A New Study Has Revealed Many Young Woman Are Not Clued Up About Periods And That Needs To Change

Are we still ashamed or simply not bothered? These disheartening stats might answer our questions.

MOST POPULAR
Period Pain | ELLE UK
GIF

Many women have periods, not all, but many. Some men even get them - for example, a pre-op trans man who is still transitioning.

And of those who do have periods, there are many different kinds, be it painful and heavy or light and a minor discomfort, or all the variations that come with polycystic ovaries or post-pregnancy.

Some people have periods like clockwork, knowing it will arrive red and gruesome on the first of a 28 day cycle, about an hour after waking up and end four days later in the form of a dark discharge. For others, it's a not-quite-monthly surprise party!

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

But what about our relationship with our periods? Are they a vague annoyance or a full-blown anxiety inducing flight-halting dust-cloud of a menace? Can we talk about them? Must we not talk about them?!

Unfortunately, looking at new stats released today by ActionAid, it seems a lot of us are uncomfortable talking about periods and even fewer of us fully understand them.

ActionAid commissioned a poll through YouGov of 2,140 adults in the UK aged 16 and over.

The poll, which places people in a binary male and female category (meaning there are no stats for trans women, trans men or gender non-conforming), revealed that a quarter of 16-39 year-old women in the UK do not understand their periods.

Younger women are also much less likely to track their period - 37 per cent of women aged between 40-54 have tracked their periods since it started, compared to only 19 per cent of 16-24 year olds.

I am a woman, therefore, I bleed. . It's messy, it's painful, it's terrible, & it's beautiful. . And yet, you wouldn't know. Because I hide it. . I bury things at the bottom of the trash. I breathe, ragged and awkward through the cramps, all the while holding onto this tight lipped, painted on smile. . Tampons? Shhh. We don't say those words out loud. Hide them. In the back pocket of your purse, in the corner of the bathroom drawer, at the very bottom of your shopping cart (please let me get a female cashier). . Events or engagements get missed. I'll tell myself it’s the PMS, sure, but it has more to with the risk of being "caught," at what...I'm not quite sure. . And I’m lucky. . Over 100 million young women around the globe miss school or work for lack of adequate menstrual supplies, & fear of what might happen if the world witnesses A NATURAL BODILY FUNCTION. . WHY? . Because hundreds of years of culture have made us embarrassed to bleed. Have left us feeling dirty and ashamed. . STOP PRETENDING. Stop using silly pet names like Aunt Flo because you're too afraid to say "I'm bleeding" or "vagina." Stop wasting so much effort hiding the very thing that gives this species continuity. . START talking about it. Educate your daughters. Make them understand that it can be both an inconvenience and a gift, but NEVER something to be ashamed about. Educate your sons so they don't recoil from the word tampon. So when a girl bleeds through her khaki shorts in third period (pun intended), they don't perpetuate the cycle of shame and intolerance. . This #StartSomethingSunday , I want to highlight @corawomen . . Cora Women is a 100% Organic tampon company. . But that’s not all. They are also breaking barriers. Making it ok to talk about periods, even on social media. Providing personalized, delivered tampon/pad orders right to your door. AND for every box purchased, donating a box of sustainable pads to girls who can't afford menstruation products. . Fuck yeah. That's the kind of stuff I can galvanize behind, NO money OR product needed. Just a mission I support on a topic we should ALL be talking about. . THIS IS JUST A LEAK, NOT FREE BLEEDING ✌🏽

A post shared by Steph Gongora (@casa_colibri) on

Tracking your period is pretty useful for things like pregnancy scares, and white trouser wearing. But also is a handy indicator that everything's ticking along as it should be down there.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Engaging and understanding your body could also help lift a little of the shame we've sadly been burdened with since the dawning of the patriarchy.

The report revealed some depressing stats that nearly half (47%) of women surveyed say they would feel uncomfortable discussing periods with their dads, whilst one in three (37%) women said they would not feel comfortable discussing periods with male friends.

Not that everything is about men, but it was interesting to see that these 'fears' were largely unfounded, since only 9% of men admitted that they would feel uncomfortable discussing periods with their daughters and only 17% of men would find discussing periods with female friends uncomfortable.

thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. the girl is fully clothed. the photo is mine. it is not attacking a certain group. nor is it spam. and because it does not break those guidelines i will repost it again. i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ this image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com the photos were shot by myself and @prabhkaur1 (and no. the blood. is not real.) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.

A post shared by rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) on

There is still a significant wedge of us who won't even talk about it with other women who are pretty likely to have, be having or have had a period in their lives. The study also showed one in five women (20%) under forty years old say they would feel uncomfortable discussing their periods with their female friends, their mums (21%) and their partners (21%).

This discomfort and shame even extended to the products that are essential in dealing with period; sanitary products.

Despite (or maybe even because of) the recent public debate surrounding the taxation of such products, we would apparently be embarrassed to ask our male friends and partners to grab some tampons whilst they are already out getting milk. The reasons ranged from saying it was too personal, to not wanting the man to feel embarrassed.

Though these opinions are totally human, it's not great. Perpetuating ideas of shame and shrouding periods in secrecy can have devastating effects to people's self-esteem, when something they are going through is not only natural, but totally healthy and useful.

Girish Menon of ActionAid Chief Executive said:

This research was commissioned to ignite a conversation about periods ahead of World Menstrual Hygiene day, which was established to raise awareness of the challenges women and girls worldwide face due to menstruation Millions of girls living in some of the world's poorest places grow up knowing nothing about menstruation before their first period, or dreading its arrival. Poverty, a wide range of cultural taboos attached to menstruation or being trapped in a humanitarian disaster can mean many women and girls are unable to access affordable sanitary products which can have a devastating and irreversible impact on their lives.

Period Pain | ELLE UK
GIF

ActionAid have created a set of 'Sanitary Superheroes' to help promote the day called things like the Crimson Avenger and Rosy Rebel.

Illustrated by Daisy Bernard, the pictures prove that a girl plus a sanitary pad is a superhero.

For a long time in developing countries girls have been missing school due to their periods, be it because of their inability to access sanitary products, or from the shame surrounding them, however, recent news of girls in the UK doing the same shook the nation.

Not talking about periods is what got us into this mess, since a culture of silence can hide a multitude of wrongs, so talking is the only way we're going to get out of it.

It's World Menstrual Hygiene day on the 28th May, so celebrate it by making some noise about periods. Be it how much you enjoy having a bit of period sex or how much it annoys you how much tampons cost, tell a friend, send a tweet, say something. Period.

Donate to ActionAid to help women and girls access clean and safe sanitary products, improve toilet facilities and build safe rooms. www.actionaid.org.uk/donate/sanitary-towels-women-humanitarian-crisis

More from ELLE UK: