Written by Amy Beecham
Euphemisms may seem to make it easier to talk about periods, but it encourages us to hide how we’re really feeling during menstruation.
Be honest: how openly do you talk about your periods? If you’re feeling under the weather, do you blame it on a headache or tell a concerned colleague that you’ve got cramps? If you’re talking to a partner about your cycle, do you use a nickname to tell them you’ve “got the painters in” or “Aunt Flo is in town”?
According to research by cycle tracking app Clue, there are over 5,000 euphemisms used around the world for being on your period.
From ‘time of the month’ and ‘shark week’ to ‘surfing the crimson wave’, these euphemisms may seem like harmless ways to take the awkwardness out of talking about menstruation, but according to intimate wellbeing brand Intimina, period euphemisms can often be offensive, problematic and contribute to the ongoing stigma around periods.
It starts early.Intimina’s research found that almost two in five girls use nicknames to describe menstruating when talking to friends or family, with almost two-thirds (65%) admitting to feeling shame and trying to hide that they’re menstruating at school. Even when at home, a quarterof girls claim that they feel shame and try to hide the fact that they’re on their period.
So why have we become so used to using these outdated codes when discussing the body’s natural processes when we talk far more openly about the likes of indigestion, diarrhoea and bloating?
“Generally, a euphemism is used because there is a ‘fear’ of using the correct term,” explains Dr Susanna Unsworth, gynaecologist for Intimina. “This fear can arise for a number of reasons: embarrassment, shame or the perception of offending others.”
Unsworth says that because the terms used often involve an element of humour, it can create real challenges for those struggling to cope with the effects of menstruation. If our symptoms and experiences are made out to be a joke, it’s likely that we’ll feel as if our issues aren’t serious and perhaps avoid seeking help.
“Continued use of such euphemisms results in new generations feeling unable to talk openly about their periods,” continues Unsworth.
“It is extremely worrying to hear that nearly two-thirds of girls feel shame or try to hide their menstruation at school. I hear stories of young girls not being able to leave the classroom to use the bathroom when they have their period, sometimes resulting in them flooding through their clothes. This should not be happening. More open dialogue, using the terms period and menstruation, is a way to remove this element of shame.”
It’s clear, then, that it’s time to take back the power of talking about periods. ‘Shark week’ and ‘mother nature’ no more.
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