Last year, we talked about periods more than ever. . . and no, we’re not talking grammar here.
Recently, NPR crowned 2015 with the title “The Year of the Period,” and for good reason: Periods have finally come to the forefront of the conversation, and we’re slowly seeing the negative stigma surrounding them start to dispel. Take, for example, the fact that the word “menstruation” was mentioned in national news outlets over three times as often last year as it was in 2010.
“For people like me who have been studying menstruation for decades, we’ve never enjoyed this kind of attention before,” Chris Bobel, associate professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and president of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, told NPR. “I wrote a book on menstrual activism five years ago that got no attention. But now it is.”
And we could not be happier. Of course, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s high time that we started addressing the body-shaming that many women face due to the menstruation taboo. Why should we feel ashamed for the biological reason we’re all here, for a normal, natural, and beautiful process of the female system? Short answer: We shouldn’t.
Here are all the times 2015 proved to be The Year Of The Period.
Kiran Gandhi free-bleeding during the London Marathon
Back in April, musician, feminist, and runner Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon while on her period and without using any feminine hygiene products to make an awesome point about menstruation: No one should feel embarrassed about having their period. She finished the race with visible blood on her leggings.
“The fact that we’ve been able to talk about periods openly is the biggest step in the revolution,” Gandhi told NPR. “So many people are weighing in about the problems they currently face with their periods. It makes people empowered to speak about their own bodies. . . If you can’t talk about the problem, how can you talk about the solution?”
British students protesting the period tax
Gandhi wasn’t the only one to utilize free-bleeding to make a point. In November, three female students free-bled outside the British parliament to protest the fact that tampons are considered a “luxury” item and thus cost more. “They’re not luxury items, anymore than jaffa cakes, edible cake decorations, exotic meats or any other number of things currently not taxed as luxury items,” Charlie Edge, one of the protesters, told Dazed Digital. “Maybe bleeding on their doorstep will get the Tories [Britain’s conservative party] to do something about this?”
Like Gandhi, their goal was to keep the conversation going and to combat period shame. “This isn’t just ‘three girls outside parliament with bloodstains,” Edge told Dazed Digital. “This is three more people who are angry about something, encouraging the millions of other people who are also angry about the same thing, to talk about it.”
In fall of 2015, Apple updated their Health app so that your iPhone can track your period after the company faced backlash for excluding women’s health. Though there are plenty of period-tracking apps out there, it was an important step towards putting women’s health in the public eye.
When design students won an award for their period innovation
In August, California design students Mariko Higaki Iwai, Sohyun Kim, and Tatijana Vasily won the International Design Excellence Awards with their idea that will better the lives of women in low-income countries. Their design, Flo, may very well prevent girls from skipping and dropping out of school, as well as various reproductive diseases caused by poor menstrual hygiene.
The growing number of reusable menstruation products on the market
“The interest in alternatives is greater than ever before,” Cynthia Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, told NPR. “The number of questions we get about it — it seems like there’s a new surge in interest. More folks are questioning whether to use tampons or push for getting more info about what’s in them.”
Pearson’s point is solid when you consider how many different products are on the market as of today: THINX, a company that creates period panties not only for women, but for trans men; Dear Kate, which is working on period fashion including moisture-wicking period panties and yoga pants; FemmeCloth, which sells handmade, reusable, and super-cute pads — all of these are just a few examples of alternatives.
“[B]reaking the taboo surrounding menstruation, and giving women access to reusable feminine hygiene products will help them feel empowered,” Diandra Kalish, founder of UnTabooed — a nonprofit dedicated to educating women about reusable menstrual products — told MTV News in November. “If you use reusables you are removing the ’ick’ factor associated with periods. You are much more in tune with your body and your flow. You are not just disposing of it, which is why it is considered gross in the first place. You will feel awesome knowing you are helping yourself, the environment, and your wallet!”
The #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult campaign
In response to Donald Trump’s cruel comments about Megyn Kelly claiming that there was “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” founder of Femsplain Amber Gordon started a hashtag called #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult that called on women to tweet at Trump about their periods.
And these are only a few examples. Yes, 2015 has certainly been the year of the period, and we can’t wait to see what happens in 2016.
(Images via Instagram, Twitter.)