Tuesday May 28 was Menstrual Hygiene Day. I popped in a cannabis tampon to celebrate. And yes, they’re a thing. Apparently it’s to relieve cramps, but I just buy them to get my vagina stoned. (It’s awesome but you do have to watch the snacking.)
Clearly there’s a lot of stigma around our lady stigmata. In Afghanistan women avoid washing their vaginas as they are told it can lead to infertility. What a shame this doesn’t work because it would be great contraception. And to top it off, in Afghanistan a menstrual pad costs $4. That’s more expensive than smoking! You literally would have to AfterPay your pads.
In Bolivia girls believe menstrual blood is toxic, and to mop up in case they perform a uterine version of the Exxon Valdez spill, they cram pads in their bags. They carry used pads in their bags because they’re told that menstrual blood can cause cancer if it mixes with other trash.
If it’s that powerful I’m surprised the Americans weren’t using it for chemical warfare. Imagine bringing down Bin Laden with period blood!
In India you aren’t allowed to prepare food when you have your period. I know it’s sexist but sometimes I think that would be okay. Sorry, kids, no dinner tonight. Mummy has her period. Yes I know it’s been three months; just bring me another wine and let me get back to my Netflix.
In places like Iran you’re not allowed to use tampons in case you lose your virginity. That’s some mighty big tampon. Oh well, as long as it’s gentle and loving, and remembers to call.
In Japan, there is this tradition that women can’t become sushi chefs because their taste is thrown off by menstruation. If you’ve got your period, go eat some sushi now and tell me what it tastes like. It tastes like fish doesn’t it? That’s your crazy lady taste bloods.
In Kenya, menstrual pads are seen as luxury items and only blokes are allowed luxury over there. There’s probably some big Kenyan dudes getting around with some lovely luxurious sanitary pads. The girls have to use sticks and leaves to absorb the blood. Yep, sticks and leaves. Ouch. I don’t know when you last put a twig in your twat but it’s got like zero absorbency. It is however, biodegradable.
In Malawi in southeastern Africa the taboo is so intense parents can’t talk to their daughters about menstruation. Girls there clearly think they’re dying or their vagina is broken.
In Nepal there was a tradition of ‘chaupadi’, which involves sending menstruating women to live in sheds away from others. ‘Go bleed in the shed’ is what women do 4–5 days a month. I guess it would mean you could take some downtime, but sheds aren’t hotels. They’re not relaxing. Generally they have animals in there. They have no access to food or clean water. This has made some women sick and led to death for others.
In Somalia if you are an observant Muslim, if you have your period you’re unclean, so until your period is over you can’t wash your hair or shower, all the things you are supposed to do when you pray. So basically if you bleed you’re not allowed on the prayer mat.
So that’s why we have World Menstrual Hygiene day. The theme this year is ‘Let’s end the hesitation around menstruation’, so it’s definitely a day to mark with a free bleed in recognition of all those girls around the world who leave school because of inadequate sanitation or menstrual management.
Girls in developing countries literally stop thriving and succeeding when they get their period. That’s why businesses like Tsuno are so amazing – a social-enterprise sanitary-product company created by a 33-year-old woman who wanted to change the world. The pads are made from bamboo fibre, tampons are made from organic cotton, and 50 per cent of profits go to charities that empower women with education and menstrual support.
So to mark World Menstrual Hygiene Day reflect on how privileged we have been, even with the stigma most Western women have experienced. It’s a good time to reflect: Is our moon cup half-full? Or half-empty?