In 2015, Heather Watson was defeated in the Australian Open and attributed it to “girl things”. A lot of people were shocked and even lost for words, as many athletes agreed that periods were not something often spoken about among female athletes – although as women we all have it in common. One year later, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Fu Yuanhui publicly declares in an interview that her performance in her 100m Medley Relay was affected by her ‘periods’ – and everyone is just as shocked and the comment has spread virally.
Despite the female push for equality, when it comes to understanding periods and period talk we have made little progress and periods are still considered a taboo subject, almost as shocking as mentioning the f-bomb.
So how and when will this shock factor around using the word ‘periods’ and talking about the impact they have on our bodies ever come to an end. Periods are something that binds all women together yet there is so much taboo, shame, embarrassment and in many cultures disgust, especially if spoken about on public platforms.
As the Founder of the world’s first period and leak proof underwear brand, Modibodi, I believe it is time that we started acknowledging that periods exist, and they are normal, and yes they can impact our performance. Both the media and women, especially mother’s of young girls have a role to play in helping to open the positive and truthful public discussion of periods. If we continue to ignore the discussion, and see it as private, how can we change societal reactions and views on periods?
There was also another media article that appeared this week that further demonstrates the misunderstanding around periods, when a swimming pool in Georgia posted a sign saying that women are not allowed to enter the pool if they are on their periods. Not only does this demonstrate the complete lack of understanding about the female body, it also borders on misogyny and highlights how much menstrual education and discussion is needed.
Another menstrual hot topic this year is the issue of the feminine hygiene tax – feminine hygiene products being listed as “luxury” items and subject to taxation, when condoms and lubricants remain tax free. When the stigma surrounding a natural bodily function becomes a societal damnation and a burden on your wallet, surely we should all see the importance of being vocal on the topic of periods.
Despite nearly half the world’s population being affected by periods every month, the topic of menstruation still remains an uncomfortable conversation for many. But if we can’t discuss it openly, then we can’t orchestrate any change in society.
Modibodi as a brand, is passionate about empowering women by giving them a product that gives them more confidence, and by talking openly about some of the challenges faced by women that are common but considered so taboo – including periods, light bladder leakage and pre/post childbirth bodily changes.
I’d like to see mainstream media and all women talk about periods more often and more truthfully, so that when athletes like Fu make period comments it doesn’t create a media frenzy, instead it is understood and really seen as no different to an athlete talking about their bad foot or their headache. If we don’t, then periods will continue to be seen as shameful, private and misunderstood.