This Is What Period-Shaming Looks Like Around The World


Health

“Pads will be wrapped in a newspaper when they’re purchased.”

Posted on June 22, 2017, 15:11 GMT

Depending on who you
are, where you live and what kind of cycle you have,
period-shaming may not really feel like a thing for you.
People bleed, life goes on. Right?

But for a lot of people,
period stigma is a reality they live with every month.
BuzzFeed readers around
the world told us what it looks
and feels like for them.

(Many of you also wrote to say that you don’t feel periods
are stigmatized in your culture, or that how people talk
about menstruation is changing in a positive way — which is
great!)

None of these responses should be taken to speak for an
entire country, culture or religion; there are, of course,
many diverse beliefs, practices and experiences within each.
But here are some of the things readers shared with us.

1. “Pads will be wrapped in a newspaper
when they’re purchased.”

@thesadgirlgang / Via instagram.com

The topic of periods is hush-hush, where people will
refrain from talking about it. People have started to
speak out and eliminate period-shaming lately. Pads will
be wrapped in a newspaper when they’re purchased, and
tampons are seen as a thing that will take away the
virginity of a girl or get lost inside. If someone comes
out of a washroom with Random Facts, surely a pack
of Libra was opened.

—Nikhat, 21, Fiji

2. “My own mother really made a huge
deal about the smell and burden of my period.”

My own mother really made a huge deal about the smell and
burden of my period. More than talking about reproductive
health (she had endometriosis), sexual health, wellbeing, and
the like, she made sure that when I was on my period I still
performed all my duties well, both in and outside the home,
for the sake of others and despite my pain.

—Kristy, 18, Australia

3. “My mom once told me that when I’m
on my period, I shouldn’t throw the ‘evidence’ away in the
bathroom garbage because then ‘people would know why I was so
moody.'”

http://@maxine.sarah.art / Via instagram.com

I had a party once and had cleaned the house (which
included emptying the garbage) the day before. As people
were starting to arrive, my boyfriend went to the
bathroom and came back and whispered to me that my
roommate had tossed a panty-liner wrapper in the garbage
bin. He wanted me to “take care of it” so that other
partygoers wouldn’t have to see it.

On a similar note, my mom once told me that when I’m on
my period I shouldn’t throw the “evidence” away in the
bathroom garbage because then “people would know why I
was so moody.” She insisted that I either take my used
pads/tampons/wrappers down to the kitchen garbage (which
is changed almost daily) or throw it out in the outside
bin. That was humiliating.

—Lindsay, 27, Canada

4. “Most Malay women even wash out
their tampons with soap and water before disposal.”

Here in Malaysia, very few people use tampons, often due to
religious beliefs. I’m Chinese, and my mom is fine with me
using tampons, but most Malay women even wash out their
tampons with soap and water before disposal, as it is thought
to be unclean otherwise.

—Jann, 22, Malaysia

5. “My dad and brother are not even
allowed to look at the pads or know about where they are
stored in the storage closet.”

@aryaprakash / Via instagram.com

My dad and brother are not even allowed to look at the
pads or know about where they stored are in the storage
closet. I asked my brother to bring up a bag from the
garage and my mother told me to get it myself because, as
she whispered to me later, it had a box of pads in it and
my brother would either see it or find out.

—Anonymous, 21, US (but grew up with super-conservative
Indian parents)

6. “Once when I was 14 my grandfather
ran out of the bathroom to ask me if I had a bloody nose… I
questioned whether he even knew what a period was.”

My family is Cambodian-Chinese. My mom and grandmother (who
live in the same house) are OBSESSED with making sure I cover
up all traces of bloodied tissue or used (and wrapped)
menstrual products in the bathroom wastebasket, so that the
men in my family don’t know I’m on my period. Even the
wrapper used to conceal the used pad being visible was a
no-no.

Once when I was 14 my grandfather ran out of the bathroom to
ask me if I had a bloody nose; it was then that I questioned
whether he even knew what a period was, because the
matriarchs hid it so well.

—Colette, 19, US

7. “I always hated the ‘tucking your
pad in your sleeve so no one sees it’ thing … now I’m
owning it and walking with the neon green package like,
‘What? You don’t like something?'”

