Period Shaming, Censorship & Tax – The Ongoing Taboo

I’m out with a friend, we’re waiting for our food to arrive at a fairly busy and noisy restaurant. “My stomach hurts, I think I’m getting my period”, I say. She shushes me whilst glancing around, looking shocked and embarrassed as a male waiter walks past. My response to this silencing was and always will be this:

Don’t shh me! Periods are a completely natural part of life and we shouldn’t have to hide them.

In high school, when I was much less self aware, my best friend and I would whisper when talking about our menstrual cycles so that the boys in our class wouldn’t hear and respond with their usual outbursts of disgust. These boys who couldn’t bare to hear about female biology but saw no issue in doodling phallic symbols wherever they could; on tables, the backs of chairs, on your notebook…

Unfortunately it seems that in the present day there hasn’t been much change in attitudes towards period shaming. Earlier this year Rupi Kaur’s menstruation themed photography project was removed from Instagram twice for violating their ‘Community Guidelines’ before it was finally restored. And now Thinx faces similar censorship in New York as their adverts have been banned from public transport for the mere mention of the word PERIOD.





Thinx is a new brand of underwear with built in ‘period-proofing’ which could revolutionise the way we experience our menstrual cycles. Surely advertising this product openly, even globally would be a good idea for humanity? Yet their factual language and suggestive use of food is seemingly too outrageous for the patriarchal system behind Outfront Media. This company in charge of advertising on New York transport systems highlight the main problems of the ad campaign being the suggestive looking grapefruit (above) and the use of the word “period”.

If we were to take these ‘issues’ seriously, (which I don’t) it begs the question how can you advertise period-proof underwear without using the word period? And more importantly, WHY should you? Personally, I grew tired of sugar-coating my period for others a long time ago. All women know the hush hush struggle of using alternative names for their period such as your ‘time of the month’, ‘crimson wave’, and my old personal favourite (courtesy of my best friend) ‘P-Diddyz’. But the word period isn’t offensive, and shouldn’t be taboo. Half of the world’s population experiences menstruation and the other half knows it exists so why do we have to keep pretending that it doesn’t? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not a swear word, but if it was society would probably endorse it more than they do female sexual health.

When I first saw the adverts I was pleasantly surprised by it’s creativity and wit. We’re constantly bombarded with sexualised underwear campaigns so Thinx’s deviation from the ‘norm’ is a long awaited relief. But apparently the inside of a grapefruit is just too sexy for public consumption… In my opinion, the issue Outfront Media have isn’t with the content of the adverts but with the product and the topic itself. If you see the word PERIOD as a problem you need to ask yourself why.

Other related and disappointing news…

Here in London there has been mass support for an end to the tampon tax. (We currently pay 5% VAT on sanitary towels and tampons as it is categorised as a “luxury item” in the financial budget). But despite protests, petitions and a storm of support on social media, the proposed amendment to the tax was rejected by MPs last Monday (305 votes to 287). These products are a NECESSITY yet they still aren’t recognised as such whilst actual luxury items such as Jaffa cakes, crocodile meat and men’s razors (to name a few) escape the tax. Because male appearance is deemed more important than healthy female bodies.

rp: 29/10/2015


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