Image of speaker

The P Word, by Emma Doherty, Chair of the Women Writers Committee

If you haven’t already guessed by the title, the P stands for period. So if the very concept of a period leaves you feeling uneasy, put off or disgusted, then this blog is most definitely for you. ‘Did she just say the P-word?’ My first period arrived one beautiful summer day. The summer before I […]

January 28, 2021

If you haven’t already guessed by the title, the P stands for period. So if the very concept of a period leaves you feeling uneasy, put off or disgusted, then this blog is most definitely for you.

‘Did she just say the P-word?’

My first period arrived one beautiful summer day. The summer before I started secondary school, my mum and I were over visiting my aunt. I remember it like it was yesterday, hanging out with my cousin as we would, laughing away at something silly online, well before the YouTube days. I laughed so hard then suddenly I stopped. ‘Did I just pee my pants?’ I asked myself.

Now, every first-period story has something in it that makes it that much more memorable and individual. Mine was the fact that I had insisted that I wear my favourite little quarter-length jeans that day. Oh, did I forget to mention? They were WHITE! I made my way to the toilet, and that’s when it truly began. Slowly she crawled her way into my life with a vengeance. I felt light-headed, sick. This pain, dull but sharp hit me hard. She was making it clear, ‘You won’t like me when I’m angry’. Like something out of a Scream movie, I looked down in slow motion to see that my once pretty little innocent white pedal pushers were now aggressive red. If there were a bull in that house, it wouldn’t have hesitated to knock me off my feet. I screamed bloody murder, pun intended. 

My mum came bursting through the toilet door, followed by my aunt. “Hen, you nearly gave me a heart attack!” my mum said, then turned to my aunt. “Aw, ma wee lassie is a woman noo.” They looked at each other, proud like I just graduated from university. Were they off their heads? This bloody bathroom looked like the prom scene from the movie Carrie. I borrowed a clean set of clothes, and my aunt gave me one of her sanitary pads from her ‘big girl now’ drawer. I headed back to my cousin’s room. We sat in silence. I must admit that at that moment I hated him.

Why can’t we talk about our period?’ 

For as long as we can remember, the very topic of a period has been taboo. From a young age, we have been taught to feel ashamed and embarrassed by a natural, biological function that happens within our bodies. In the same breath, history shows us that our male peers are encouraged to express how uncomfortable the topic makes them feel or how they are given this ‘pass’ to say things like, “Are the painters in?” while they laugh amongst themselves at our expense. Now, I am well aware that this doesn’t apply to everyone. However, it does happen. A lot. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me, ‘Time of the month?’ because I was too ’emotional’ or ‘opinionated’, I would have saved a fortune in sanitary products over the last 17 years. The truth is we can talk about our periods. Most importantly, we should talk about our periods and by we, I refer to everyone. 

‘Non-essential #sorrynotsorry’

Now, I could be here for hours writing about 2020, but one thing is for sure, there is no denying that the issues from last year stretched further than contracting the virus itself. The impact of Covid has reached areas of our lives that should not be a problem in this day and age. Here in 2021, we are still feeling the brunt of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the world as we knew it changed dramatically last year. It takes a lot to shock me, but when my friend tagged me in an article last October that stated, 

‘Fury as shopper told she can’t buy sanitary pads at Tesco in Wales because they are NOT ESSENTIAL’ 

I sat with my mouth open in complete disbelief for about a day. All I could think was, ‘Here, 2020, the 1920’s just called, they want their mentality back.’ Not to worry though, on the list of essential items you had alcohol, cigarettes and crisps. You know? the things this country needs more of during a world pandemic. It seems that whoever came up with the idea that sanitary products are non-essential has never had a period, and this is just one example as to why we must talk freely as a country, as a world, about periods. Are you getting used to that word now? Good. 

‘Wait, period poverty is a real thing and it’s happening in the UK? Surely no way?’ 

What is period poverty? Well, period poverty is when those who come from a low-income household or say they are homeless cannot gain access to the right kinds of sanitary products, or any for that matter. 

Food for thought; If the average period lasts for 5 days, it is estimated that the price of sanitary products will be £8 a month. The average teen will start her period at the age of 13 and the average adult will stop menstruating at the age of 50. That’s 37 years’ worth of sanitary products being bought by one person, bringing the total to £3,552 – close to a deposit for a mortgage pre-Covid, and not to forget that this is based on an average estimate, because no one period is the same.

So, talking about periods really can make a difference?

Did you know that 10 out of 100 women who have periods experience pain so severe that they cannot carry out daily activities and/or are hospitalised due to the severity of this pain? They are then lead to believe that the pain and symptoms that they are experiencing are ‘normal’. Why are we lead to believe that this is normal? Because we don’t talk enough about our periods, and thankfully that is starting to change. 

Labour MSP Monica Lennon launched her member’s bill for free sanitary products, saying “Scotland has a chance to be a world leader by passing my member’s bill and creating a universal system of free access to period products,”. One of the more positive, and, might I add, amazing achievements of 2020 was closing the year with the passing of this bill. Without stating the obvious, this bill is not only important but life-changing. The campaigning that went on surrounding this bill changed the way we talk about our periods. It gave us space to talk openly and comfortably about what a period is and what it means to us as individuals.

“This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates. There has already been great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity.”

Monica Lennon MSP
TAGS: blog women writers