@muskinn_budapest / Via instagram.com

Around high school I started talking more openly with my
best friend, and I owe her for helping me escape the
period taboo I grew up with. I always hated the “tucking
your pad in your sleeve so no one sees it” thing and only
now I’m owning it and walking with the neon green package
like, “What? You don’t like something? Oh, you thought
I’ll be embarrassed? Ha ha… I grew out of that, thank
you.”

—Magda, 22, Poland

8. “It’s like pulling off a heist any
time I need to smuggle tampons into the bathroom. HOW DOES
EVERYONE ELSE DO IT WITHOUT ME NOTICING?!?”

I wish it was something I didn’t have to hide. Not because I
want to openly talk about it all the time to desensitize
people (because my period is a thing I consider personal and
between me/my body), but because it is like pulling off a
heist any time I need to smuggle tampons into the bathroom.
HOW DOES EVERYONE ELSE DO IT WITHOUT ME NOTICING?!? Teach
me!!!

—Anonymous, Canada

9. “Asking for pads or tampons using
secret codes is just reinforcing the idea that periods are
something wrong or something shameful.”

@asabree / Via instagram.com

I’ve been trying to make my friends think over how they
react to the fact that women get periods. Asking for pads
or tampons using secret codes is just reinforcing the
idea that periods are something wrong or shameful. We all
should understand how IMPORTANT periods are. Instead of
teaching little girls how they should hide or code-call
tampons and pads when they get their period, there should
be correct education about this subject.

I’m 16 and a feminist, and thanks to this movement I have
developed a certain kind of self-consciousness and
confidence about this subject, in a country where talking
about is considered as wrong. Every time I get to talk
about menstruation, I take my chance and do it.

—Elise, 16, Ecuador

10. “My guy friend told us about his
frickin’ wet dream but would freak about me mentioning my
period.” —Kaya, 17, US

11. “The whole idea about women being
unclean and some sort of untouchable creature has got to
go.”

@diemenstruationsbeauftragte / Via instagram.com

What pisses me off is that everyone knows what
menstruation is, yet no one is ever willing to talk about
it. If you have a problem or you’re worried you haven’t
had your period for months or something related, there’s
never anyone you can talk to easily other than your
friends, which is especially a problem when you’re in
your early teens and you aren’t that independent.

People keep shutting you up even if you do start to open
up a conversation. I am glad that there are a lot more
people raising awareness about it and talking publicly
about it (and asking others to do so too), but the whole
idea about women being unclean and some sort of
untouchable creature has got to go. There is too much
stigmatization — in Urdu, sharmindagi — attached
to having your period, and I really don’t get it.

—Anonymous, 18, Pakistan

12. “Girls can’t buy pads in shops
without being stared at like they’re committing a crime or
something.”

It’s a big taboo, and girls can’t buy pads in shops without
being stared at like they’re committing a crime or something.
After you buy it, it’s wrapped in such a way nobody can see
it.

—Anonymous, 18, Bangladesh

13. “Last week I told a male friend that
I was sad and that I was on my period, and he responded,
‘Disgusting.'”

@littletowngreen / Via instagram.com

After I got my first period, I hid it for three months. I
didn’t tell mom, just my cousin. I was 10 years old, so I
felt embarrassed.

Last week I told a male friend that I was sad and that I
was on my period, and he responded, “Disgusting.”

—Florencia, 27, Argentina

14. “Most men wouldn’t want to eat food
cooked by a menstruating woman or share a bucket or bathroom
with her.” —Eni, 17, Ghana

15. “There is still a lot of taboo in
wearing anything but disposable pads.”

@suzie_grime / Via instagram.com

No one really talks about periods (unless they’re
feminists! Girl power!). Even when you have cramps or
PMS, when someone asks you what’s wrong, you just say
you’re unwell, or have a headache or stomachache.

There is still a lot of taboo in wearing anything but
disposable pads. Many women are afraid of inserting
anything because of their hymen and the fear of “losing
their virginity,” so most women don’t swim on their
period. Period sex is seen as disgusting.

