Why can’t we talk about our periods?

photo of Emma Toms

Contributed by Emma Toms

This is the title of one of my most favourite Ted Talks of all time by Dr Jen Gunter, a gynaecologist, an author and inspirational speaker of truth.

When I first watched this Ted Talk, apart from realising that even at the age of 40 there’s always more to learn about periods, there was one line that really struck me;

“It shouldn’t be an act of feminism to know how your own body works”

Those that know me well know I can talk about anything, at any time and probably for much longer than I should – so the thought that anyone wouldn’t think it was okay to talk about their own body was an alien concept to me.

But it got me thinking, I started to pay a lot more attention and I noticed certain language and behaviours when words like period, or vagina were used in conversation.

There may be the slightly uncomfortable facial expression….

Or lack of eye contact….

Or even the sharp intake of breath….

And possibly responses like “it might be a bit too squeamish for some people”.

Don’t get me wrong, those responses normally come from a good place, usually to protect other people from the potential of making them feel uncomfortable. But in doing so we unintentionally normalise the fact that it’s okay not to use these words or talk about these subjects.

Why is it as adults we struggle with this? They aren’t slang, it’s not medical misinformation but yet when those words are supposed to be used we find ourselves referring to them instead as “women's things”.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day who is a primary school teacher, we were talking about this subject and she shared a story about a lesson she gave recently where she talked to her class about the correct terms for parts of the body, which included explaining the difference between the vagina and the vulva – so of course I found myself asking her how it went, expecting her to tell me it went horribly wrong.

The truth couldn’t be more different, although there were a few giggles they took the conversation seriously and straight away she noticed that they were consciously thinking about using the right words when talking about their bodies.

And if a group of children can achieve that, why can’t we?

That’s where I want the Women’s Network to do their part and drive a key goal to help the organisation talk about all aspects of womens health openly, not shying away from the uncomfortable conversations, support those that do find it uncomfortable and get to a place where womens health is so normalised that those types of responses are a distant memory.

These are some great places to find general information on women's health;

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