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Dear men, let’s talk about periods

08 Jan 2017

Let’s rewind to the Friends episode: The One With The Soap Opera Party. We all sat and watched as Chandler had to face a one-woman feminist play that started with the opening chapter of “My First Period” – and we felt his pain. As did the majority of guys who have been in similar situations to Chandler, with their female friends or family members deciding to openly discuss their past, present or future periods. There should be no issue with it being brought up but let us question why it is that men tend to cringe at the topic, tend to shy away from listening in or wanting to know more, because to this day periods are still an unmentionable subject to many men that leads them to act awkwardly whenever the topic is raised.

Speaking on the phone to a male friend of mine during this ‘special’ time of the month I didn’t hesitate to bring up my pain, discomfort or craving for sweet foods, thinking it to be as normal as if it were a female friend on the other end of the line. Now there are some guys that will bravely put up with this type of conversation and who won’t flinch at the mention of cramps. My friend however was not one of these guys. And he isn’t the only one.

Was it my fault for being so open about having my period? Are periods a forbidden talking point with the opposite sex? Why can’t all guys be normal about a natural process? I am sure that I did nothing wrong in bringing up the topic, but in trying to understand what went wrong in my social interaction, it seemed he simply had no way to relate to me and my situation, which was what caused him to feel self-consciously awkward. The failure of our conversation was in his minimal knowledge; a lacking that can only be due to the fact that men do not talk about periods openly.

The source of the problem has to come from sex education, or rather, the lack of it. I’m sure that the majority of us will be able to correctly define what a period is. However, has anyone ever been taught how to understand what emotions we might be going through during this time, or how best to support a cramping woman in need? Most likely not. This part of the biology lesson was brushed over and avoided. Men have been left to figure it out themselves, which is probably the cause of them running in the opposite direction when hearing the words ‘heavy flow’ come out of our mouths.

The knock-on effect of this is women feeling ashamed to talk about their time of the month with their period-phobic other halves. To a larger extent, society can view women to be weaker and inferior because of this biological blood shedding. The debate on tampon tax and menstrual leave has shown just how divided opinions are on periods. Even worse, women who have chosen not to have periods from IUDs or other methods of birth control can also be guilty of pessimistically degrading others who have not chosen to do the same as they have. And to add to all of the period-shaming already occurring between sexes, certain religious and cultural attitudes can look at periods to be a “shameful”, “dirty” or “impure” part of life. With this negative outlook on something intrinsic to our bodies, it is even more important for the period conversations to continue.

My theory would be that if more men talked about periods, more men would understand the menstrual cycle, and more men would be less freaked out when women bring it up – ending the vicious cycle of period-related awkwardness that we often have to deal with. With a better understanding between us all, surely we can put an end to having to hide our emotions about periods?

Your period is nothing to be ashamed about and I don’t think it’s a cause for being shy during a conversation. We shouldn’t have to pick and choose who we can vent our cramping frustrations out on. Periods shouldn’t be a secret talking point in the workplace nor should it be a forbidden topic in relationships. Menstruation is natural and is nothing we need to hide away from. So to all the men and women out there who can’t get a grasp on dealing with the social etiquette of periods, there needn’t be any. Let’s just get talking!

Image by Nicole Chui (@thatsewnicole)