—Val, 22, Mexico

16. “In Hinduism, people worship
goddesses fervently, but when it comes to the actual women in
their lives, they kick them out of temples and kitchens, and
at times even their homes.”

In Hinduism, people worship goddesses fervently, but when it
comes to the actual women in their lives, they kick them out
of temples and kitchens, and at times even their homes during
a period of time when their health, reproductive and
otherwise, should be celebrated!

It’s ridiculous and I’m glad it’s begun to wane, though I’d
argue that a lot more effort is still needed to de-stigmatize
periods.

—Anonymous, 23, India

[You can read more about menstrual taboos in India and
Hinduism and their origins here.]

17. “[You have to] say you have a
headache while stupidly hugging your abdomen.”

ActionAid / Via actionaid.org.uk

You’re not supposed to show that you have your period in
public, so you just kind of have to clench your teeth and
smile through the pain. Or worse, say you have a headache
while stupidly hugging your abdomen.

—D, 22, Libya

18. “Take an aspirin and move on…
Hello! I am bleeding from my uterus, give me a
minute.”

It’s still a taboo. Even though we are quite open and
accepting, women — and especially young girls — still hide
our tampons and pads. It’s even encouraged to take birth
control that eliminates your period. Like taking the Pill
without a stop week, or getting an IUD, like I have.

And when you do have your period, you shouldn’t complain
about it: Take an aspirin and move on. It’s still considered
weak. Hello! I am bleeding from my uterus, give me a minute.

—Eva, 22, Netherlands

19. “It’s not as if I can take four days
off sick every month.”

@diemenstruationsbeauftragte / Via instagram.com

Because we’re British and reserved, it is impossible to
talk about your menstrual health at work. I work in a
team which is all male, apart from me. I have had really
ridiculously heavy and painful periods (I’ll wear one of
those “super plus” tampons and a nighttime pad, and I
have to change every 25 minutes because it leaks), but
I’ll still be at work pretending everything’s fine.

Sometimes I have to sit with clients for up to three
hours in the same position, which obviously is a recipe
for disaster. I have never felt comfortable talking to
men about my period, but especially at work, where there
are no women to corroborate my story. And it’s not as if
I can take four days off sick every month. So how can I
deal?

—Anonymous, 23, UK

20. “There are lots of
misunderstandings, like: ‘My period is so light, so yours
must be light too.'”

Some major companies may give you paid holiday for periods
but it’s very rare. There are lots of people, even women, who
don’t understand how periods are so hard for the women who
have got terrible ones. There are lots of misunderstandings,
like: “My period is so light, so yours must be light too —
menstrual pain is not that hard. Why do you need to take a
day off for it? You’re being lazy.”

—Anonymous, 23, Japan

21. “It’s not talked about enough. I’m
almost 18 and I still have no clue how to use a tampon
correctly.”

@the_clams / Via instagram.com

It’s not talked about enough. I’m almost 18 and I still
have no clue how to use a tampon correctly or how a Diva
Cup works exactly. We have zero sex education. None.

—Laura, 17, Latvia

22. “We’ve had mini health lessons [with
my husband] because he knew nothing about it, and I believe
my partner should be informed about what’s happening to my
body.”

I work in a salon, so we’re pretty open about period stuff. I
suffer from PMDD and endometriosis. I’ve
learned to be honest about the struggle and pain, and a lot
of clients have opened up to me about similar situations. As
for family (including my mother) it’s not spoken of.

I grew up very Catholic, so birth control was a big no-no. I
went more than a decade with untreated endometriosis and PMDD
because you only go to a gynecologist when you’re pregnant,
since they’ll just put you on birth control. When I was
around 11, I started passing out from the cramps and the
women told me to get used to it — it’d be happening for the
rest of my life.

My husband isn’t allowed to shy away. He knows about it and
what I need, has had to take me to the ER for the pain. We’ve
had mini health lessons because he knew nothing about it, and
I believe my partner should be informed about what’s
happening to my body. He knows what meds help, what to say,
and what not to say.

It wasn’t until I was 25 and finally started seeing a
gynecologist that I got an IUD that literally changed my
life. Unfortunately I can’t tell anyone from home about it
because it’s a form of birth control and it’s “wrong.”

