It’s not new information that there’s a stigma surrounding periods and we’ve long been conditioned to keep periods within the coven of womb-ownership. While many of us are becoming more period positive, there’s usually one group it’s more difficult sharing the bloody burden with than others – Non-menstruators. Particularly, let’s face it, cis men. All too often menstruators are silencing themselves in the presence of men because of their discomfort.
If you’re reading this, perhaps you’d like to work on your period candour, and perhaps not. Remember you don’t owe it to anybody to provide them with information about periods, this includes your own personal experience and those of other menstruators too. Read on for some of my tips for opening up the conversation with people who don’t menstruate.
- Don’t laugh at them.
If someone who doesn’t menstruate says or asks something that seems utterly ridiculous to you, don’t laugh. I know it can be tempting because it’s something you’ve known most of your life, but probably no-one has told them this stuff. How are they supposed to know? Laughing at them is also likely to make them feel a bit silly which could put them off asking further questions in the future. I’ve seen this way too much recently – nice one, Tik Tok. Instead of sniggering, correct them or answer their question honestly and without judgment. You never know, they might go and pass on the knowledge to their brethren.
2. Invite questions.
If you happen to find yourself getting on to the subject of periods in any capacity, invite questions. Ask them if there’s anything they’ve always wondered about menstruation or don’t understand. Again, try to refrain from laughing at them, but educate them so it isn’t such a mystery anymore. We all know that aversions to things can often stem from a lack of understanding, so help bridge that gap. Make sure they know you will be their source of period wisdom whenever they need it – or point them in my direction if you don’t know the answer.
3. Call them out (gently).
When referencing periods or maybe even just when picking up a tampon, if you hear, “ew, gross” or “too much information”, challenge them. Ask them why they’re so disgusted. More often than not you’ll find that they can’t muster a justification beyond, “it’s gross”. Take the opportunity to explain that it’s a huge part of our lives and can often be shit to deal with – not being able to talk about it really sucks. Ask them how they’d feel if they were having a rubbish time (because of something that was entirely natural by the way) but no-one wanted to hear about it? In fact, people felt it was downright abhorrent if they did talk about it.
4. Don’t censor yourself.
I know this goes against everything telling you your period should be shrouded in secrecy, but try not to stop yourself mentioning periods. Quit telling yourself you can’t say certain things in front of guys because of their discomfort – that’s their problem! Plus, the more it’s just dropped into everyday life, the less shocking it becomes. Avoid using code names like “time of the month” or “lady problems” and use the proper terminology instead. Admit that it’s period cramps that have you doubled over. Carry your tampon to the toilet like you would any other object instead of hiding it up your sleeve. You may even be surprised at how few people are actually phased by it.
I know it can be daunting when you’ve had so many years of keeping it to yourself, but the more people start feeling ok talking about periods, the better it becomes for everyone. Try to be compassionate about it, it’s not their fault. Obviously, there are some exceptions, some blokes are just turds who use menstruation to fuel their misogyny but generally speaking, they just aren’t in the loop. Education systems will often have us believe that because it doesn’t happen to them, they don’t ‘need’ to know. That’s bullshit. They may not bleed themselves but they will have friends, parents, siblings, partners who do. And they should understand it and be comfortable with it to be able to support those people best.
About the Writer:
Kathryn King a.k.a. @BloodyHonest on Instagram, aims to educate, empower, and entertain people about all things menstruation, and help break the period taboo.