LIFESTYLE

The Year Of The Period: Meet The People De-Stigmatising Menstruation Once And For All

Monthlies are going mainstream.

30/03/2016 08:12 | Updated 30 March 2016

Just over a year ago, conversations surrounding periods reached an all-time high when a photograph of Rupi Kaur lying on a bed with bloodied pyjama bottoms was removed from Instagram not once, but twice.

The reason? It went against community guidelines. 

Kaur had originally set out to demystify periods, but instead she was met with censorship. And she was furious.

Writing about the experience, she said: "I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak [sic]."

A photo posted by rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) on

The post sparked a whole new level of debate and outrage surrounding the topic of menstruation. 

And from that moment on, periods remained at the forefront of conversation - not only in terms of women speaking out to lift centuries' worth of stigma, but in terms of shining a spotlight on ridiculous policies (we're looking at you, tampon tax).

Here are just some of the people, companies and initiatives who, in the past year, have all played a part in helping to de-stigmatise the very thing that makes women, well, women

SEE ALSO:

Menstrual Leave: Should Women Be Encouraged To Take Time Off For Period Pain?

Why Do Periods Happen? Insightful Video Explains Menstrual Cycle

How To Ease PMS, Bloating And Period Cramps

April 2015: Student invites others to carry spare sanitary items

Jose Garcia from Miami invited his fellow male classmates to carry sanitary pads or tampons to help out their female friends.

Garcia wrote on Instagram: "To every boy that follows me and calls himself a man or simply a good human being. Petition for all of us to start bringing a couple pads or tampons to school to help our girl friends.

"If you have a girlfriend or are friends with a girl, u should know that they do not always have tampons or pads on them, or that sometimes their period just hits them without notice and have a bit of a problem finding one.

"We should support them with this, after all, we don't have to go trough all they they do because of menstruation, so it's just logical that we help them. You should already know to give them your sweater and not question when they wrap it around their waist. So let's step it up a notch and help them out.

"If you have any respect for your mother, your girlfriend, or just women in general I expect for you to follow me on this.

"To every girl that follows me. You are completely welcomed to ask me for a pad at any time without receiving a negative response or a dirty look. We should all help each other out like this so you don't have to thank me at all."

falloutbooty99 instagram
Jose Garcia

May 2015: The 'Period Fairy' advert breaks down societal taboos

Back in May, period kit provider Hello Flo teamed up with menstrual tracking app Clue to launch an advert aiming to break down the cultural taboos surrounding menstruation and get more people - particularly young girls - talking about it. 

In the advert, a girl called Lillian acknowledges that for some, periods aren't always that great - mainly because they don't have access to proper sanitary products or knowledge of the menstrual process.

She then goes on an adventure to track down the 'Period Fairy' - and interviews everyone from Father Christmas to the Tooth Fairy in a bid to find her.

The advert is fun, educational and ends with a truly brilliant message: if you can't find the Period Fairy, be one yourself.

June 2015: Tennis player Petra Kvitova talks frankly about periods at Wimbledon

Periods are difficult to deal with at the best of times. But when you're trying to win a major tennis tournament - say, for example, Wimbledon - it can be a bloody nightmare.

Speaking out about the issue last June, 2014 Wimbledon ladies’ champion Petra Kvitova said that periods were "one more tough thing" to deal with.

Her comments came months after British player Tara Moore said she had been on her period during the tournament for six years straight.

To make matters worse, tennis players are only allowed to take a toilet break once per set which, when you're wearing white and on a heavy period, is far from being ideal.

Moore told The Telegraph: "At Wimbledon we have to wear white, so it’s quite a big deal. Especially because male players don’t understand that we have another element to deal with.

"[Bleeding on your uniform] is something you feel quite worried about. If something like that happens it’s mortifying – it’s a nightmare."

ROBYN BECK via Getty Images

June 2015: Celebs take tampon selfies to raise awareness

First there was the No Makeup Selfie, then there was the Ice Bucket Challenge. Then came #JustATampon, where men and women alike shared photos of themselves with tampons to get everyone talking about menstruation. 

