Period Power: Education and Periods In The U.S.
If you’ve been keeping up with our #PeriodPower blog series, you might have noticed that we’ve been shedding some light on why periods are powerful in society, not just in developing countries but right on our front door step too.
From girls missing out on school to period shaming through the media, we’ve still got a long way to go for menstruation equality! That’s why we’re all about the #PeriodPower this year.
So far we’ve talked about how people are affected by attitudes towards periods in different walks of life including prisons, the workplace, homelessness, and what you can do to support the #PeriodPower movement. In this blog post we’ll be discussing how menstrual education affects our relationship with periods, what we were taught in school about menstruation, and what it’s like to get your period at school in the U.S.!
MENSTRUAL EDUCATION AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR BODIES
When did you get your first period? Teens with a uterus usually start their first period around the ages of 10-15. Although some young menstruators will be educated on what to expect before and during their period, there are many young teens in the U.S. who won’t. According to Guttmacher Institute, many teens in the U.S. are not receiving the proper sex education they need, and fewer teens are being exposed to important information regarding sexual health. SAY WHAT? But it doesn’t stop there, “one in five young women and one in three young men did not receive instruction about birth control from other formal sources or their parents.” Is it safe to assume they’re probably not informing them about the menstrual cycle, too? No wonder menstruation is so taboo, people are afraid to talk about the body! Not having proper education about the menstrual cycle affects our relationship with our bodies, others, and periods in general. How? We start to associate periods with being dirty, smelly, embarrassing, and some suffer from menstrual pain in silence because they don’t know who to talk to or what to do about it. If more schools and parents had open, clear conversations about how the reproductive system works, society wouldn’t be sexualizing vaginas, don’t you think?
WHAT SCHOOLS IN THE U.S. TEACH US ABOUT MENSTRUATION
After asking everyone we knew about what they remember learning in health class about menstruation, as well as reading every article on the internet, the truth is that menstrual education in health classes are substandard. In an article from Popular Science about how men learn about menstruation, they described their experience in health class as a let down, often avoiding the subject or covering as little information on it as possible.
Now THAT’S scary. It’s no surprise that the other half of the population doesn’t have a clue about how periods work. Can you imagine actually getting your period and being in a health class that barely educates you on the subject? Not knowing how your body works is unthinkable, but true for so many of us.
If you’re a parent, it’s best to start the conversation about the menstrual cycle early and not wait until the day of your child's first period. Preparing your child for their period (and every other experience in their lives), is a sign of good parenting and can build strong, healthy relationships. Whether they menstruate or not, everyone knows someone who does and it’s important to have open conversations about bodily functions for them to develop a healthy mind.
THE REALITIES OF GETTING YOUR PERIOD AT SCHOOL
Many young menstruators will experience their period at school, and it might come as a surprise sometimes. There have been times where people get it on the first day of school, or ask to use the bathroom but their teacher denies their request (rude!). It all comes back to education. If more people knew that having a period can be tricky and at times uncomfortable (especially if you’re not in the comfort of your own home), then maybe schools would have more resources! Free, high quality menstrual products available in restrooms would alleviate any sort of embarrassment a student might have (like having to ask your teacher, friend, or go to the school nurse). Having a comfortable period experience at school is important for many possible reasons: not skipping school, having access to period products they might not be able to get outside on their own (whether it be a financial problem or a home problem), and staying safe and clean throughout that week.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you’re a parent, a teen, or just someone who wants to educate others on all things periods (first of all, we love you for that), make sure you are making your voice heard! Speak to your school counselor or principal about having easy access to menstrual products and developing a better curriculum for health and sex education classes. Ask your parents or friends about their first period experience, how they coped at school, and take those lessons and come up with ways to make someone else’s period more enjoyable.
There are some great people and organizations already pushing for better menstrual education in the U.S.
Follow the Menstrual Hygiene Day movement and The Cup Foundation who are dropping the truth bombs when it comes to periods!
If you’re looking for more body and menstrual information we have a ton of resources and articles on the Lunette website. Including Anatomy 101, all the info you need to know about periods and even a specific section for teens who want to use menstrual cups.
We’re also working on putting together period education packs which we’re hoping to have out in the U.S. later this year, so watch this space!
The list goes on and on – tell us what changes you would like to see about education about menstruation in the comments! Keep the conversation going and raise awareness by sharing this post and use the hashtag #PeriodPower. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more period power talk!