Lily Project: Destigmatizing Menstruation

by HS GIN Lily Members

About 49.6% of the entire global population experiences menstruation. Unfortunately, there is a glaring stigma surrounding periods, despite it being a very common and normal thing that women experience.

To open up dialogue about periods, and normalize conversations about menstruation, we asked Lily Project members to give us some insights into the challenges of having a period.

QUESTION #1: Describe your period in one word.

Ellie: Ugh. 

Natasha: Weird. 

Audrey: Painful. 

 

QUESTION #2: How do you feel during your period?

Natasha: I feel uncomfortable. Even though I’m not someone who gets really bad PMS, I usually still feel uncomfortable during my period because there’s always that fear of whether I have enough supplies with me. It definitely keeps me heightened and alert during the day, and not in a good way. It also gives me more stress knowing I have to use the bathroom more to check up on myself and that I constantly have to make sure I’m stocked with enough supplies. 

Daphne: I feel vulnerable and tense around people.

Jingxi: I feel a little bit more exhausted than I usually am, and also it sometimes makes me more on edge. 

 

QUESTION #3: How does your period affect your everyday life?

Kellina: I do sports so sometimes it can get irritating; I have horrible cramps the first two days of my period (literally on the floor about to pass out) so if I get my period during school hours my whole day will just be a mess. 

Eli: My period makes my everyday life a little harder. I have to worry about whether I’m bleeding through my pants. It also makes me lose motivation to do things.

Ellie: My period is really inconvenient, but I know it’s a process that all women go through, so we suffer together. 

 

QUESTION #4: How comfortable do you feel about your period? Why?

Kellina: Born into a Chinese family, I was taught to be careful when I am on my period. Pads and tampons are things you’re supposed to hide from other people; never wear white, just because; don't openly tell someone I have my period, not even a close friend. But as I have become more educated on the matter, shame has gone away and I feel perfectly comfortable talking about my experiences and period in general.  

Daphne: Compared to the past, I now have come to accept my period for what it is and feel more comfortable in my own skin. Growing up in a safe environment such as Concordia has allowed me to be more open about my insecurities.

Audrey: I don’t feel comfortable during it but I’m okay with talking about it.

 

QUESTION #5: How do you cope with your period?

Daphne: Typically, I drink lots and lots of hot water and exercise. 

Jingxi: I don’t necessarily “cope” with my period. My periods are generally a lot calmer (no cramps, less flow) than most girls and so I just let it happen and pass. However, sometimes I may cave into my cravings for chocolate. 

Ellie: I push through the pain and pretend like everything’s fine. 

 

QUESTION #6: Why is there a stigma surrounding menstruation? How can we normalize it?

Natasha: I think there are stigmas about menstruation because we as humans naturally feel shame and it’s embedded into our flawed human nature. The stigma we feel is just a result of that. I think to address it, we need to realize there are two components to “breaking the stigma”: addressing shame and maintaining privacy. There’s a difference between stigma and privacy. Stigma is rooted in shame, and we want to break the shame. But I think that there’s still an element of privacy we need to maintain. Privacy is about respect and protecting something precious. Our periods are an intimate part of our bodies, and so we should still be mindful of the way we talk about them. 

Audrey: I think there is kind of a stigma but it’s not as present amongst our generation but more with our parents. So there is a stigma, but it’s getting better. 

Kellina: There’s definitely a cultural factor with the whole stigma. I guess depending on our cultural backgrounds we all perceive menstruation a little differently, from being embarrassed to comfortable. One way to normalize it would be just educating the younger generations on periods and cycles, so when they become teenagers and begin to experience them, they won’t be too stressed about it. 

 

QUESTION #7: How does your period affect you?

Daphne: My period affects me in both bad and good ways. Sure, the cramps and the blood seemed scary at first, but over time, I’ve come to realize that my period does so many helpful things to my body, such as preparing me for pregnancy in the future, releasing unwanted tissue from my body, and more. 

Jingxi: My period is a part of my life. It’s not a good or a bad thing. It just is.

Eli: Having a period is a pretty terrible experience, but I know that it means I am healthy and my body is working. I get bad cramps, I get tired, and sometimes I have mood swings. But my life still goes on, so I have to work around it. When I am menstruating, I know that my body is healthy and functioning properly, which is reassuring. 

 

When it comes to menstruation, there is nothing to be ashamed about. We need to normalize periods and break the stigma around them. Our bodies are absolutely incredible, and there is nothing dirty about them! When you’re menstruating, treat yourself to some snacks, take breaks, or soak in a nice bath. Also, make sure to be empathetic and supportive to your friends who menstruate as well. Buy your friends something from the cafe, support them when needed, and let them know you are there for them. Don’t be shy to educate yourself and those around you. For educating yourself, research about your cycle, ways to feel better on your period, or how to advocate. In educating others, share facts that you find interesting, compare experiences and learn how to appeal to their needs. Finally, make sure to give yourself the time that you need during your period. School, extracurriculars, and deadlines are stressful and pressing, but they shouldn’t come above your health and wellbeing. Treat, educate, and love yourself and your body.