Not ‘that time of the month’, but a period! It’s high time to get rid of the menstrual taboo


For centuries, menstrual blood has been one of the most characteristic emblems of discrimination against women. There are cultures where, to this day, menstruating women are completely isolated or can only be in the company of other ladies. This subject has been talked about wrong even in commercials, which for years have featured some blue liquid instead of blood, women wearing white trousers, and the word ‘period’ replaced by numerous euphemisms.

Yet menstruation is a natural and cyclical process that affects half of humanity! It’s been with us since the dawn of time, enabling us to propagate our species. Therefore, it’s time to finally break this menstrual taboo!

But this is not an easy task. The results of social surveys on the perception of menstruation, commissioned by Kulczyk Foundation and conducted by the polling company ‘Difference’, prove that although women accept menstruation as a biological phenomenon, for many of them it remains an embarrassing topic not to be talked about. We don’t share experiences in this area, we don’t support each other, and quite often we also perpetuate false beliefs and stereotypes related to periods.

Women without support

Even worse off are young girls, for whom the experience of their first period is fraught with shame, fear, and loneliness. One in three teenage girls is unprepared for its arrival and negatively perceives menstruation itself [1]. Also, she has no support from her parents. She carefully hides the fact that she’s got her period, which significantly lowers her sense of well-being and sometimes forces her to give up training sessions, physical education classes, or going out with friends.

54 percent of the surveyed teenage girls have been absent from school due to menstruation; the same number have had to return home due to severe pain experienced during their periods. Nor has it been uncommon for young girls to experience feelings of shame and embarrassment, for example, when they had to ask someone for intimate hygiene products because they did not have their own (59 percent of respondents).

What is more, in society there is a conviction that menstruation is a typical subject for women. Boys know about the menstrual cycle only what they learn in biology lessons. This makes it very easy for them to take the myths and stereotypes surrounding the subject as truth, and to treat it as an object for jokes. Excluding boys from the discourse on menstruation exposes girls to ridicule from their male peers. And that leads directly to discriminating and humiliating teenage girls.

Hence the importance of talking about menstruation in a neutral way, using terms such as period and menstruation. Let’s avoid infantile vocabulary. Let’s not distort reality. And let’s not avoid answering our children’s questions, such as why mummy buys pads or why she needs that cup. But let’s provide children with information about menstruation adapted to their stage of development. A five-year-old should be talked to differently than a ten-year-old.

Thanks to this approach, we’ll succeed in raising an informed generation that will treat menstruation in the only right way – as a sign of health and fertility.

– We must fight the taboo, the stigma and the superstitions about menstruation that are still alive in Poland. Your period, which signifies you are ready to make a new life, should be a time to celebrate. Instead, it has unfortunately become a reason to humiliate women around the world. This needs to stop. Women must understand each of them is a being of harmony, happiness and meaning. And that everything that happens to them is good when it is in harmony with nature. Meanwhile, real men, who respect nature and other human beings, should support nature in women – believes Dominika Kulczyk, President of Kulczyk Foundation, who has for years been supporting the fight against menstrual poverty and exclusion.

Linguistically and culturally, menstruation is a very taboo subject, although it is a normal experience for millions of women around the world. Fortunately, an insight into the need to break down barriers to communication in this area is gaining ground. It’s an opportunity to get rid of discrimination against women, but also to offer women a free and friendly space to exchange experiences, which is so important especially for teenage girls.

[1] In answer to the question: ‘Do you generally associate menstruation with something positive or negative?’ 26% of the surveyed teenage girls gave the response ‘rather negative’, and 24% responded with ‘very negative’ [source: Report on menstruation based on the qualitative and quantitative survey by ‘Difference’, for the Kulczyk Foundation].

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