Let’s talk about the P word
It’s hard to believe that in our digitally charged 21st century of modern science, innovation and huge technological achievements, we still find it difficult to talk about one of the most basic functions of the female body.
It’s the natural and life giving cycle assigned to women that secures the future of our existence – her period.
Many women (and their male partners) still consider periods to be an extremely personal and private subject. Many men still believe it’s ‘secret women’s business’.
Maybe it’s the ‘refined sensibilities’ from the Victorian era that still linger, fuelling a certain stigma and preventing more open discussion around the issue? It doesn’t help when periods are still referred to as her ‘special time’, ‘red monster’ or even the ‘curse’.
Stigmas are problematic. Look what happened when we were reluctant to talk openly about other extremely personal and private issues such as mental illness, sexual abuse and domestic violence? Thankfully, that’s changing.
So why do we need to talk about periods in the first place?
It’s because they lead us to a wider discussion about the H word – hormones. For women, it’s not so much the function of menstruation (bleeding) that’s the central concern, more so the complex chemical messages at play across 28 days that can disturb their usual temperament and disposition.
Women make up around half the world’s population and their mood and behaviour can significantly affect the other half. This can have a huge impact on relationships.
Fact – fluctuating hormones are a rollercoaster ride for women, period. Every day, week and month of the year, women worldwide experience changes in their emotional, physical and psychological states due to hormones, particularly oestrogen and progesterone.
These changes can range from mild to severe and are difficult for women to understand, let alone their other halves. One day she might be warm, kind and friendly while another … not so much. This leads to confusion, misunderstanding and in extreme cases, a relationship breakdown.
It is incredible how many women don’t seem to know how and when these powerful hormones can impact their lives. Just imagine how difficult this can be for male partners who, with little or no communication on the issue, constantly feel they are completely in the dark. When we are aware, we are better able to manage our circumstances.
It’s a challenge to get people to have this conversation.
A new app on the market, designed specifically for men to gain insight and improve their relationships by better understanding their partner’s cycle, was recently pitched to a popular morning talk show on a major commercial television network.
The initial response (from a male segment producer) was positive and an interview was arranged and confirmed. The night before, a phone call was received from a senior producer (female) explaining they had bumped the planned interview, but an assurance was given that it would be rescheduled. It wasn’t.
After repeated requests for feedback it was explained (by the male segment producer) that ‘… the problem was that my bosses (both ladies) thought people didn’t want to hear about menstruation in the morning’.
Seriously? This is 2016.
The interview was meant to be about an app which helps men improve their relationships by gaining insight about their partner’s entire cycle. The menstrual flow takes up only a few days.
This experience is further evidence of an unhelpful and unhealthy stigma around the female condition. It seems periods and hormones are still considered by some women – who are in a perfect position to help educate others – too taboo.
We need to talk more about periods and hormones for a whole range of reasons.
When you raise awareness about an issue, you develop a greater understanding and that creates change – in perception, attitude and behaviour.
If you look at those stigma-prone issues of mental illness, sexual abuse and domestic violence, we were not comfortable talking about these either. But it’s encouraging to see we are slowly evolving through meaningful and productive dialogue which has resulted in national funded mental health initiatives, royal commissions into sexual abuse and a growing groundswell of community activism against accepting violence in our homes.
Let’s aim to remove another social stigma by having more conversations on the subject so that relationships can be improved and enriched, resulting in a better understanding and appreciation of each other – period.