There is a stigma that often comes from women talking about menstruation publicly. And the shame happens in many ways.
Last year, the online publication Jezebel published an article titled called “What Life Is Like When Getting Your Period Means You Are Shunned.” It profiled the life of a 16-year-old girl in Western Nepal named Radha, who, like all the other women in her village, could “not enter her house or eat anything but boiled rice” while she was menstruating. Radha was not allowed to touch other people during her menstruation cycle, because she’d “pollute them” and perhaps make them sick.
She wasn’t allowed to sleep in her own house. She must join the rest of the women in the village who happen to be menstruating that week in a tiny shed far away from the village.
The Western world claims to be more progressive, yet even here, there are many forms of shaming menstruating. Consider the way in which menstrual products are usually commercialized and advertized in “stylish,” cool, colorful containers. It sends a message to women: If they own the cool, colorful products, that will lessen the shame that comes from being a human woman with a healthy, working body.
For me, as a young girl raised locally, it always seemed like a periods were taboo subject. The community I grew up in (Mecca, located on the east side of the Coachella Valley) is mostly Latino/Hispanic, and parts of that culture have deeply rooted patriarchal and misogynistic ideas about what it is to be Latina; girls internalize these ideas as they grow up. Adding to the taboo is the fact that women and girls in the 21st century grow up within a highly sexualized culture, further internalizing the idea that their bodies are objects for men to lust over—with health not even being prioritized.
According to the zine Menstruation Sensation by Alyssa Beers, in the U.S. alone, there are 73 million menstruating women right now. So why can’t we talk about it without everyone cringing or crying out, “Gross!”
From 4 to 6:30 p.m. this Friday, Jan. 23, we’re holding an event at Raices Cultura, located at 1494 Sixth St., in Coachella. This event will include a discussion of alternative menstrual products that are not talked about in the mainstream media. These alternative menstrual products are also not as available in stores as tampons and sanitary pads—yet the benefits of using reusable menstrual products are huge.
Tampon applicators and disposable pads are made of oil-based polyethylene plastics. They just add to the country’s dependency on oil companies, and they contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer while they are being fabricated. The Menstruation Sensation zine states that in 1999, 1.4 million pads, 2.4 million tampons and 700,000 panty liners were disposed of daily. Annually, more than 12 billion tampons and napkins are disposed of. And we all know climate change isn’t a made-up thing.
If that isn’t enough for you to consider looking into reusable menstrual products, then look into TSS (toxic shock syndrome), which can come from using tampons. Men and children have also been known to been affected by it.
There’s one more reason to like reusable menstrual products: They save you a lot of money. Who doesn’t like saving money?
During the event, two other presenters and I will be discussing and presenting the different types of menstrual products, where to get them, and even how to make them yourselves.
The youngest presenter, Cynthia Portillo, is 17 and a filmmaker. “We can improve so much just by knowing how and why our body works,” she says, which is true—a lot of women don’t seem to fully understand their body and often don’t want to understand their body, due to fat-shaming, cat-calling, slut-shaming and, of course, menstruation stigma.
It’ll be a safe space for girls and women to share, learn and converse about their bodies and health. No shaming will be allowed! If men want to join, that’s also cool, but they must come willing to learn and engage in the conversation in a mature, non-sexist way.
For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.