The average woman will have her period for 2,535 days of her life. That’s around seven years of managing your period and everything that comes with it; finding and buying the right products for you, managing the health implications and navigating the everyday of being on your period.
More recently, women – including transgender, non binary people who menstruate – are talking about menstruation more openly than ever. Globally, advocates are demanding a woman’s right to manage her period with ease and dignity in order to live a happy and fulfilled life.
Like feminism, menstrual equity, has the same fundamental beliefs; people who menstruate shouldn’t be held back by their bodies. Menstrual activism is intersectional, global and culturally relative. It affects every aspect of a woman’s life and without finding equality in this monthly biological function, it will be difficult to find equality overall.
It’s safe to say your period is political! So, here are five reasons your feminist activism should include menstrual equality:
It is a fundamental feminist principle that women and girls should have equal access to education. But due to menstruation this is currently not the case.
In the UK, 20 percent of girls admitted to missing school whilst on their period. Whilst this number increases to one in ten globally, and that is just the start! For many girls, once their period starts they will stop school altogether due to feeling a sense of shame or to implicit cultural understandings.
If we want to achieve better equality in access to education amongst girls, we must combat access to menstrual products, toilets and WASH facilities alongside a better attitude towards menstruation in schools.
The current structures of our global society have resulted in inadequate diagnosis, support and solutions to various female-prevalent health issues, which are often linked or caused by the menstrual cycle. Health conditions such as endometriosis and premenstrual dysphoric disorder can take years to diagnose, whilst the link between the menstrual cycle and the exacerbation of conditions such as asthma, anxiety and epilepsy are still unknown.
A rise in menstrual activism and fem-tech has supported research into menstrual health in recent years, but knowledge and solutions are still inadequate. More so, women’s lack of access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities pose many more reproductive and sexual health risks. The closed nature of society means that menstruation is a health danger for many!
If women are to be able to live fulfilling lives which are not constrained by menstruation, we must tackle the issue of menstrual health. Increasing research around menstruation, improving the availability of medical support and encouraging more conversations around the health implications of menstruation are needed.
The effects of climate change and environmental issues will disproportionately affect women and girls. It is therefore important we are conscious of our impact on the environment.
Tons of menstrual waste fill our oceans, sewers and landscapes every year. If we take into account that every person who menstruates will use around 11,000 pads or tampons in their lifetime, that is a hell of a lot of single-use plastic! Being aware of the impact our period is having on the planet is a big-ass feminist move.
If we want to improve our effect on the environment and ensure a planet for our future sisters, we must focus efforts to reduce this waste. Increasing access, availability and awareness to sustainable menstrual products would be a push in the right direction.
Being on your period at work can be an uncomfortable situation whether you’re in pain or experiencing PMS. This can be worsened if you find it hard to talk to your employer about these issues.
Currently, women’s ability to participate in the workforce is being restricted by bad menstrual work-place policies. Even in countries where menstrual leave exists, women would rather just take regular sick leave than declare it as period paid leave.
Without breaking down the taboos around menstruation, opening access to menstrual products and facilities and encouraging adequate sick leave, women’s ability to work in happy, safe and equality-driven workspaces is restricted.
Menstruation affects women, girls, non-binary and transgender people across the world. It is an issue which intersects race, class, culture and religion and therefore has the power to engage us in a global effort towards equality.
Feminism is all about supporting and uplifting your sisters around the world! So playing a role in menstrual activism is just another way to embrace the sisterhood.
The clear overarching issue that restrains us from achieving menstrual equity is the taboo around it. Embracing menstruation as a feminist issue is a sure fire way to open up dialogue and reduce that shame. The more we scream and shout about periods, the further we move towards equity. So basically … make your period political!
Terri Harris is a London based feminist activist, researcher, blogger and programme specialist focusing on sexual and reproductive health rights. Her expertise lie in menstrual health within religious and cultural norms, which has led her to train women on reusable menstrual products across East Africa and the Middle East.