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Are “period badges” really the way to tackle menstruation stigma?

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Jessica Rapana
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A company is asking female employees to wear a “special badge” if they are on their period – but will this make the stigma worse?

For most women, dealing with their periods at work still feels akin to a covert operation. The low-key trips to the bathroom. The hidden tampons. The cramps suffered in silence.

It’s no wonder. With a third of male office workers thinking discussing periods is unprofessional, the writing is, more or less, on the wall: it might be 2019, but period stigma is alive and well. 

Now, in a bid to tackle this, female employees at a new shop in Osaka, Japan are being asked to wear a special badge to signify that they are on their period.

While women working at the Michi Kake store, which sells an array of female sexual and menstrual health products, do not have to take part in the initiative, those who do wish to are given “period badges” to wear next to their name tags.

The paper badge features a manga cartoon character in the shape of a heart, aka “Little Miss Period”, which symbolises a woman’s menstrual cycle, according to WWD Japan.

“In Japan, there is a tendency for women’s sexuality and periods to be subjects ‘not to be mentioned’,” store manager Takahiro Imazu told the publication.

She continued, “Not all customers will react positively to [this shop]. But the fem tech boom is growing, and the values of young people are changing with it.

“I might be going a little far in saying this, but I am excited for it to become a shop for solutions for women’s sensitive needs, and to be an asset to the marketplace.”

The store itself is divided into four categories to provide products that correspond to different stages of the menstrual cycle as identified by period prediction app Luna Luna, which co-launched the store.

There is the blue period section, where products will be stocked for women who are currently on their period, the glittering period (after your period), the turbulence period (PMS) and the gloomy period (right before your period).

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A third of male office workers think discussing periods is unprofessional

While the initiative might be well-intentioned, it begs the question: is this really the best way to tackle period stigma?

On the one hand, any attempt to encourage conversation and reduce shame around periods is a good thing, especially if it makes women feel more comfortable at work. However, on the other hand, by singling out these women like this, are we not just perpetuating the problem? 

Hopefully, one day, we can get to the point where periods are so accepted as the norm – considering they are a natural bodily function, after all – that they don’t need a special badge. Maybe then, women won’t feel like they need to hide tampons or make low-key trips to the bathroom. 

Image: Luis Cortes Martinez/Unsplash

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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