If men had periods, the world would be a very different place. They’d get days off for them, for a start, and tampons and sanitary pads would be free, and in the same way certain men take extreme pride in talking about big farts, big poos and related bodily hilarities, there would be a lot more #periodbantz.
You’d get on the bus and hear, “Quite the flow today, Keith!”, humblebragged by the guy sat in front of you, before he and his friend high-fived over boasts of how many pads they’d gone through that day.
But men don’t menstruate. And, for something that happens as frequently as it does, to as many people as it does, menstruation isn’t really talked about. Or rather, it is, but not enough by men – not even by dads with their daughters.
Now, social enterprise Hey Girls is trying to change that and it’s recruited Michael Sheen to help.
The Frost/Nixon and Twilight star has a 19-year-old daughter (with former partner Kate Beckinsale) as well as the most paternal-looking beard in the world, so seems a good choice to front the #Pads4Dads campaign.
[Read More: 5 Ways To Talk To Girls And Boys About Periods]
“It’s awkward for dads to have this chat because chances are, they didn’t learn about periods in school,” says Sheen. “Believe me, we want to be supportive, but there’s almost no information out there aimed at dads. “Let’s not leave dads out of the bloody conversation!”
An accompanying campaign video ends with this same gag. It’s clever, though for dads with reservations about discussing periods is punning the way forward? Probably, actually (we’re guessing the line “let’s put the ‘men’ in menstruation” came in a close second).
In a survey of 1500 men, 40% said they had never been taught about periods in school at all, while one third of dads surveyed said they had never purchased any period products for a woman or girl in their life.
This feels like a self-perpetuating thing – the less men talk about periods, the less men talk about periods. Except when some dude pipes up to mansplain women’s bodies to them, of course – as happened last week on Twitter.
Now there are lots of reasons why men might be reluctant to discuss periods with their daughters, but none are really justifiable, surely coming down to “I am uncomfortable talking about this because it involves my daughter’s vagina”.
But if challenged on it, there’s barely a father in the world who would say he’d put his own comfort before his daughter’s. Wilfully choosing to ignore the issue and leave it to your partner, or the internet or guesswork to educate your daughter simply isn’t the behaviour of the dad we surely all want to be.
Here to help us, the #Pads4Dads kit includes a 20-page booklet, A Dad’s Guide To Periods (also available to download as a PDF), a sort of beginners’ guide to menstruation, with advice on how to talk to boys about it too. It even comes with sachets of hot chocolate to ‘have the chat’ over, a nice if old-school touch.
Celia Hodson, founder of Hey Girls, says: “Education is so important to break down the myths and taboo that still surround periods. For dads of daughters with no female relatives around, it can be more than just awkward – it’s often quite scary. We wanted to create something empowering to give dads a helping hand.”
As Netflix’s Oscar-winning documentary Period. End Of Sentence – only 25 minutes long – shows, menstruation is a political, social and economic issue – four women have died this year in Nepal after being banished to ‘period huts’. Meanwhile, closer to home, campaigner Amika George has been campaigning tirelessly to address period poverty in the UK.
[Read More: 7 Things You Need To Know About Period Poverty]
Hey Girls is committed to helping lower-income girls and women in the UK have access to menstrual products, operating on a buy-one-give-one basis – for every packet of pads or tampons sold, another one is given away. It’s also trying to increase the dialogue around menstruation in general, pushing for more education about periods in schools for boys as well as girls.
Luke, the dad of a nine-year-old daughter, said: “I always dreamed of being the sort of father that my daughter Layla could come to with any problem. But truth be told, there are huge gaps in my knowledge about topics important to her – from periods to how to navigate female friendship groups. #Pads4Dads means there is one less thing for me to learn in order to be the father that I hope to be.”
There are lots of conversations men are being encouraged to have about themselves – about depression, mental health, toxic masculinity – and there are lots more we need to have about, and with, girls as well.