The Dirty, Bloody, Messy Politics Of Menstruation

It’s hard to imagine that uteral lining could cause such a constant seismic stir, but alas, it’s true. In fact, seismic might not even be a strong enough word choice, despite its hyperbole. Seismic vibrations may be strong enough to rattle the earth, but they can’t rival the force of a bodily function at the crux of so many societal struggles.

Periods are fraught. They’re a human rights issue. They’re a source of conflict across every culture, race, class, and gender. They’re tangled up with just about everything worth fighting about — from poverty and gender politics to sexuality and racial justice. They are a morass of pain, triumph, disease, shame, sex, dysmorphia, biology, birth, and of course, exploration.

In honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day, and its needed efforts to raise awareness and reduce stigmas, we’ve collected stories that give a small but poignant glimpse into what periods have meant to people — or haven’t — and what we might hope for as we take a few more journeys around the sun. (Or moon.)

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Myths And Taboos Silence Menstruating Women In India
By Revati Upadhya

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“I often reflect back to that day in the bathroom stall — the day I first got my period. The shame that swept over me came back every single month, right through my years in school and college. At first I was afraid of being bullied for having a stained skirt. In the later years, I was embarrassed by the wad of plastic and cotton between my legs that crackled with every step I took, announcing my period to the world at large. I blame the unhygienic, insufficient toilet facilities in my Indian college for the instances of Urinary Tract Infections that I suffered in silence.”

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The Jewish Laws On Sex Have Strengthened My Marriage
By Kylie Ora Lobell

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“In Judaism, there is something called the laws of family purity.Essentially, according to these guidelines, couples shouldn’t have sex, sleep in the same bed, pass one another anything, share food and drinks, or even lift something like a piece of furniture together during the wife’s period. After the woman’s period is over, the couple has “seven clean days” in which they still don’t touch.”

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F*ck It’s That Time Of The Month: The Menstruation Blues
By Rossella Laeng

menstruation blues

An exclusive Est. music video where two women sing the blues.

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Periods And The Cycle Of Learned Pain In Black Families
Britt Julious

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“When black families pass on the cycle of learned pain to new generations, they validate a code of stoicism. Rather than address our problems — whether physical or mental — we learn to live in pain, silent and complacent. Visible and vocal acknowledgement of pain is for other people. We are more than our pain, even if our pain cripples us. Life as a black American is traumatizing enough, and that trauma is ingrained in our bones being here now, knowing this country’s history. I believe we accept pain because for so long, that is all we have known.”

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I’m The One Who Bled But Does Not Bleed Anymore
By Alison Meehan

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“In many ways I do feel my socio-cultural “womanhood” has become null and void. Growing up and getting your first period is often referred to as becoming a woman. Our ability to menstruate and procreate has been bound up tightly with our gender and gender identity. For women like myself who have opted out of the biological process, who see themselves as women, but not mothers, or for women not assigned female at birth, this can be alienating.”

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Why We Must Stop Calling Menstruation A Women’s Issue
By V. Tanner, featuring various trans and nonbinary voices

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“I do feel excluded because people commonly link menstruation, vaginas, and reproductive rights exclusively to cis women. It’s bothersome because I feel like if I associate myself with these things, I’m giving up being nonbinary. Too commonly people are only taking about cis women even though menstruating people of other identities are standing right there.”

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The Dirty Politics Of Period Sex
By Katie Tandy

period sex
“I liked the way the blood traced every place we touched one another, getting almost everywhere. I loved seeing his just-washed sheets still stained by me, and the streaks I’d sometimes get on my toes. I liked that we curled up and slept on the small faded brown pools, a nest all our own, a testament to bodies doing what they do.”

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How The ‘Period Paradox’ Keeps Women Down
By Elizabeth Yuko

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“The stigma surrounding periods, it turns out, cuts both ways: While menstruation isn’t taken seriously as an actual medical condition, it’s also seen as being so serious, it can render some women unable to function.
Welcome to the Period Paradox.”

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Is This High-Tech Menstrual Cup The Future Of Period Protection?
By Avital Norman Nathman

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“What about a menstrual cup that has all the benefits of the one you love, but is also connected to an app so you’ll know when it’s close to being full, how much you’ve shed, and more? Is that the period protection of the future we were never promised? Enter LOONCUP. Billing itself as ‘the world’s first smart (bluetooth connected) menstrual cup,’ and funded via an overwhelming successful Kickstarter, LOONCUP’s goal is to give women the tools and analytics they need to better understand and monitor their bodies, using metrics from menstruation as a key indicator.”
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Why THINX Period-Proof Panties Are Also For Men
By Cathy Gigante-Brown

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“A big part of our mission with this product was to make space for trans male visibility. So, we knew early on that we’d be launching it alongside an editorial piece that followed the story of a trans guy — our goal is always to educate, and we wanted to do this by letting someone else tell their story instead of yet another cisgender person or big brand trying to do it for them.”

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How The ‘Tampon Tax’ Violates Human Rights
By Dani Barrington and Maggie Hardy

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“Consumers in many places — including Australia, the UK, and many U.S. states — must pay a “luxury tax” on menstrual hygiene products, as they are not considered “essential” items, unlike other goods such as condoms, dental dams and female condoms, lubricants, folic acid, sunscreen, and nicotine withdrawal aids. Unsurprisingly, many people find this tax ridiculous and discriminatory. And many of us — particularly in Australia and the United Kingdom — have been protesting about the injustice for years.”

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Lead Image: flickr/Wellcome Images

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