Periods affect most women in very different ways. For instance, my stomach cramps up for a day and then the onslaught begins.
I’ve often thought it would be nice to reclaim a bit of power in my period. I’ve thought I should be proud of this cycle, rather than dread it every time it comes around. Afterall, what a period signifies is powerful stuff.
It’s all very well me being proud of myself and my bleeding, but It’s about changing other people’s perceptions, too.
That’s where Emily E. Hoyle comes in. She’s a MA Gender and Women’s Studies student and the creator of Good Blood.
Good Blood is a period power project that aspires to create empathy and smash the menstruation taboo through T-shirts and badges. It is about an opening up of conversations.
So I had a quick chat with Emily about stigmas and taboos around periods.
In your opinion, why is there a shame or stigma surrounding periods?
Oh this is a really complex – there is no single answer. It is worth mentioning that some linguists argue the word ‘taboo’ can be traced back to the Polynesian work tapua or tupua, meaning both sacred and menstrual blood. The shame and stigma is rooted in history, religion, philosophy, social systems, politics, history of science and medicine – so it even goes beyond the etymology of the word taboo. There are elements of forced civilisation, the fear of the monstrous feminine and media and cultural misrepresentations of menstruation.
What effect does this stigma have on not only an individual but society as well?
The stigma keeps inequality in place. By denying the realities of menstruation, the body itself is denied and the systems such as the patriarchy continue because of the dualism between mind and body, rational and emotional, male and female etc. I also think this relates to a lot of shame around reproductive health, so individually it could contribute the lack of diagnosis for conditions like endometriosis that can take up to seven and a half years to diagnose. It can also result in silence suffering, with PMS, PMDD, period pains, migraine, sickness, other causes of menstruation and a lack of access to products that could result in missing work or school, so there are multiple negative effects of the stigma.
The Good Blood campaign has been doing really well, and really expanded. What are your hopes for the future?
Thank you, I hope so! My hope is that Good Blood continues to expand so the symbols have wider recognition so the purpose of the project is felt.