—Anonymous, 26, US

23. “Being the feminist and rebel I am,
I was just like, fuck this, everyone’s gonna know when I
menstruate.”

@inborndesigns / Via instagram.com

You’re not supposed to talk about it. But me being the
feminist and rebel I am, I was just like, fuck this,
everyone’s gonna know when I menstruate, because damn —
it’s a process in nature.

—Anonymous, Hong Kong

24. “My university is very open-minded
about issues like women’s rights, so talking about
menstruation is like talking about where you want to
eat.”

There is definitely a taboo on menstruation in the Filipino
culture. I was fortunate that my university is very
open-minded about issues like women’s rights, so talking
about menstruation is like talking about where you want to
eat.

However, in some communities outside my university, the taboo
is strong. I remember during my elementary school years that
the boys often ridiculed a classmate for her menstruation.

—Marivic, Philippines

25. “My mother was very cross with me,
telling me I should take better care to wear thicker
pads.”

@artwhorting / Via instagram.com

Women do complain among each other about their periods,
but there are many women who tell others not to make a
big fuss as well. This quietness around periods meant
that I had a super-hard time in the beginning. My second
period was the heaviest period I had in my life, and many
heavy periods would follow. I wore two overnight pads and
a tampon at night, and still my mattress and sheets were
covered in blood.

My mother was very cross with me, telling me I should
take better care to wear thicker pads. My period would
not stop, and she said it was just normal puberty. I was
severely anemic and had fainted at school. I also
remember my sister said my heavy periods were related to
my weight, because I was slightly overweight. It made me
feel like it was all my fault.

Much later in life I learned that I had a huge ovarian
cyst and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I now
have only one ovary. I am on the Pill, which makes my
periods much lighter. I am now happy to have my period
because it is manageable and it means my body is still
working.

I want other women to feel more informed and
self-confident in their bodies. I am happy times are
changing. I saw they have free tampons in my local Bagels
& Beans, and I cheer those little things.

—Anonymous, 26, Netherlands

26. “I’m making sure my daughters are up
to speed on everything and it’s not a shock or treated as
shameful when the time comes.”

My mum never discussed periods with me or bought me
protection — because her mum didn’t. Old Irish
embarrassment. I’m making sure my daughters are up to speed
on everything and it’s not a shock or treated as shameful
when the time comes.

—Leanne, 38, UK

27. “You can be a little open about your
menstruation but they still think it is disgusting to talk
about it.”

@goibphotography / Via instagram.com

I live in the city, and here you can be a little open
about your menstruation but they still think it is
disgusting to talk about it. Outside the city you can’t
even consider talking about it. Menstruation is something
they think you should be ashamed of.

—Anonymous, 26, Guatemala

28. “Lately, every woman I know — young
ones, older ones, all girls — seems a lot more open talking
about tampons, cups, pads, cramps, bleeding a lot, sore tits,
moodiness, anything!”

It’s weird, because you’re not supposed to cook certain
things or it will spoil. As a hairdresser, clients once in a
blue moon ask if you’re on your period (if so, it’s thought
you’ll mess up their hair), but if you talk about it, you’re
demonized.

But, lately, every woman I know — young ones, older ones, all
girls — seems a lot more open to talk about tampons, cups,
pads, cramps, bleeding a lot, sore tits, moodiness, anything!
So eventually, menstruating and women’s health will not be as
taboo as they used to be.

—Isabely, Brazil

29. “Women have started to embrace their
bodies along with everything that comes out of it… Now if
the patriarchy could catch up that would be great.”

@jchavae / Via instagram.com

I’m glad my mother chose to speak to me so openly about
it — and at the age of 9! Most of my friends had no idea
what it was and I remember many of them getting scared
their first time. It made me realize the level of taboo
surrounding such a natural normal occurrence. Things are
changing, though, and feminism is on the rise. Women have
started to embrace their bodies, along with everything
that comes out of it. It’s a good time to be a woman. Now
if the patriarchy could catch up that would be great.
Mmmkay?

—Mia, 26, Indian national born and raised in the Middle
East

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What does period-shaming
look and feel like for you? Let us know in the
comments.

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