The Red Elephant in the Room

From Tuesday, March 15.

Because it only felt befitting to kick off the first days of the month with cycle talk.

Menstrual Myths

  • You cannot have sex during your period
    • False!
    • Sex can even help menstrual cramps!
  • You cannot get pregnant if you have sex during your period
    • FALSE!
    • Sperm can live inside of the body for up to five days. Ovulation can occur during or right after the bleeding phase, meaning the sperm and egg can meet up!
  • You should not exercise or swim when you are on your period.
    • False!
    • You should do whatever makes you happy and your body feel good. Exercising can help you with menstrual cramps and keeps you healthy!
  • Since you are more prone to mood swings when you are on your period, you should not be allowed to make important decisions…

trump.png-Nothing has ever been false-r in the history of all things false…ever.

Menstruation Defined

  • The cyclical growth and subsequent shedding of the innermost uterine lining (endometrium)
    • averages 28 days
    • occurs only when a reproductive cycle has not resulted in the fertilization of the ovum
    • characteristics can be altered by stressors
    • menstrual phase: period of the cycle during which bleeding occurs

The Cycle.png

  • Symptoms
    • Physical symptoms include:
      • abdominal tenderness, bloating, and cramp
      • migraines, breast tenderness, indigestion, etc.
    • Psychological symptoms include:
      • irritability, low mood, change in sex drive
    •  Theories explaining why symptoms occur:
      • Hormone Theory
      • Psychological Theory

Accommodating Menstruation

  • Menstrual products
    • Disposable Products
      • i.e. Tampons, Pads
    • Reusable Products
      • i.e. Menstrual Cups, Menstrual Pads, Sea Sponges
      • Contraceptives
        • Birth control pills, IUDs, Birth control implant, Vaginal rings*

*some individuals and cultures prefer not to use contraception

  • Disposables: Tampons and Pads
    • What should you know?
      • Harms the environment
      • May be uncomfortable
      • Expensive
      • Tampons associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
      • Usually made from rayon, Dioxin (a known carcinogen)
      • May cause vaginal dryness and lead to health problems (yeast infections, UTIs, pain)
    • Alternatives to Traditional Tampons
      • Sea sponge tampons (reusable up to 1 year)
      • Organic, cotton, no-applicator tampons and tampons not whitened by chlorine
        • NatraCare, Seventh Generation
  • Reusable options
  • Menstrual Cupscups.png
    • Reusable cup usually made of medical grade silicone
    • Folded and inserted like a tampon
    • Can be used for up to 12 hours, depending on flow
    • Pros
      • Can hold up to 3x a Super Sized Tampon
      • No health risks
      • Environmentally friendly
      • More economical in long run
      • Some people report lighter flow, less cramps, or shorter period
      • Some can be used during sex (not a contraceptive)
    • Cons
      • Learning curve
      • Messy
      • Talk to your gyno before using with IUD
      • More expensive upfront
      • Needs to be cleaned
      • Like tampons, needs to be inserted
      • Flow
      • Cervix height
      • Softness
      • And be sure to visit PreciousStarPads on youtube to see some great educational videos, including for trans women!When choosing one, consider:
    • Insertion
      • C-fold
      • Punch-down
      • 7-fold
      • Origami fold
  • Sisterfriend!
    • Tampons and sanitary pads are top needs at shelters, but people rarely donate them
    • Organization dedicated to providing homeless and underprivileged women with feminine care products
  • Basically
    • There are a lot of options for menstruation… you aren’t limited to one or two things!
    • Make sure you use a method that works for you and feel free to experiment with it and talk to people about it

Why don’t we talk about it?


stig·ma /‘stigmә/
“stain or mark that renders an individual’s body or character defective” – Ingrid Johnson-Robledo and Joan C. Chrisler

Three factors:

  1. Peril – perceived danger to others
  2. Visibility – obviousness of mark
  3. Controllability – how responsible an individual is for the condition

Menstrual Stigma?

  1. Peril – from past religious myths associating menstruation with vampirism, demons, death
  2. Visibility – staining
  3. Controllability – ???
  • How is Menstruation Stigmatized?
    • Seen as a disability socially
    • Menstrual Products advertisements
    • Media
    • Educational Books
    • Cultural Silence
    • The way we talk about it – why call it periods when we can call it by its name, menses or menstruation
  • Cultural Variation
    1. In Many Countries, Girls Cut Up Pieces Of Mattress Or Use Twigs and Leaves As Pads, Causing Infection
    2. In Parts of Japan, Women Can’t Hold Traditionally Male Jobs Like Sushi Chef Because Menstruation Causes “Imbalance”
    3. In Parts Of Nepal, Menstruating Girls Are Banished To Dark Rooms
    4. Right Here In the U.S., Homeless Women Say Getting Their Periods Is One Of The Worst Struggles
    5. Menstruation Is A “Strict Secret” In Malawi
    6. In Bolivia, Girls Are Told To Keep Pads Unseen And Out Of The Trash. They’re Even Led To Believe It Can Cause Cancer.
    7. In Parts Of India, Women And Girls Are Told Their Periods Can “Pollute” Food, Like Spoiling A Pickled Vegetable
    8. In Afghanistan, Women Are Told They’ll Become Infertile If They Shower During Menstruation, Which Takes A Toll On Their Dignity
    9. Nearly Half Of Girls In Iran Believe Menstruation Is A Disease
  • Effects
    • May affect self-perception
    • May affect how others perceive
      • 2002:a researcher dropped a tampon in front of individual men AND women and then a hairpin in front of individual men and women and found that the people who saw her drop the tampon rated her as less competent and then were also found to sit farther away from her at a meeting later
    • May affect behavior-may feel gross and not want to swim, or dress differently when on period (more baggy clothes), etc
    • Could perhaps affect self-confidence, or even career


  • Feminist Spiritualists
  • Radical Menstruationists
  • Menstrual Blood Art
  • Using menstrual blood as fertilizer
  • India’s Menstruation Man
  • Fertilizer
    1. A menstrual cup (which is also an eco-friendly take on the wasteful pads & tampons)
    2. An outdoor area to garden
    3. A large glass jar
    4. Plants to garden (she grew some lettuce!)
    5. Possibly a refrigerator (this is a personal/hygienic choice.)

    Collect your flow using the cup, then instead of flushing it away (gasp), store it in the glass jar. When you’ve collected all you need, mix with water (ratio of nine parts water, one part blood).

  • Free Bleeding
    “To me, period-shaming is when you – as someone who is experiencing the bleeding – have to make somebody else comfortable before yourself.”

    -Kiran Gandhi

    freeblSangre Menstrual, a Spanish performance group

  • Cultural Perspective
    • Zulus of South Africa–a goat is slaughtered and the girl is secluded with her friends, emerging the next day to be bathed, smeared with red clay, and taught lessons for adulthood by other women.
    • Bauls of Bengal, India–menstrual blood is mixed with cow’s milk, coconut milk, camphor, palm juice and sugar, and drunk by those present as a potent regenerating substance, increasing memory, concentration, happiness, serenity and love.

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