The Dickinsonian

Let’s Get Over it: Menstruation and Vaginas are Normal

Maia Baker ’19, Opinion Columnist

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Most people with vaginas get their periods between eight and eighteen; most will have three hundred and fifty periods in their lifetimes. Most people who have regular periods menstruate every 28 days. Half the population has a period every month: so why are periods so scary to talk about?

“Feminine hygiene” is the polite way that supermarkets, drug stores, and menstrual companies market tampons and pads to bodies with vaginas. But that’s a ridiculously vague, socially anxious phrase that minimizes vaginal health and reduces menstruation to a “feminine” problem of cleanliness, rather than what it actually is: menstruation.

There’s an inherent contradiction in this rhetoric based on the fact that menstrual products are sold and taxed as “luxury products,” unlike products like toilet paper and tissues, are certainly more relevant to the “hygiene” market than tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and other forms of protection. Menstrual products don’t only ensure physical cleanliness but prevent women and bodies with vaginas from free-bleeding, an obviously unsupportable option not only in terms of hygiene but cultural stigmas.

Periods and period blood are intensely stigmatized: when a tampon string is showing, when someone has bled slightly onto a bathing suit or through shorts, people react with outrage.

The same reactions don’t occur when someone needs to blow their nose, when someone has a bloody wound, when a paper cut bleeds more than expected. When paparazzi pictures showing that Madison Beers had bled through her tampon while at the beach, online commenters were more than unnerved, they were disgusted and angry.

The difference between paper cut blood and period blood is obvious to me: period blood comes from vaginas, and Western society sees vaginas as dirty, grotesque, monstrous. Vaginas and the blood they process are taboo: the natural process of menstruation receives a stigma like that of no other body process. This is because as a culture we’re scared of vaginas; we don’t even like to say vagina.

Obviously, the stigmas on vagina health are outdated and unnecessary. To kill these stigmas, we need to reclaim the vagina as cultural space, in the cultural consciousness. Vaginas are powerful; they push out babies, they regulate their own pH, they can clean themselves and heal their own infections. And they bleed once a month. Can we get over the menstruation stigma and treat vaginas like the healthy, powerful, amazing muscles they are?

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Let’s Get Over it: Menstruation and Vaginas are Normal