How many of us have grown up with shame and disgust around our periods? We may discuss our periods in hushed tones, hide our period products on the way to change them in public bathrooms, or call in sick when we don’t want to risk P.E. while bleeding. For many of us, period stigma and period shame are just parts of growing up – instead of period dignity.
What is period stigma?
In short, period stigma is a broad term for those who face any kind of discrimination relating to menstruation. This can be internalised as well, impacting how one feels about themselves and experiences shame around their own period. As a brand that (proudly) supplies period products, we work to tackle period stigma as part of our brand mission. Not only because you are our customers, but also because we innately understand the frustration and anger behind working in a world that wants to discriminate against people with periods.
Period stigma also creates real-world harm. Children may have to skip school due to a lack of period products, or they may be forced to drop out entirely. Period products are often overlooked in charitable donations for global disasters or support for displaced refugees. Some may not feel comfortable being able to discuss their menstrual health with healthcare professionals, leading to unnecessary pain and potentially dangerous health risks. These are just a few examples of how period stigma is an impactful issue beyond simply discussing pads and tampons.
How period brands can contribute to stigma
Period brands present their products to consumers through their packaging, advertising, and advocacy (if they do any). These can all affect how we view periods. For example, advertising reflects cultural norms in our society based on consumerism.
When period products are advertised (if they are at all – it’s been banned before!), it’s historically been with either blue liquid to show off the absorption of products or showcasing one type of woman smiling and jumping for joy. This is particularly true in North America and Europe. But is that what having a period is all about? Is this the experience we usually have? Not hardly.
This sets a precedent of falsehood and helps manifest stigma around periods by showing false realities. Period products are an everyday, essential personal care item. They may not always be considered glamourous or sexy, but this doesn’t mean they should be portrayed like we bleed blue blood! In fact, there’s more need for factual presentation because they are an essential item. Half the world’s population experiences periods for almost half their lives. Women and people of all shapes, sizes, races, and genders menstruate. Periods are experienced by a range of people across the globe and period brands should serve to cater to all of them.
Period brands choosing to advertise their period products by using outdated, sanitized imagery can make us feel like our periods aren’t right and it further pushes period stigma in society.
So how should period brands fight stigma?
In reality, our period cycles are menstrual blood, cramps, fatigue, mood swings, bloating, and more. Periods are messy – not dirty. And we want to celebrate that all of this is okay. It’s okay to love your period, it’s okay to hate your period, and it’s okay to feel apathy towards your period.
The last decade has seen an incredible shift in the conversation around periods as more and more seek to break the shame and taboo long shrouding periods. This has been fantastic to see! Period brands are changing the way they are advertising too – and we hope we are doing our part to do the same.
Through advertising, brands can help dismantle taboos by reflecting on the realities of menstruation without masking, sanitising, and coding. Brands can achieve this in the following ways:
- Honest language, using words like period or menstruation and actual product names
- Dismantle shame by showing real blood or at least red – not blue – liquid
- Normalise periods for all by showing the range of people who menstruate in all situations
This is why at Natracare, we feel we have a responsibility to keep our customers (you!) informed, empowered, and comfortable with our organic and natural period products. This is one of the reasons behind our packaging rebrand, designed to reflect the themes of people, the planet, and our campaigning grassroots.
Beyond making our customers feel good about the period products they buy, why must brands fight period stigma? Because it is right. Because no one deserves to feel shame for being a human. Because everyone deserves to feel dignified in their period. Because we must be the change we want to see in the world (thank you Gandhi for that truth!).