It protected us, grew with us, and propelled us into the world. The uterus played such an important role in all of our lives, and yet we speak about menstruation in negative, hushed or hostile tones. Menstruation is simply the uterus cleaning itself, a process half the world takes part in on a regular basis.
May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day — a day to celebrate menstruation. A day to bring awareness to what menstruation is and is not. A day to recognize how lucky we are to live in a country where menstrual care and management is often possible. And menstruation is sometimes celebrated; celebrated because it is a sign of health, celebrated because it is a sign of fertility, celebrated because it is a sign you are not pregnant, but more often it is not celebrated.
I often hear menstruation talked about as if it were a curse, or gross, or at the very least inconvenient.
I speak to people of all genders and ages about menstruation. I speak about menstruation as a positive experience. I explain why menstruation happens, how the menstrual cycle makes pregnancy possible, how menstruation is a natural, healthy process, how the beginning of menstruation marks a milestone in the body’s development and how some people have period parties to mark their first period as a positive life changing experience.
However, often people have heard so many negative messages about menstruation that I wonder if the positive messages get through. They ask about cramps, pain, heavy bleeding and leaking through their pants. They want to know how to make menstruation stop. They want to know how to keep it a secret.
And this is because the messaging surrounding menstruation is one of shame, stigma and silence.
We see advertising about menstruation, but it is confusing. Why blue liquid? Menstruation is red, or brown or pink – not blue! Is it so unappetizing to see menstrual blood? I unwillingly see violence, blood and gore every day in the media, and this is ok, but it is not ok to see a natural bodily cycle that made all of our lives possible?
When we are free to communicate and learn about menstruation in accurate, realistic ways, we are able to hear the truth about our bodies. That our bodies bring new life into the world, that our bodies are able to clean and rejuvenate themselves, that our bodies tell us they are healthy or unhealthy if we chose to listen to them.
We can learn about menstrual care products such as menstrual cups, reusable pads and menstrual underwear that are both cost effective and environmentally friendly, as well as learn how menstrual care is essential to meeting six of our Sustainable Development Goals — goals that hope to end poverty, protect the earth and allow people to live in peace with dignity and respect.
How can you argue with that? You can’t, so learn about menstruation, respect menstruation and celebrate what our bodies are capable of, if not always, at least in May.
Stacey Jacobs is a sexual health educator for SHORE Centre.
Stacey Jacobs has been a Sex Educator for almost 2 decades. For 13 of those years she worked as a Sexual Health Educator at Planned Parenthood. She teaches in the Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies Program at the University of Waterloo and when not educating, she enjoys reading, walking her dogs and eating good food. The life of a Sex Educator is usually not as interesting as people assume.