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Why are we so afraid of the word ‘period’?

We need to start talking about periods more often. Period.

5 min read | October 19, 2021
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Bleeding is normal. Menstruation happens. Period.

Typically, a period is a regular occurrence that happens about once a month. It comes and it goes (or sometimes it stays a bit too long). But it’s a huge part of our lives. So why is it still so difficult to talk about? 

A note from Hummingway: we refer to this moment in your cycle as your ‘period’, but in some of our more deep-dive pieces on The Regular, you might see it referred to as menstruation. This isn’t us trying to shake off the term ‘period’; but more us getting technical and using the scientific name describing the process. ‘Period’ is in fact one of many stage names that have been introduced to talk about menstruating. 

So, why the extensive vocabulary to talk about something that so many of us experience, so often?

World, meet avoidant euphemisms.

Growing up, people with periods are often told about menstruation through a series of convoluted — and often confusing — euphemisms. ‘Aunt Flo is coming to town’; it’s ‘that time of the month’. Or in the words of Cher in Clueless: “I’m riding the crimson wave”. It’s helpful to ease kids into understanding what is a pretty complex process. But by removing the more obvious words like bleeding, shedding and ovulation, it coats a glossy sheen over the subject without truly tackling what’s going on in our bodies. 

According to a 2016 survey carried out by period-tracking app Clue, there are over 5,000 terms for the word period, from ‘shark week’ to ‘the thing that comes’; ‘having the painters in’ to ‘Granny’s stuck in traffic’ (anyone else confused by that one?). 

Yes, they’re funny. Sometimes even cute. But if we’re being really honest — aren’t they just a shrouded form of censorship? Hopefully we are now operating in a time where we can be guided to be comfortable with our biological processes. They’re messy, complicated and sometimes painful — much like relationships — but they’re also amazing too. They’re a vital sign that our body is doing its thing. By forming a relationship with our whole cycle (not just our periods) we can learn so much about our bodies. 

Is it politeness? Or is it misdirected shaming? 

We’ve likely all been in a situation where you’re in a room, the subject of periods comes up, and it feels slightly awkward. Or perhaps it’s been a relationship where your partner point-blank refuses to listen to you talk about the mechanics of what’s going on during your cycle (guilty) and you feel a little silenced. And the cycle continues — pun intended. 

Lack of knowledge on the subject.

This is a big problem. There was definitely a time where we didn’t know our follicular from our luteal and it’s not like whole cycle education was ever prioritised in Sex Ed. We’re taught not to speak out about our periods - or to learn about menstrual products; instead, we're taught that our reproductive system is taboo and that sex equals pregnancy unless you wear a condom. 

It’s not just people with periods who need to know about them, but everyone else too. From the actual process, to how it affects people mentally and physically. All of this either makes people who don’t have periods feel awkward talking about them – because of not knowing what they are, how they affect us or how periods make us feel; or it leads them to teasing, mocking and using our cycle as a weapon against us. Which is why we need to be talking about periods more openly, educating ourselves and people around us. We want to see a world where everyone is free to understand and speak out about our cycles. 

Language matters. 

The more we shift our vocabulary towards the honest, authentic, raw and honest truth of what our bodies go through each cycle, the more we can help normalize it for people with periods around the world. Talk to your friends about periods – especially the ones who don’t have them. Encourage and answer their questions - help set in motion a cultural shift in dialogue. Let your partner in on how it feels for you. Allow yourself to own your period, and all the things that come with it. 

Bleeding is normal. Menstruation happens. Period. 

About Author

Your hormones can be complex and unpredictable. That’s why we’re here, on The Regular, to do what’s long overdue - to demystify what’s going on with our reproductive systems, our hormones and our whole cycle.

We’re here to support your day-to-day queries serving useful content that is uncomplicated and unbiased. No topic is too complicated or too specific for us to address/focus on.

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We recognize that every body is complex and everyone's symptoms are different. That's why we’re actively working hard alongside our medical advisors to provide regular resources to support you.

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