№38 The #PeriodEmoji Is a Bloody Shame

The period emojis that never came to be.

Just revealed and coming to keypads everywhere this March…the period emoji. It’s an adorable red teardrop and if you put the finger emoji in front of it, someone might think you’re going to the doctor to get your finger pricked. If you use it alone, you might be saying you’re excited to change your nail polish. Nothing about the period emoji says “period.”

The new period emoji.

Aren’t emojis used to express emotion? That’s the emo part of the word emoji, no? If this emoji is meant to express some emotion about a woman’s period, it fails. I showed my 15-year-old daughter and her friend. One said, “What does that have to do with my period?” The other put her hand to her forehead, just like the “I can’t” emoji. Then we brainstormed some better ideas like a woman in bloody pajamas holding a heating pad to her belly or a woman surrounded by pizza and donuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of a period emoji. It’s about time. And I’m sure there will be plenty of uses for it. I mean, half of all people on earth menstruate. According to Netdoctor.com, on average, women start their periods at 13 then bleed for three to seven days every 28 days until they hit menopause at 45 to 55. In a lifetime, every woman will have her period 500 times.

Some women (and men) are embarrassed about this natural and life-giving biological function. So, I’m psyched an emoji is coming out to help reduce everyone’s shame. But why is the red tear drop so timid? Why is it so ashamed?

Two years ago, Plan International UK, an organization dedicated to girls’ health and equality all over the world, started a campaign for a period emoji. They understood that talking about periods in a fun way, reduces shame and stigma. They created five designs: a pad with a blood smudge, a uterus, three red drops with different facial expressions, a calendar with three blood drops, and undies with two blood drops. All of them said, “There’s something messy and maybe uncomfortable going on” without saying, “Murder.” They put them to a vote and the undies won.

Plan International UK sent their winning emoji to Unicode Consortium, which is the official organization that manages emojis worldwide, and they killed it. No one knows why.

Here’s what I think: Because old-fashioned, woman hating notions are alive today. Just last month, my wife and I were out to dinner with a straight couple. We got to complaining about how hard it is to find time for sex when you have little kids when my friend said, “And then there’s my period, so that kills a week a month.”

I said, “What? You’ve never left a hand print?” She hadn’t.

Imagine lesbians. With two women you’ve reduced your sex days by half your life until menopause. Or imagine turning this stigma around. What if no one wanted to have sex with men while they were ejaculating? That stuff makes a mess and smells like bleach and feet.

Something’s got to be done. Thankfully, a lot is being done. There’s Plan International UK doing their best. There’s a new podcast called the Flow Down. And there’s the free bleed movement, which of course means not using any period protection while wearing white pants while bleeding in public.

I’m joining.


This is №38 of the #weeklyessaychallenge I gave myself when I turned 50. Just 12 to go, but who’s counting?