Why is it so important to accept and talk about periods?

Last updated: March 14, 2023, at 12:49 p.m. PT

Originally published: March 14, 2023, at 12:49 p.m. PT

"End the stigma." Atop a graphic pattern of drops and next to an illustration of a period pad with a heart on it.

By: Chelsey Wheeler and Kelly Martin 

Representatives of YMCA of Greater Seattle's Women-Femme Employee Resource Network 

Often, when we think about the lack of access to menstruation education or products, we automatically think about issues happening across the world. But these issues are right here at home. Insufficient access to the resources needed to have a safe and healthy period means misinformation about periods and people who menstruate. We can change that. How? By increasing access to products and challenging those misconceptions by sharing knowledge! 

Why should we all focus on menstrual equity? 

Menstruation is a stigmatized and often taboo topic, even though half of our population will likely go through it. Embarrassment and shame create barriers to discussing menstruation, which is emphasized by the inequitable access to education. Additionally, many cannot afford the often-high cost of menstrual products. This is known as period poverty.  

Despite periods being a biological reproductive function, it's often something talked about in hushed tones with cutesy nicknames – who doesn't have an aunt named Flo? Here's the problem. Not everyone has access to sex education. And despite what people might say, it's not all about sex. Crucial information on properly using hygienic products is also discussed – like the number of times you need to switch a tampon before potentially contributing to toxic shock syndrome. The facts are essential and life-saving. 

In one study, 64% of participants could not afford needed menstrual supplies at some point during the previous year, 21% experienced this monthly, and nearly half could not afford both food and menstrual products during the past year. Period products are a basic necessity of living, and inadequate access has been associated with infections, poor health outcomes, as well as higher rates of school absenteeism among adolescents. Access to menstrual products is a human right! Harvard Medical School Publishing; University of Michigan School of Public Health 

Why "menstruators," "people who menstruate," and "menstrual products" rather than "women," "females," and "feminine hygiene products?" 

Because this language is more accurate, inclusive, and essential! Not all menstruators are women, and not all women menstruate. When we broaden our vocabulary to define menstruation, we include transgender, non-binary, gender-fluid, gender-expansive, and other LGBTQIAA+ individuals. Inclusive language reduces the stigma around menstruation and promotes gender equity. University of Michigan School of Public Health 

What is the Y's Women-Femme Employee Network doing for Women's History Month? 

  • Running a menstrual product drive March 8-31 in all YMCA of Greater Seattle branches – bring in donations or check out your branch's wish list to purchase supplies for local communities in need. 

  • Increasing menstrual product access across all YMCA of Greater Seattle branches. Look for dispensers and menstrual supplies at your local branch in March and beyond!