Discharge the prejudice

(12) Periods story image

By Natalie Barton

Do you ever just mindlessly scroll through Instagram, mindlessly letting the selfies and #tbt photos to pass then mixing things up with an occasional double tap? We’re all guilty of it. Eventually it all falls under the same umbrella; trivial rubbish that we can’t help but obsess over.

Breaking this cycle of monotony was Rupi Kaur, a university student from Toronto who uploaded an image of herself with blood on both her bed and trousers as part of a menstruation themed photo series developed by her and her sister Prabh. The girls’ goal was to demystify menstruation and the taboos surrounding it. However the image was removed by Instagram who deemed the image to be inappropriate.

Kaur was photographed lying on her bed – fully clothed – with her back to the camera with small spots of blood on her trousers and bed sheets. The social media network removed the image twice for ‘violating community standards’ but restored it after backlash from Kaur, apologising and telling her that they had removed it by accident.

Talking to BBC Newsbeat, Kaur said “It was interesting the way people were belittling the experience and the struggle of the period.”

“You won’t go on vacation because of your period, you change your wedding date, it goes everywhere with you and you are in so much pain.”

Why is the sight of women in their most natural state so terrifying and disgusting?

How can a woman simply feeding her child in the most natural way possible cause such hysteria while a national newspaper is able to have a page specifically dedicated to women showing their breasts? Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, women should have the right to express themselves in whatever way they see fit.

Around 50% of us experience periods, so why don’t we discuss it more?

A women will on average have 500 periods in her lifetime; she will spend seven years of her life menstruating. So shouldn’t the world – particularly men – be used to this natural process of cleansing a woman’s uterus by now? Not to sound too provocative but it is just a bit of blood – it is our bodies confirming to us that we’re not pregnant.

It is as normal as a chicken laying an egg.

Feminine hygiene company ‘Carefree’ was even the focus of great fury after having the audacity to use the word ‘discharge’ during an advert discussing discharge. The human body is an incredible example of evolution at its best but some of the most amazing aspects of it are seen as ‘disgusting’.

Since the moment God chose to cover Eve’s nipples and not Adam’s, women’s bodies have been something to be hidden away and shamed. The Bible states that ‘Whenever a woman has her menstrual period, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. If you touch her during that time, you will be defiled until evening’. You could say the world has been programmed to be wary of a menstruating woman – during those 4/5 days they are completely different species.

The image of perfect women is socially constructed to be these sweet smelling, hairless entities who, god forbid, shit. Society needs to take women down off of that pedestal and understand that sometimes things like shaving seem like a lot of effort for nothing and enjoying that extra bit of heat during the winter months.

For young girls, getting your period doesn’t only mean the beginning of adulthood – it comes with new expenses. It wouldn’t be as much of an issue for them if governments would recognise that periods are a health issue. Tampons and sanitary pads are required by half of the population for hygiene and comfort purposes- yet they are taxed on ‘non-essential’ grounds. Women cannot continue normally with their everyday lives without the help of these products – that sounds like something essential.

So George Osborne, sanitary products should definitely make an appearance on your list of ‘essential’ products up there with helicopters and alcoholic jellies.

I imagine living without a private helicopter or a couple of vodka jellies from Jelly Baby would be a lot easier than living without my tampons.

It’s clear that there is a great deal of prejudice against our periods, or to the bodily functions of women as a whole. I, personally, feel no shame or embarrassment towards my period – it simply means I have the amazing ability to make and grow a human inside me. I will never attempt to hide it just because some people see it as something disgusting.

All it is a natural biological process doing exactly what it is meant to be doing. What women do to their bodies, or what their bodies do naturally, is no one’s business but theirs and that is something the world has to get used to. Period.