Why are we scared of period blood? People with periods will experience around 450 periods in their lifetime. They will use around 11000 disposable period products (less if you try reusables). And will leak through many many pairs of underwear (As someone who has done this many times in many different locations I understand how much of a pain it can be). Period blood remains the main image of periods. But what are our attitudes to period blood?
Let’s start with Period Leaks
Period leaks are normal. We have all experienced them. We all have our ‘nightmare leak’ stories. My most memorable is leaking when travelling abroad. I had walked the length of the plane to get to the bathroom before my mum chased after me letting me know I had leaked. Looking at my trousers in the bathroom mirror felt like a scene from Carrie. Now, I know leaks are a pain and I am not even going to try to deny that. Leaks can feel embarrassing. Yes, I was super embarrassed on that plane journey. Even more recently I have felt the stress of thinking I have leaked in public. It is tricky to get out of the mindset that leaks are something we should be ashamed of and that does not make me a strong confident woman.
Our attitudes to leaks are changing however. I know for me, although I do not want to leak in public (personal choice), I would not be as horrified if it happened. Leaks are talked about more, they are depicted in the media, we even laugh at them sometimes. Our attitudes are definitely less polarised than previously, however I think period blood remains icky to many.
Is it just all blood?
To start I thought I would discuss the fact that as humans, many of us are freaked out by any bodily liquid. We are not the best at coping with blood in general so perhaps that is the root of the problem?
Although this is likely to be tied in, there is a whole other layer to the stigma surrounding period blood. For one, periods themselves are not the most openly discussed topic. Our journey to become more open minded about periods is a recent history and we still have steps to go.
It still blows my mind that period product advertisements were banned on TV and radio until 1972. However, it was not until 1985 that none other than Courtney Cox (Monica from Friends) faced the newest Tampax advertisement where she braved the word ‘PERIOD’ for the first time. The FIRST TIME.
No wonder we have an issue with period blood. Periods are only now becoming more visible and accepted within popular culture.
Advertisements for period products have famously avoided any mention or image of period blood. Using the classic ‘blue liquid’ animation instead. Thankfully, steps are being taken to stop the blue washing of period blood. Bodyform launched its campaign ‘Blood Normal’ in 2017, showing not only real blood on a pad but also lots of other references to period blood. The video ends with a call to make showing period blood more normal. Campaigns such as this that we are clearly taking steps in the right direction but there is not enough of them. Periods remain a silent topic surrounded by secrecy and misconceptions.
The rise of reusable period products
The rise of reusable period products has shown that we are becoming more comfortable with our own period blood. Menstrual cups require emptying and washing and reusable pads or underwear require washing. Now most people who try reusables will explain that they are less bloody than you might think but it still demonstrates a step towards less embarrassment surrounding reusable products.
How do we keep improving our attitudes to period blood and periods?
Education is key to this debate. To feel more comfortable around periods, we all need to be given accurate information surrounding periods no matter of your gender. We need to take away the embarrassment and we need to talk about the social side of periods not just the biological. In 10 years time I hope to be writing that period stigma has almost entirely gone. Learn more about Lilypads own education programme.