Famous faces pictured holding tampons with pride include Jon Snow, Cathy Newman, Carol Smillie and Jenny Eclair.

The fantastic campaign raised money to provide sanitary towels for girls in Uganda and, once again, brought periods to the forefront of conversation.

Jenny Eclair Twitter

June 2015: Period pants become a reality

Imagine a world where women didn't have to fret that they were going to leak during an important business meeting, or while staying over at someone's house.

Thanks to three women, this is now possible.

Antonia Dunbar, Miki Agrawal and Radha Agrawal designed a collection of period-proof pants, which essentially absorb blood so you don't leak onto your clothes. They launched the pants in summer last year.

The undies are designed to be used with tampons, but the hope is that one day there won't be a need. Amazing, much? 

A photo posted by THINX (@shethinx) on

July 2015: Soofiya Andry launches an inclusive period zine

Back in July, Soofiya Andry, 23, made headlines after launching her own 'zine called Bloody Hell.

The low-budget publication focuses on periods and experiences of menstruation in a bid to break down current societal taboos.

"Often the narrative surrounding menstruation is shameful and treated like something to hide," she told HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

"I wanted to readdress that. My only real aim was to capture people’s stories of menstruation."

Andry is also keen to open discussions so that period talk doesn’t alienate other genders who menstruate. For example, the transgender community.

"There are people of all genders who menstruate," said Andry. "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.”

Hear hear.

Soofiya Andry

August 2015: Kiran Gandhi runs the London marathon without a tampon

The last thing most women would want the day before running a marathon is to come on their period. But when it happened to Kiran Gandhi on the eve of the London marathon back in August, she decided to take her menstruation in her stride, using it as an opportunity to address period taboos and stand up for women around the world.

The 26-year-old feminist and drummer for MIA ran 26.2 miles without a tampon, allowing the blood to seep onto her leggings.

Gandhi said of her feat: "I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist.

"I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day. The marathon was radical and absurd and bloody in ways I couldn’t have imagined until the day of the race." 

Despite facing a backlash for running sans tampon, Gandhi bravely kickstarted conversations everywhere - and we've got to admire her for it.

Kiran Gandhi after running the marathon

August 2015: Students invent 'Flo Kits' to help girls in developing countries

Back in August, a group of students developed a remarkably simple way to help women in developing countries cope with the lack of access to disposable sanitary towels. 

Flo is an easy-to-use handheld device that washes reusable sanitary towels quickly, cheaply and discreetly. It is made of two PVC cases, metal wire and string, and works using a spinning action.

In Kenya, it is estimated that a pack of eight sanitary pads cost a little under a month's wages. This leads to many women being forced to use dirty rags, newspaper, leaves and dirt, as a sanitary towel substitutes.

Flo costs $3 (£1.92) and allows women to discreetly wash their towels. It also comes with a zip-top pouch for women to carry clean towels discreetly.

Flo

September 2015: Lammily doll comes complete with sanitary pads

For young girls, the topic of periods is often skirted over until it’s too late. But the creator of the Lammily doll, Nickolay Lamm, wanted to change that.

To help normalise periods and remove the stigma surrounding them, Lamm created a doll which came with a menstruation extension kit.

"It’s just what happens in real life," he told TIME. "We wanted to put it on the doll so it’s not a scary thing."

The set came with 19 coloured pads, an educational leaflet explaining how periods work, a spare pair of underwear and a calendar with small stickers to enable girls to track their period.

Educational and fun? Bravo Nickolay, bravo.

Lammily

October 2015: Period boxes continue to make waves

Beauty boxes were pushed to one side last year when period boxes appeared on the scene - offering women something to actually get excited about during that time of the month. 

Companies such as Period Box and Pink Parcel devise special packages to send out to women in preparation for their monthlies. Boxes included tampons and sanitary items, as well as treats for women to pamper themselves with - we're talking face masks, hygiene essentials and chocolates - in a bid to make them feel better. 

