You may have heard the term (or seen the hashtag) period positive flying around in conversations on menstrual health. But what is period positivity? And how can it be helpful for you?
Coined in 2006 by period activist, PSHE teacher and comedian, Chella Quint, period positive is an award, a curriculum model and a learning framework for teaching inclusive menstrual literacy. It’s also now a widely used term for people that want to de-stigmatise menstruation through honest education and promote healthy, positive relationships with our menstruating bodies.
If you’re anything like me, from your very first period you’ve been aware of the stigma and inherent shame attached to this natural bodily function.
I started my period during my Year 10 work experience. On my first day, I saw my only female colleague slip a discrete package into the kitchen bin on her way from the bathroom. That’s how I learned that, instead of my employer providing a proper sanitary bin in the toilet, I should master the art of shoving used pads up my sleeve and finding a covered bin to deposit them in as soon as possible, without getting caught.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then but there’s still work to do. A lack of period education, access to affordable products, and the ability to have open conversations about menstruation means that period shame is still rife in the UK.
- 48% of girls report feeling embarrassed by their period;
- 27% have overused a period product because they couldn’t afford a new one;
- 49% have missed school due to their period.
And a poll by Action Aid found that:
- 52% of people hide sanitary products when they go to the toilet;
- More than one in three women have experienced period shaming; 40% of which reported it was their partner making the comments.
And this is just in the UK, around the world people are struggling to access basic sanitation and access to period products, affecting their ability to stay in school.
Joining the period positivity movement could be right for you if…
🌱 You want to find a community of supportive, like-minded people to talk about menstrual health and wellbeing at work, school and at home
🌈 You want to talk about inclusivity in the space and challenge the status quo
☀️ You’re trying to build a better relationship with your own body and menstrual cycle
There are plenty of online forums to join the movement (including this one)! You can also seek out conversations in real life, bring people together to challenge the systems around you, and continue to educate yourself through trusted resources.
But what if period positivity doesn’t resonate with you?
The use of the word positive can feel jarring at times, even for me. You might be someone that has heavy, painful periods, an underlying condition such as PMDD or endometriosis, or your period may cause gender dysphoria.
For many, their period is not something to celebrate and there’s nothing wrong with that. Period positivity may be something you’re striving for but don’t yet feel, or, perhaps, period neutrality sits better with you.
Much like in the body positivity movement, there is space to be carved out for people that just want to feel ok about their period, neutral even, and not feel pressure to shout about it.
That doesn’t mean you don’t support the goals of the movement culturally, politically and socially. It’s just that, you’re building a relationship with your body in your way and you can name and define that however you want to.
It’s important to remember that the goal in de-stigmatising periods is that we reach a place where everyone: understands what a period is and how it works, has access to the period products of their choice, and can access quality medical care should they need. Period.