“The Shame of Menstruating”

I remember my first period. I was fourteen years old and it was just before Easter. I actually remember feeling excited. My grandmother sent me a tree of life necklace shortly thereafter – she sent one to each of us. She wanted us to remember that our periods were a symbol of the beautiful power of the female body. The tree symbolized the female power to create and sustain life. My mother told us that our periods were our “power time,” and encouraged us to see them as a gift rather than a burden.

Yet, I can say with confidence that my experience was pretty unique. Most girls around the world are not encouraged to talk publicly about their period, much less celebrate it. And despite my mother and grandmother’s loving encouragement toward embracing my period as a source of power and beauty, society told me to hide it. To be ashamed of it – to avoid wearing white in case, God forbid it leaked, to plot a method to hide the pad before the walk of shame to the bathroom, and to avoid sex at all costs during those seven days.

 Society told me, and girls around the world, to come up with euphemisms so that we could guarantee that the boys couldn’t understand what we were talking about. “Aunt Flow is visiting this week.” Society taught boys to blame any sign of emotion from us on “that time of the month,” and to shout “You must be on your period!” as if it was the most painful insult that a girl could hear.

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