyfriend. We talk about my cycle and how I’m feeling about it, and Jubilance wants to create a safe space for women to be able to talk to others about their own periods.