Let's talk period
Puberty is a very confusing time - from the hair that suddenly starts to grow in strange places to the strange feelings that seems to bombard the body. Adolescents have to go through a series of events that affects all facets of their lives as part of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. For girls, puberty comes with a very interesting companion - the period. While each girl's experience varies, it's fair to say that periods are possibly the most significant physical change that girls experiences.
Unfortunately, the way we are socialised to see periods still fosters a culture of shame that makes anything to do with menstruation taboo. When I started menstruating, I was taught the importance of keeping my period a secret. I was supposed to be so good at it that no one in my house would ever be able to tell when I was having my period. I was to make special effort to keep my period away from males, especially my father, because it was considered disrespectful to expose any of it to him. Even as an adult, I've spoken to men who consider it an insult for his female partner to even ask him to purchase menstrual products.
PERIODS SEEN AS NUISANCE
An employee can openly complain about asthma, a migraine, diarrhoea, acid reflux, or erectile dysfunction and get responses of empathy and understanding. But if a colleague ever mentions the word 'period', comments about "too much information" or inappropriateness are made. Further, period issues are seen as a nuisance or excuse rather than the actual medical issue that they are. Women who have difficult periods are already in pain and could do with the judgement, the dismissal, and the feeling as if her pain is invalid.
Of course, much of the fuss about periods and the shame associated with it can be sourced back to the way it is spoken about in the Bible. And since Jamaica is a Christian country, most of us are exposed to the famous Leviticus 15:19 verse: "Whenever a woman has her menstrual period, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. Anyone who touches her during that time will be unclean until evening."
I believe that this backward view of periods has been responsible for much of the pain that women live through on a daily basis. It's time for us to take this issue from out of its hidden place and bring it into the light. We are so uncomfortable talking about periods that we cannot even use the word. Instead, use cute euphemisms like 'Aunty from Red Hills', 'Ms P', and 'Aunt Flo', among others.
Our inability to speak openly about periods has affected our access to treatment for female reproductive health issues like uterine fibroids, endometriosis and PCOS. We have accepted many unhealthy period symptoms as the norm, and so, we have never made the connection that there might be a problem.