In October, Pink Parcel teamed up with Coppafeel to not only help women have happier periods, but to raise awareness of breast cancer too.  

A photo posted by Pink Parcel (@pinkparcel) on

November 2015: Designer creates period jewellery

London-based artist Lili Murphy-Johnson created a range of period-themed jewellery in the hope of de-stigmatising menstruation and promoting equality for women.

The 22-year-old artist wrote on her website: "There is an interesting conflict with the perception of the female body, being seen as so perfect, yet also as so grotesque and unclean.

"Drug stores are oversaturated with products to manage periods, all playing up to the idea that periods are dirty and something wrong with the body, something to hide."

She told HuffPost UK: "I wanted to create jewellery out of traditional techniques and materials to create pieces that address issues not usually associated with jewellery."

Lili Murphy-Johnson

January 2016: Tampon tins appear on the scene

Women should be able to live in a world where they needn't hide their tampons on their way to the loo.

However sadly we're still a little way off from that actually happening.

In the interim, for those who do feel embarrassed about carrying a load of tampons and sanitary pads to the toilet, Little Things For Good invented some snazzy tampon tins to keep your essentials in.

Additionally, 15% of proceeds from the tins go towards St Mungo’s Broadway to help provide homeless women with sanitary products.

Little Things For Good

February 2016: Superdrug announces refund on Tampon Tax 

Tampon tax is a ridiculous thing in itself, however it's an unfortunate reality for women across the UK.

To fight back against tampon tax, Superdrug announced earlier this year that it would give back the tax paid on the store's own brand sanitary items. But in reward points. 

"When you purchase any Superdrug branded sanitary items you’ll receive between three and twenty loyalty points back onto your Health and Beauty card," the store revealed.

We guess it's a start. 

Superdrug

March 2016: British company announces period policy

Earlier this month, Bristol-based company Coexist introduced a 'period policy' for its female workers, based on the idea that paying attention to employees' monthly menstrual cycle can be "good for business".

The social enterprise company plans to let women have extra time off during their period to create a "happier and healthier" working environment.

Women will be encouraged to go home if they feel unwell, and talk openly about their periods, synchronising their workload with their bodies.

Bex Baxter, the director of Coexist, told The Bristol Post: "I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods.

"Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell. And this is unfair."

Coexist

March 2016: Bodyform calls on Unicode to create period emojis

Tampon and sanitary towel provider Bodyform launched a petition asking Unicode (the folks behind emojis) to introduce six new period-related emojis to its already extensive collection.

The hope is that the 'femojis', which include icons to depict pads and periods as well as cramps, bloating, PMS and spots, will help de-stigmatise periods.

Research by Bodyform found that half of girls aged 12-14 found it difficult to talk about their periods with friends and family, something which can lead to anxiety and lack of confidence.

Four out of five girls aged 12-14, and mums of girls the same age, said they'd find emojis useful to help express their feelings.

Nicola Coronado from Bodyform said: "Menstruation is a totally natural process – but we have all felt a bit shy about discussing it. We want to break down the taboo around periods." 

Bodyform

March 2016: Chance Ward fights period shame by carrying spare tampons

One year after Rupi Kaur's stand against period shaming and censorship, along comes Chance Ward, winning over the hearts of people everywhere.

The student was at the gym when they overheard a woman asking a female friend if she had an extra tampon. When she realised Chance had overheard, she was mortified and apologised.

But Chance simply handed her a tampon - because despite not menstruating, Chance carries a stash of tampons everywhere they go to help friends who are caught short.

Not content with helping one person out, Chance took to Facebook to make a public stand against period shaming. The post has since gone viral.

Chance wrote on Facebook: "To all my menstruating friends, if y’all need it, know I got it. I keep some in my fanny pack when I go to the gym, and some in my backpack all the time. Never feel embarrassed for asking for one. Never feel embarrassed for being human."

Our hero.

Melanin is en vogue.PC: http://www.aaimagery.com/

Posted by Chance Ward on Friday, October 16, 2015

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