We recently spoke with George, our intern for the week, to find out what questions teenage boys have about periods. This process opened our eyes to the inconsistency of education across genders when it comes to women’s bodies and especially periods. 72% of boys have never been taught anything about the menstrual cycle. Typically, the details of the topic are often kept for when the boys have been scurried out the room and let outside early to play.
This evasive attitude towards period education is damaging for our society and the way in which girls and boys, and eventually women and men, interact. We think it’s high time that children are given the same level of education in all areas, including the menstrual cycle.
Understanding the science
One of the most obvious reasons period education is important for everyone regardless of gender is to gain a scientific understanding of how bodies work. Getting to grips with what the menstrual cycle is and knowing the implications of it. Understanding fertility, pregnancy and periods, will normalise what these are and what they mean. Teaching boys how periods and the menstrual cycle works helps them better understand the importance and practicalities of safe sex and contraception, which could help prevent unwanted pregnancies when they are older.
It will also better equip them for understanding problems and issues that can be experienced. For example, what period products are available, or how to reduce cramps. This will be handy when they will encounter periods directly and indirectly throughout their lives. Whether it be with family members, partners, colleagues or complete strangers – many of us menstruate! We don’t know about you, but boys knowing what they can do to help ease our pain or which products we might need them to pick up from the store goes a long way in our books.
Ok, close your eyes for a second and imagine a world where periods weren’t a taboo. Did you see it? Was it bliss? For as long as we can remember, periods have been a punchline for the boys in school, and if you’re really unlucky, men in our adult lives also view periods with disgust. Over 90% of girls worry about going to school during their time of the month. Contributing to this is boys who lack understanding of periods and resort to humour, poking fun at girls with period-related jokes and sniggers. These jokes might seem harmless, but they perpetuate shame in young girls. This can lead to girls missing school and sacrificing their education, potentially stunting their career opportunities and self-image.
Tearing down the stigma around periods starts with education. Teaching both boys and girls about the way periods work and opening the topic up for constructive discussion is essential for clearing any of the common misconceptions, like that they are gross or that girls are in control of their bleeding.
Period products are huge contributors to the tons of plastic waste created daily – one pack of conventional period pads contains the equivalent amount of plastic as 5 plastic bags! Educating boys about periods and the different types of period products available won’t just help to improve communication and beat the stigma, it could also help to save the planet. Discussing reusable or plastic free period product options in the classroom is something that is currently missing for girls as well as boys. As plastic waste becomes more of a pressing issue for our planet and its ecosystems, it should be made a priority to help girls understand what they’re putting in their bodies and landfill, and to help boys support girls in their fight for access to periods without plastic.
In some areas of the world, the point is being proved that involving boys in period education helps to remove stigma, better educate all genders, and build on the sense of solidarity. Not only are boys in Kenya already being taught about periods in full, they are also being trained to educate others on the topic, smashing the stigma at its core! Dandelion Africa is a non-profit providing support and education for girls and women through the engagement of over 3,000 boys and men on a variety of topics, including periods.
Do you think boys should learn more about periods? Let us know in the comments!