Menstruation…Deal With It (and Run the Marathon With no Tampon in)

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When I was 11, some little grotbag with an innocent-looking face full of freckles and a soul of pure evil went through my school bag. He was looking for a way to ridicule me, and he found it in the form of my lifelong nemesis: the sanitary towel. He pulled it out of its wrapping, and threw it into the middle of the classroom so that everyone would see, and they all laughed at me for having something as embarrassing and disgusting as a period. Luckily, when I went home crying later that day, my mum taught me that if he did it again, I should waggle my little finger at him, intimating that he was only acting so pathetically because of insecurities over his tiny penis; a piece of information that ties in nicely with Donald Trump’s recent comments about periods.

Trump stated that Megyn Kelly, a news anchor who gave him what-for on a televised debate, did so because she had ‘blood coming out of…her wherever’. Not because she’s a grown woman with thoughts and opinions, because she’s intelligent, because she believed him to be wrong. OH NO. Because she may have been on her period, and as well all know, science states that periods turn all women into wild-eyed maniacs who want to destroy everything in their paths, much like zombies or werewolves (who also work on a lunar cycle. Coincidence?!). It maybe isn’t surprising that a man as backwards and repugnant as Trump would say something like this, but it isn’t just Trump.

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Period stigma is still everywhere. The U.K still has a 5% tax on sanitary products, due them apparently being ‘unnecessary’. I’d love for them to let us know in what way they are unnecessary; maybe they expect us to go back the olden days and just walk about with some old rags stowed away in our nethers. Or maybe we should all be taking tips from marathon runner Kiran Gandhi, who decided to let her period blood runneth over, literally. She came on the day before running the London marathon, and she couldn’t handle wearing an uncomfortable tampon while running for 26.2 miles. And fair play to her really; who wants a giant wad of cotton chaffing away at your bits for several hours when you’re taking on one of the biggest physical challenges of your life? She says she did it in the name of feminism, because ‘If there’s one way to transcend oppression, it’s to run a marathon in whatever way you want’. It’s only newsworthy because its period blood. Had a man run the race bleeding profusely from his ballsack, he would be branded a national treasure; a bit like Stephen Fry (if he’d got a paper cut on his left ball). What I liked best about Gandhi’s attitude is that she’d decided her personal comfort needed to take precedence over others’; she wasn’t going to wear a tampon just so marathon runners wouldn’t freak out over a bit of blood. She didn’t care if people stared at her. She’d trained hard for the marathon, and she was going to run it the way she bloody well liked.

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She’s not the first woman to make us examine ‘period-shaming’. Performance artist Casey Jenkins sent people into a spin with her show ‘Casting Off My Womb’, in which she knitted a scarf from wool she pulled out of her vagina. She did this over a month, and the result is a pleasing dip-dyed looking scarf that charts her cycle from start to finish. The world (led by the Daily Mail) was outraged, and although I felt an initial ‘eugh, blood’ reaction to her project, I soon got over myself and realised that she’s doing a good thing; anyone who helps to de-stigmatise periods- and everything periods represent- is doing something brave and important. There are lots of people out there who will assume that period blood is a bodily fluid, so anything to do with it is as disgusting and unhygienic as, say, wee. And they might have a point. But pee comes from men and women and adults and children. We aren’t taught from a young age that weeing is something to be ashamed of; how many teenage girls are walking around school going ‘OH MY GOD, I hope no one realises I’ve one a wee today’? Periods are associated with something shameful: developing and continued sexuality, as well as women’s feelings and emotions. And that is why they need to be de-stigmatised.

OK, so I won’t be making some vagina-bunting any time soon, or nipping out for some milk with blood dripping all over the chilled aisle in Tesco, but isn’t it great that there’s someone out there who might?

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