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All Genders Can Help Change Period Stigma Too

Posted by Sabrina Baldini on 21 February 2022
All Genders Can Help Change Period Stigma Too

Photo credit: Vulvania

Why I joined The Period Purse. 

I have long been passionate about sexual health and reproductive freedom and have volunteered in varying capacities - from public health to rape crisis counselling to teaching sex education abroad. I was first introduced to period poverty teaching sex education in Nairobi, Kenya. I noticed the older the students were, the less likely it was to have girls in the class. I asked questions and period poverty came up. The idea that menstruators would be missing school because they don’t have products is heart-breaking. It’s so fixable. I thought it was unlikely that this problem existed in Canada, until I started to research and was mistaken. The Period Purse came up in my research and I was eager to be part of an organization that was making a difference.

For those who do not menstruate, how can they help change the stigma?

Language is so important! At TPP, we talk about using the proper words to describe and discuss menstruation. We address slang and popular terms that menstruators have developed over time, to break the ice when discussing the topic and highlight the lengths menstruators have gone to conceal a normal and natural bodily function. Saying the words,”menstruation”, “period”, “menstrual products” can help to change the stigma.  We actively engage the students in exercise in saying those words out loud!

What role can cis-gendered boys play?

Working with TPP for two years, I have noticed hesitation on including cis-gendered boys in the Menstruation Nation presentations. It is not often that they are in the class and this is, very much, a part of the problem with the stigma surrounding periods. When boys are included - they are inquisitive, curious, eager to learn and very empathetic when discussing periods. We focus on helping cis-gendered boys to be good allies for menstruators and empathy. They do not get their periods but they conceptually know about them and they take cues from their peers on how to talk about them or not talk about them at all!

We also focus on feelings. When the folks that menstruate use words to describe their periods as “scary”, “gross”, “confusing”, “embarrassing”. Then we'll ask the boys, "Have you ever had those feelings before?",  "Can you relate to feeling embarrassed sometimes?”, “How about being embarrassed or confused by something your body involuntarily does?" This usually makes for thoughtful discussions - on the ways that cis-gendered boys could help to lessen any embarrassment or perhaps problem solve if a menstruator is on their period or does not have any products and how they can help.

Favourite Moments 

Some of my favourite moments have been when the adults in the classes chime in (teachers, parents, or organizational leaders). It makes me smile when an adult menstruator learns something new about periods, about their bodies or about politics of menstruation. We’re never too old to learn and most menstruators have not had a proper education on the subject, so the classes that TPP provides is one of the first educational discussions that most adults have actually been in!

I remember demonstrating the insertion of a menstrual cup on a blow-up model cube (which I know may be difficult to picture) but I remember all of the students leaning into their cameras on their computers to have a closer look and the adults were equally mesmerized. I could only see everyone’s eyes! One of the adults whispered right into her microphone, “Oh I can do that!” and resolving to give the menstrual cup a shot. 

I enjoy delivering all of the modules - there is so much rich discussion that develops because there is something new to learn in the presentation. As an adult cis-woman, I can certainly attest to this. I have learned a lot about myself, my body, periods and advocacy and I am so proud to be part of this organization. 

Author:Sabrina Baldini

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