I have a friend — a self-identifying sex-positive, feminist millennial — who once got her period while she was staying over at a guy's house.
She saw what happened before the guy noticed, laid herself on top of the stain, and when he got out of bed, she stripped the sheets, telling him she had peed the bed and would wash his sheets for him. It was actually less embarrassing for her to say she’d urinated in his bed than admit her uterus had shed its lining.
And I get it. I don’t particularly want to have an obvious period stain on my pants as I walk down the street. I don't feel comfortable mass-Slacking my office to see if anyone has a tampon. But it’s also natural and vital. This is not hyperbole: the existence of the human race depends on women’s menstruation.
Then why are we so embarrassed to admit we get our periods? Well, we’ve been taught since the beginning of time that, to be “ladies,” we must keep our bodily functions to ourselves. Men don’t want to hear about periods or poops or farts. Women can’t do that stuff — it’s gross!
So, we oblige. We keep it all to ourselves. Our dirty little secret.
That is, until 2015.
As NPR put it, 2015 was “The Year Of The Period.”
Menstrual activism, a movement that challenges social taboos surrounding menstruation and the female body, has been around since the 1970s, at least in North America, but most of us still don't know much about it. In fact, I had never heard of it before last year. Everything I'd learned about menstruation came from my middle school health class: we bleed, we plug it up with a tampon (but don't leave it in there too long!), and that's that. No one wanted to talk about it beyond that. This past year, however, news and social media have really put the movement on our radar, and we’re finally taking our fingers out of our ears.
In March, 22-year-old college senior and spoken word poet Rupi Kaur uploaded a picture of herself on Instagram with a spot of blood between her legs, as well as blood on her bedsheets — clearly, a period leak.
Instagram “accidentally” took it down. Twice. Kaur then posted an impassioned call to her followers, writing, “Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is leaking. We will not be censored.” Uproar ensued, and the post got the attention of many media outlets. Both photos were magically restored to her Instagram.