Periods. Approximately half the world's population get them, and yet they remain a taboo subject which is seldom discussed.
Thankfully one woman hopes to change that. Soofiya Andry, 23, has launched her own 'zine (think of it as a small, self-published, low-cost magazine), called Bloody Hell, that will focus on periods and experiences of menstruation, which hopes to break down current societal taboos.
"Often the narrative surrounding menstruation is shameful and treated like something to hide," she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. "I wanted to readdress that. My only real aim was to capture people’s stories of menstruation."
In recent months, with the outrage over artist Rupi Kaur's censored period photograph and discussions around homeless women's experiences of menstruation, conversations are certainly beginning to shift. But Soofiya says a lot needs to be done to make menstruation an inclusive space.
Discussions around periods, or "period talk" as she describes it, is dominated by white cisgender women ('cisgender' meaning where an individual is assigned the correct gender at birth eg. a woman who identifies as female, in comparison to 'transgender' where an individual's biological sex and gender do not match at birth).
"There are people of all genders who menstruate," says Soofiyak, who is Muslim Pakistani. "I have non-binary and trans friends who have uteruses and menstruate but don’t define necessarily as ‘women’. So when mainstream media and people use phrases like ‘lady time’ or ‘women’s problems’ it's often very alienating."
Her zine hopes to counter that, with inclusivity and intersectionality being central to the project.
Soofiya, who is a graphic designer and MA student, always wanted Bloody Hell to be collaborative effort, calling on friends and her wider networks to contribute.
"There’s quite a diverse mix of people who submitted, including trans and non-binary people. I’m also a woman of colour as are few other contributors, so there’s a nice mix of cultures in the zine too," she says.
"One submission was from a lovely person who did a photography project based on a vampiric ghost in Malay folklore called ‘Pontianak’. It was really refreshing to see how menstruation is considered cross cultures and in folklore too."
"I’d like the next issue to be even more diverse than this one."
A menstruation playlist from Bloody Hell
Soofiya has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), something she says she wouldn't have been able to detect if she didn't feel able to discuss her periods. This is something she wants to empower other women to do.
"PCOS can affect how you menstruate, among many of the symptoms," she says. "I’ve been on and off pills to deal with the symptoms. It’s gotten worse for me in the past year or so. I’m working with my GP to help keep things in hand, but it’s tricky.
"I guess, in way this project is a nice little cathartic release for my experiences with menstruation and PCOS."
Soofiya has set up a crowdfunding page for her zine, where supporters can donate in exchange for their own hand-stitched issue or a "bleeding vag" badge.Suggest a correction