What a surprise when I recently discovered that May 28th is International Menstrual Hygiene Day! I thought that the taboos had finally fallen and that we could talk about menstruation without blushing.
Curious by nature, I’ve read numerous articles and studies on the conditions of menstruators around the world to confirm my intuition...
My findings about feminine hygiene were rather sad.
- On the African continent, one in 10 girls does not go to school when she has her period. Why? Because toilets, when there are toilets, are most often mixed, and girls, not having an intimate space to change, are afraid of being laughed at. Also,menstrual hygiene products are very expensive and most girls can’t afford them. For many, these repeated absences will unfortunately lead to dropping out of school.
- In western Nepal, the Chaupadi tradition still considers women impure during their menstrual periods and they must isolate themselves in a hut outside the house during their cycle. They are also forbidden to touch men, children, cattle, trees and the usual water points!
- In Ethiopia, 75% of women do not have the necessary feminine hygiene products during their periods.
- According to a UNICEF study, in Kenya, some less well-off girls offer sexual favors, or so-called transactional sex , when they need money to buy sanitary pads. This behaviour puts them at risk of contracting HIV or getting pregnant.
Then I said to myself, “Okay, but it's just happening in developing countries.”
A little more research has shown me that even here in Canada there are people who do not experience their periods with dignity.
In Canada, “ about 1 million people, or one-third of all teenage girls and women under 25 in the country, admit to having had difficulty paying for menstrual products in the past [...].”.
Then I asked myself the practical question: what do you do at work, at school or when you live on the street, when you have no means of protection? When you are the fountain of youth and you have nothing to welcome your flow that is almost constant?
I must say, I'm disappointed. When it comes to the conditionsfor women and taboos surrounding the menstrual cycle, I would have thought we'd made a little more progress.
Rather than get depressed about it, I decided, like Sherlock, to abandon the dark side of the (menstrual) force and conduct my own investigation into what's new in terms of positive menstruation. Voici le fruit de mon travail :
7 WAYS TO BREAK DOWN TABOOS AND ADVANCE FEMININE HYGIENE ON INTERNATIONAL MENSTRUAL HYGIENE DAY
A menstrual emoji will soon be available on your cell phone!
Yes, yes! You read it right! An emoji of a blood drop will be created to represent menstruation! The non-profit organization Plan International has worked hard with Unicode (the rascals who create the emoji codes for cell phone companies) to get the idea accepted. The objective? To normalize menstruation, break down taboos and open up a conversation about the subject.
It was supposed to be launched in March 2019, but after checking it out I unfortunately didn't find it in my emoji options. What about you?
A period party to celebrate the first drop!
What’s that, you ask? It’s a way to celebrate your first period in a big way, to transform an isolated, uncomfortable and shameful moment into a fun, positive and memorable experience with those you love! I finally say: FINALLY!
For a successful party, you need: red velvet, omegranate juice cake, juicy cherries, a large selection of red candies—basically anything red! Oh and, yes, the boys are also invited!
Do you have two minutes? I suggest you watch this video where a quite colorful dad shares his first “period party” experience. Because, yes Dads, we want you to be involved! Why? Because we no longer want to read testimonials like this one:
« It was the first time in my life when I felt I couldn't talk to my dad about something I felt was important. At 12 years old, I was just too embarrassed. » - Jo Davies
Oh, menstrual products, those luxury products ... Excuse me?
What do Canada, Malaysia, Australia and Scotland all have in common? They’ve removed taxes on menstrual products. They are no longer considered luxury products, thank Goddess!
Menstrual art: making beauty bold with blood!
Many artists use their talent to challenge the taboos surrounding the female sex and menstruation. In doing so, they aim to reveal women’s natural beauty and trigger discussion. The fact is that no one is indifferent to it!
Petra Mattheis,German artist, specializes in menstrual works. One of them, 28 days to overcome the menstrual taboo, is a manifesto translated into six languages that gives everyday advice to free menstruation from its cultural prison. We should have thought of that!
- Liv Strömquist from Sweden, has also gotten involved.
In the Stockholm metro, the artist drew birds, kittens, dogs, but also a woman with hairy legs and a menstrual blood-stained crotch in large format in black and red pencil. You guessed it; people were shocked.
In response to her exposure, we could read on Twitter:
“It’s not fun explaining to a four-year-old about the red between the legs”.
“It’s not enough to get [your period] once a month, now you’re reminded every time you jump on the subway.”
Without a shadow of a drop, we still have a long way to go regarding the bath of taboos and negativity in which menstruation has been stagnating for quite some time. Works like this are needed to advance the cause.
What would you say to inviting the artist to exhibit in the Montreal metro just to spark debate and outrage in our country?
Casey Jenkins, an Australian craftivist sat half-naked in an art gallery for 28 days to knit a 15-meter long strip of wool, the length of a school bus. This wool, which she had previously inserted into her vagina, would turn a reddish tint over the days and her cycle.
What was the point? That the vulva be associated with something comforting, warm, benign or even boring like knitting, to challenge people's fears and pejorative feelings about it.
On our side of the Pacific, in Kitchener, Ontario, eight artists participated in the exhibition Flow Flow that featured menstruation. One of the works was a series of white dressing gowns with a red rose sewn into the crotch.
A boost for women who are going green
Yes! It’s true, some municipalities in Quebec, Canada, offer subsidies for reusable sanitary pads! Click here to know which municipalities are participating. If yours is not yet part of it, don't hesitate to ask for it!
Reaching out to women in developing countries
Organizations such as the MINA Foundation are committed to breaking down taboos in many villages in Africa by distributing menstrual cups and educating communities, including boys and girls.
Whether they’re women's groups or women's health organizations, their goal is the same: to support young girls by explaining the role of menstruation, teaching them good menstrual hygiene practice , and helping them discover the different phases of the menstrual cycle to better understand its impact and meaning.
I hope all this has inspired you and restored your faith in humanity! See you at the next review! Who knows? These well planted little seeds may have germinated and multiplied to dissolve taboos and thus improvethe female condition in the world!
For those who have adopted Mme L'Ovary, why not donate your pads and tampons to the women's centre in your area! Here is a list of women's organizations in major Canadian cities where you can make a donation : https://thekit.ca/beauty/body/end-period-poverty-canada/ .