Did you know that over 100,000,000 girls around the world can’t go to school simply because they are on their period? Yes, there is a very real taboo concerning that Time Of The Month in the U.S., which is why I told my daughter about periods in public.
But globally, the shame associated with periods and lack of sanitary supplies actually keeps girls/women from improving their lot in life.
ONE. HUNDRED. MILLION.
That is a heck of a lot of girls in our world today who are unable to go to school because of their period! Then imagine how many of them would have gone to school 10, 20, 40, 60 years ago, too? While in the United States my grandma could go to school while menstruating, these period problems were unsurmountable globally back then as well.
Talking with your daughter for the first time about periods:
If you haven’t had it yet, can you imagine having that first awkward conversation with your daughter about her up-and-coming visitation from Aunt Flow? Are you imagining it yet?
Now try adding to it, “By the way, sweetie, you actually will probably stop going to school when you start your period. After all, you can’t wash your leaking rags at school, not to mention that periods are so embarrassing and shameful anyway. Also all the boys know you are ready for marriage and that will be the end of that.“
I guess we are so blessed, because when I told my daughter about periods, instead of discussions about school, I got an earful about seahorses. Yep. Seahorses. Very relevant to our very public discussion on menstruation.
When I Told My Daughter About Periods In Target
(And She Told Me About Seahorses)
It has been said that I sometimes go a little too far out out of the way (as in far from the average American’s comfort zone) to discuss all the private things out in the fresh air.
Church and restaurants are especially ideal settings for these “open” conversations, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the topic of periods came to a head with my daughter in public, at Target.
In addition, I am always trying to foster open discussions with my children that enforce that their bodies/sex aren’t “shameful” in hopes to prepare them and give them the knowledge they need to protect themselves (against bad things like abuse and sex trafficking).
So you see, when my daughter asked me what tampons were for last summer, I couldn’t really back down.
Especially as she had already asked me in the car on the way to the store. I responded “periods” and said there was probably a better time for me to tell her more about it (which I would). But, when I was in that tampon aisle she brought it up again.
“So mom, is this a good time for you to tell me about periods and tampons?“
I saw all the other people in the aisle tune their ears to our conversation, little smiles playing on their lips.
Um, no, baby! Not really a good time!
But by then I felt like I couldn’t back down. After all, it was the second time she asked, and here I am calling myself Mrs. Open-To-Being-Sex-Talkable. I had to stand by my values.
Besides, if I wanted to make private subjects like periods something shameless and normal in our society, I might as well give the public example of how to have these “open” conversations.
And so right there in the middle of Target (God bless Target) I explained menstruation and what it had to do with babies being born and pregnancy (or by its nature, not getting pregnant). I felt like I rocked the question with aces, feeling proud of the example I had given to society at large (starting with those standing around us in the feminine supplies aisle).
For good measure, full of practical sage wisdom (or I don’t actually know why), I tagged on, “This only happens to girls though, boys don’t get this.“
There was a brief pause. Granted, I did just teach her all about periods. But even I felt like things got weird when my daughter declared with conviction, “No mom, you’re wrong. Not only girls have periods. Boys have them too.“
Really? Of everything in that whole female monologue to latch on to, why this?
I looked around me, wishing desperately that no one was listening, but oh they were. I gently tried to correct her.
“No, baby, pretty sure it is just girls.”
My sweet 7-year-old responded with such confidence it was admirable: “No. That can’t be true. Boy seahorses have the babies, so they must have periods, too!”
Those pesky controversial seahorses. Screwing up the period conversation since 1992 (or whenever scientists realized it was the boy seahorses who have babies ― a painful process by the look of them exploding in droves from their belly button). In case you are wondering, I did look it up. Seahorse boys still don’t produce the egg, ergo, no periods.
Yes, the Target bystanders were chuckling, but they did a good job covering their laughter up. But we had survived.
Note: Not once in that introduction to menstruation did I have to tell my daughter she wouldn’t be able to go to school again once her period started.
100,000,000 Girls Can’t Go to School
We have Sports Playtex to brag about as we go to yoga and soccer practice. Yet in Africa and other parts of the globe, girls are still under such extremes taboos that not only is menstruation something that can’t be openly discussed, but it is both shaming and debilitating. Can you comprehend only having rags–if you are lucky enough to have rags rather than leaves or newspaper–to clean up after yourself?
I watched this short video earlier this year, highlighting how menstruation is a taboo both here and far (in fact, the root of the word taboo comes from the word menstruation). Still, we don’t usually connect this taboo to major global issues affecting women (and the society they could be benefiting in so many ways if empowered through education). Yet this connection is real.
Do you think 100,000,000 girls shouldn’t be able to go to school simply because of a taboo and lack of sanitary supplies?
Five Ways to Help Girls Who Can’t Go To School Because of Period-Shaming:
I think we can help remedy this. In fact, my daughter’s first response when she learned about this issue was to ask how she could help these other girls around the world.
Check out these ways below you can be part of the solution and let us know in the comments all the other ideas you have!
2.) Learn more by reading this post: Why Menstruation Shouldn’t Stop Education. Period.
4.) Buy some THINXS, where your purchase also provides funding for the international org, AFRIpads, training women to make reusable pads, providing jobs and giving local girls with affordable sanitary supplies (yes, this is a referral code so I get money off my next pair of period panties—maybe a preparatory pair for my daughter).
5.) Have conversations about taboo subjects openly and honestly with your kids (both boys and girls) to help empower them to stay safe from predators, be aware of their bodies/health, and know how to stand-up for others who need advocates (like the 100,000,000 girls who can’t go to school). Even if you don’t use this teaching-about-periods board game, your influence as a parent is essential.