BY ALYSSA CARP, CO-FOUNDER OF PEACH PACK
The word ‘period’ holds a plethora of different connotations. Each meaning can be attributed to a moment in time; exposing specific vulnerabilities and insecurities that were linked to particular life experiences.
At the ripe age of 12, I associated ‘periods’ with shame. I first got my period during swim squad training at school. As I was training in the pool with my teammates, I felt this increasing pain and discomfort in my abdomen. I quickly raced to the bathroom and to my disbelief, I had blood on my bathers. I was so overwhelmed with the thoughts running in my head as to what was happening to my body. I left the pool abashedly and didn’t utter a word to my coach.
Every month, I would think about how best I could hide my sanitary products from my classmates as I rushed to the bathroom. I felt an anxious panic surge when I could feel my heavy bleeding; did it leave a mark on my school shorts? Would people notice? I was so self-conscious and wary about my behaviour during my period. Would people use it as a tool to expose my weaknesses? Particular volatilities? At the ripe age of 12, I felt uncomfortable and distressed with what was happening to my body.
If only I could have voiced to my younger self, could have reminded my younger self, that periods are a natural bodily function. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. You’re not alone.
At the age of 22, I am still unlearning all of these deeply-entrenched habits and thoughts. Whether it is the echo of the voices of the boys in my year who would squirm at the sound of the word period. Or the fact that mainstream publications (Dolly, Seventeen, Teen Vogue) were never really writing about periods and menstrual health. My friends and I never used to speak about this bodily function that was happening to all of us. It was as if there existed a mutual silencing of period talk! Even Libra and U by Kotex ads on the TV were not showing blood when demonstrating the ‘rapid absorption rate’ of their products! The world had completely shut itself off to discussing and depicting the realities of menstruation.
By just opening up the dialogue surround periods, I have slowly overcome the ingrained habit of concealing my period products in public, of cringing at the sound of the word blood, vagina and period. The trepidation surrounding the idea of talking about periods just contributes to its growing stigmatisation. So, at the age of 22, I have decided to actually talk about periods and the cacophony of feelings it represents; beauty, pain, renewal and even sometimes disgust. I make sure to publicly announce that I am on my period to my family and friends, to challenge this idea that it is something that must be hushed and concealed. When I find myself feeling a bit disgusted about the thought of blood coming out of my vagina (apologies for being crude but this is the reality!) I remind myself of its beauty. A period is an enduring bodily process, something that women throughout time and history have experienced. It is timeless, something that unites us, something that is binding. It is this particular image of connectedness, of rebirth, which enables me to think about periods differently.
We must recognise that periods represent something bigger than just a hormonal process. It serves as an identity marker. It is something that brings some joy and others anguish and aches. Despite these various feelings that ‘being on your period/ having a period’ may ignite, we should not hesitate to converse about it. Whether it is checking in with your friends or asking the women around you about how they related to their periods at your age, rejoice in the common experiences that would have previously been unspoken of.
In the act of coming together and speaking about periods, we are ensuring that no young person feels like my 12-year old self.