So my latest course brief has taken me to a topic closer to home. Not necessarily more ‘comfortable’ but I’m pretty experienced when it comes to periods. Lets say having had them for 24 years, in total – I make it about 270 periods I’ve had. On average 5 days long – about 1350 menstruating days. So no pressure then…
Brief: Create a zine/booklet thats discusses a taboo topic of your choice. The zine booklet must contain a minimum of 8 pages and must suit and reflect the topic chose.
The topic of menstruation and periods is still taboo.
For many years periods have been seen as being a negative event, a curse. Although we now have better science and understanding along with education and the internet now to put us right, period blood itself is still considered poisonous to humans, animals and plants in certain cultures around the world and there are many unbroken myths impacting women every month. For example, in Nepal women are banished to a small Chaupadi shed away from the house as it is seen as disrespectful to enter. In India, if a woman is on her period she is told to avoid cooking, as she will pollute the food.
Aside from the more extreme beliefs, in the UK there is still a barrier to women talking openly both between themselves and with men about periods. Finding a tampon is often a secret mission around the office. Why do women feel uncomfortable telling people ‘I’m on my period’? Luckily the irrational beliefs of the 19th century that menstruating women would mean butter wouldn’t churn, ham wouldn’t cure and wine would turn to water have long since been dispelled, but there is an element of it lives on.
In the current day advertising has a lot to answer for telling us to be discrete, keep it secret and whisper. Even the ambiguous floral swirly packaging is centred around keeping it all hush-hush. Why do we need a special sanitary pad shaped tin to keep towels in – nicely hidden away? Why is it embarrassing if a tampon falls on the floor when you’re pulling your purse out of your overladen handbag?
Recent media campaigns have highlighted the issues with free bleeding demonstrations, as well as social media campaigns around Menstrual Hygiene Day, hashtags #menstruationmatters #periodpositive and regularly posted instagram photos of #periodblood which are trying to raise worldwide awareness.
Thankfully in the UK women relatively nowadays unchallenged in their bleeding, but the worldwide issues remain. This zine helps to educate as well as normalise periods. It emphasises its a perfectly natural process that affects all women different ways as well as adding real life experience. Getting both sexes talking periods is the first step to breaking down taboos. Education challenges ignorance and promotes a willingness to learn more.