The Shame Game

Words by Honor Tuttiett

After hearing that today’s theme on Women’s Hour, Radio 4 was going to be about menstruation and the shame that still surrounds it in many cultures, I thought about how interestingly taboo the natural occurrence still is. They focused on last week’s Australia Open where the British tennis player Heather Watson played less than her best and put this down to ‘girl things’. This gave rise to a media storm. How sad it is that one of the most regular experiences for a female is so taboo to be spoken about that it starts an actual frenzy.

A Tampax Advert - Appealing to our sense of shame?
A Tampax Advert – Appealing to our sense of shame?

It got me thinking about how I see menstruation myself. I have always prided myself on being a forthcoming woman, speaking honestly about bodily functions if the conversation were to arise. But then my mind forced me to reflect on a niggling memory. Scrolling through my Facebook feed one evening I stumbled across a picture of a drunken, skirt wearing, female acquaintance in an amorous embrace with a man. They were leaning back on a table and any picture observer could see her tampon string clearly protruding from the skirt.

I was shocked, as were the other onlookers by the story the comments told. But I want to focus on why was I shocked. Was it because she was on her period, shamefully having a great time? But I do that myself. Was it because she didn’t remember that this day was one not to show up your skirt to the camera? But I am sure I could be in that position too. Then I realised, it was because I had been affected by period shaming and was now inflicting that on others. The conversation on Woman’s hour flowed well (excuse the pun!) they went from shaming in adverts to sport and then how schools treat this subject.

Finding that most of these industries still address the subject as they did in 50’s. I remember my own experience of being sectioned off from the boys, because obviously this would never enter their lives, and being told to protect myself from leaking- the ultimate shame!

No wonder there is a skewed feeling towards the menstrual cycle and how we can express it. Wouldn’t it be relieving if there wasn’t this taboo? The girl in the photo was clearly far more advanced than me for not giving one care towards this display of a perfectly regular aspect to a woman’s life. She never took down the photo, or commented back to her shamers and I think this is the attitude we need more of. Less of this hiding what happens naturally, the act that actually enables the continuation of the human race, more down to earth honesty of its reality. Women have to face this every month for the majority of their lives, it is only right that we accept it.

I personally enjoy when my period comes, this feeling definitely does not last but I do have a fleeting moment of satisfaction knowing that I am running healthily and I am sure others share this too.

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