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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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We need to get rid of the shame and embarrassment around periods

61% of Irish teenage girls are embarrassed about their period.

A RECENT SURVEY by Plan International has found that 61% of Irish girls are embarrassed about their periods and that 50% are struggling to afford sanitary products. The survey was conducted on 1,100 Irish girls aged between 12-19 and reflects a troubling attitude towards something that nearly anyone with a uterus has to deal with.

Anyone with a uterus will know that periods are incredibly inconvenient or messy but they’re not something we should be ashamed about. Once a month (if you have a regular cycle), our uterus bleeds for a bit to tell us that we’re not pregnant (bit extra in my opinion but anyway) and that’s it.

Why should people be ashamed of a natural process? Because it’s something that only happens to women and historically, the world has been pretty good at shaming women for natural processes.

Take sanitary product ads for example. It is 2018 and yet companies are STILL insisting on showing a blue liquid being poured onto a tampon or sanitary pad. Last time I checked, your blood was only blue in your veins or if you’re a member of the Royal Family. Or Tom Selleck.

You might not think it, but a simple colour change could do a lot for anyone with a uterus. Using blue suggests that there’s something wrong with periods because you’re hiding the true nature of them.

Blood is nothing to be ashamed of. If it was an advert for how to wrap up a wound (bear with me) I’m pretty sure the colour of the liquid used would be red. Where the blood originates shouldn’t matter, by changing the colour of the liquid, you’re promoting shame and embarrassment and encouraging people to hide.

The only way we’re going to stop the shame is if we talk to our kids about periods. If we’re open and honest and refuse to beat around the bush, we create a healthier atmosphere for everyone.

Being open and honest removes shame and allows a subject that was once taboo to become normalised. A normalised issue is an issue that we as a people can deal with. It means we tackle the second issue of period poverty.

No person with a uterus should be wanting for tampons and sanitary towels. Ireland doesn’t tax these products but if you’re someone below the poverty line, sanitary products might not be at the top of your priorities. The way to tackle this problem is to make these products free in schools and colleges.

Until we get free access to these products though, the most vulnerable in our society are going to suffer. Donating to something like The Homeless Period could make a huge difference to someone who really needs it. You can also drop off sanitary products to their drop off points around Dublin.

It’s 2018 and this year we’ve already decided that shame has no place in a modern Irish society. While removing the 8th Amendment was a massive step towards that, it’s the little areas where shame still rules the roost.

Only be being a more open society and admitting that periods are just a regular everday event rather than a hushed secret are we going to change that.

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About the author:

Rachel O'Neill

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