When I decided at Christmas to create a radio documentary series on menstruation, I honestly had no idea what I'd let myself in for. This was late 2014 - Kiran Gandhi had not run her famous tampon-free marathon, Donald Trump had not begun his presidential campaign, and periods were not a topic widely discussed on Radio Two. And yet the idea was there, and with the small matter of my final Masters project looming I decided to create my most controversial piece yet.
It only really dawned on me that I had become caught up in a Zeitgeist when a woman I had recently interviewed about her cycle - by connecting with her naively on Facebook - popped up in The Guardian. Our formerly taboo, at best innocuous, monthly cycles are front page news - and I've been watching the whole thing unfold.
Before this project took hold of me I must say I had thought very little about my own menstrual cycle, which had been fairly uneventful for the first ten years of its existence, after which I went on the pill anyway, which reduced it to literally nothing (thank you, Cerazette). I had an older sister that I remember having periods and my parents were blissfully open but nonchalant about the whole thing, so I got on quite happily.
Recently, I missed my monthly arrival and went back to nature. I had forgotten what period pain and PMT felt like, which for the first few months seemed nearly unbearable. Fortunately, though, my cramps and crabbiness have absolutely nothing on some of the women I met through 'Seeing Red', who had suffered in one way or another for most of their lives. Tara, a trans woman I spoke to, said how she would love to experience what I go through - and there are many cisgender women who don't menstruate who feel the same. But for others, they are honestly a week of every month written off.
And here is the great paradox: whilst we work to 'normalise' periods - from dinner table discussions to ad campaigns - we are excluding those for whom periods aren't normal at all. They come infrequently. They hurt. They make you faint. They don't come. Or, somehow worse, they arrive like clockwork - and yet conceiving children is an impossibility. When we say periods are 'normal' we neglect the discourse of millions of women for whom menstruation is inconvenient at best, and at worst a complete disaster.
In the age that more teenage girls know to shave their pubic hair than can point out the clitoris on a diagram, I'm determined that my documentary shed some light on the scientific and evolutionary beauty of the menstrual cycle. 'Scientific' and 'beautiful' are not mutually exclusive. It's a little known fact that the reason we menstruate at all is because it is more efficient than to keep a fully developed womb lining all month long. This process, that teaches children to hide towels and tampons up the sleeves of their school uniforms, should be teaching them that they are powerful, that they are using their energy for good. Meanwhile, we should be teaching them that periods are not a pre-requisite or requirement for being a woman - even though marketing may suggest so, with its pink drawstring bags and scented pantyliners.
I have loved every minute of this project - from making vulva cake toppers out of icing, to interviewing some of the biggest movers and shakers in contemporary discourse around periods. I really hope it mobilises people to make a difference. We are going to beat this stigma - one month at a time.
Seeing Red will be available on Soundcloud on 5th October 2015, and available free to broadcast on any OfCom registered community radio station.
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You can also follow Bridget's progress with the documentary here.