Every woman remembers getting her first period. A big moment in every girl’s life, it’s usually accompanied by having ‘The Talk’ with your mum, as well as a shopping excursion for overpriced feminine hygiene products,
More importantly, however, that first speck of menstrual blood is entry to a very secretive club – one which demands that you quietly suffer through period cramps, hide your tampons and sanitary towels in your sleeve as you venture to the bathroom, and speak about your cycle in euphemisms (everyone has an Aunt Flo, and everyone hates when she comes to visit).
So, in a bid to combat the stigma, embarrassment, and silent shame that surrounds all things menstrual, Hidden Figures star Janelle Monáe has taken to Twitter to begin a seriously overdue conversation about one of the body’s most natural functions.
Monáe began the conversation by tweeting: “Menstrual period blood #WomensHistoryMonth”
Then, clearly anticipating the reaction her post would receive, she added: “It’s sad that there are prob[ably] folks more grossed out by and/or ashamed of menstrual period blood than they are the current administration.”
It's sad that there are prob folks more grossed out by and/or ashamed of menstrual period blood than they are the current administration.— Janelle Monáe, Cindi (@JanelleMonae) March 3, 2017
Almost immediately, a woman responded to inform Monáe that menstrual blood is “gross” – but the actor wasn’t having it.
“Elaborate further,” the Moonlight actor challenged the period shamer, retweeting their message. “Tell the world why you think menstrual period [blood] is gross again, Tiara?”
In doing this, Monáe sparked an entire thread of both men and women weighing in on both sides of the argument – with many suggesting that menstrual blood is “waste” and, just like poo or urine, is therefore “gross”.
Nailing the big problem with this outlook on menstruation, Monáe said: “[It is shaming to use] the word ‘gross’ (unpleasant, repulsive, disgusting’ to describe blood which, in this instance, is a by-product of the period (a natural and biological change that occurs in the female).”
She continued: “When a person uses language like ‘gross’, this causes the person on the receiving end to feel ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, etc., therefore leading to ‘period shaming’.”
"Gross" this causes the person on the receiving end to feel ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, etc. therefore leading to "period shaming".— Janelle Monáe, Cindi (@JanelleMonae) March 3, 2017
Or, to put it more simply, people are normal for menstruating – not gross.
While her words left many immature social media users feeling “grossed out”, plenty thanked Monáe for using her public platform to tackle the stigma surrounding periods.
I think the way many adults whisper about menstruation to girls, like it's something to be embarrassed about, needs to change.— Caroline R. Curran (@CarolineRCurran) March 3, 2017
It is not the first time that a woman in the public eye has tackled period stigma head-on.
Earlier this year, singer and actor Madison Beer was photographed by paparazzi with a red stain on her white bikini bottoms during a day at the beach – which led to many criticising her for being “disgusting”.
Some even went on to accuse Beer of purposefully choosing white so that the blood would leak through, in a “desperate” bid to “get attention”.
So, understandably, she commented back.
“This is so wild that this is a big deal to some people,” wrote Beer. “Girls get their periods. Girls sometimes bleed thru tampons because periods can be extremely unpredictable!! I am not a robot.
“I am female, I am human and I am proud.”
Read more: Olympic swimmer breaks menstrual taboo
Similarly, Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui in August last year when she announced that period fatigue had affected her performance in the 100m backstroke.
And, in 2015, dotcom millionaire Martha Lane Fox pointed out that Apple’s Health Kit (an app that consolidates “all of your health data”) was released with one glaring omission: the ability to track periods.
She attributed the considerable oversight to a distinct lack of women high up the company tree.
Images: Rex Pictures