Here are some basic facts. We are well into the year 2019. Half of the world population is female. On average, women spend about 40 years following their menstrual cycle. These statements are well-known and make sense.
Here's what doesn't make sense. Some women around the world don't find out what their period is until they actually have one for the first time.
Just imagine going to the bathroom as a 13-year-old girl, not knowing that this could happen at literally any time, and finding your underwear soiled with blood. That is absolutely terrifying. Without the slightest idea of why or how it's happening, if it can be stopped, or that other girls are actually going through the same thing. From a very young age, this gives young women the very wrong idea that something within their bodies is flawed, impure, and needs to be hidden, leading to feelings of guilt and shame over a perfectly normal occurrence. From then on, women around the world are told that for a fraction of a month, every month, they are unhygienic for going through an uncontrollable, physiological response of her body not being pregnant.
Period-shaming is real and it happens to women all around the world. Here are just a few of the common, unfortunate ways that it happens.
1. Lack of access to clean pads or other products
As a result, they resort to using old clothes, which can't be openly washed or dried. For use the next month, the cloth will be left in a hidden, damp place increasing the chance for infection later on. Besides health concerns, lack of clean products also forces girls to stay at home and miss countless days of school and even work.
2. Outside of the U.S., women are told that tampons are only for married women
Some cultures shame women into not wearing tampons because they're told that they'll lose their virginities otherwise.
3. In rural areas in Nepal and India, women were sent to sheds outside of the homes
After the death of a teenage girl in 2016, this practice has now been banned.
4. The menstrual products "luxury tax"
Periods aren't a luxury. Why are they taxed like one? YouTube
5. Women shouldn't follow certain religious practices and rituals during their periods
For fasts, this makes sense, but many times women aren't allowed to enter places of worship or pray because, for that time, they aren't "pure."
6. Boys and men are either unaware of what a period is or how it works
Periods aren't something to be ashamed of. What is something to be ashamed of, is the fact that something completely normal and uncontrollable is frowned upon. If both girls and boys all around the world are educated about this process, then they will grow up to normalize it as it should be. Furthermore, if the leaders of today have a better understanding and actively work to minimize the spread of this ignorance, then women and girls will be more confident, safer, and healthier.