Periods. Not the punctuation mark; the menstruation. For those who are unaware, menstruation cycle begins when the female body starts preparing for pregnancy. Menstruation or period is a natural monthly discharge of the blood and lining of the uterus as a result of an unfertilized egg.
The period is regarded as one of many turning points in a women’s life. It is when a girl “officially” becomes a woman. It can start at an age as young as 9 and goes on until menopause, which is usually in the 50s.
It is important to mention that there are so many misconception about women’s periods that mainly result in the lack of knowledge and sexual education. It is no surprise that a somewhat conservative society like the one in Egypt tries to conceal anything that may lead to promiscuous behavior.
What is even more troubling is that women, whose bodies literally prepare themselves for a child every month, often do not have access to sex-ed. Why is this relevant? Because I am sure that as a woman, you and your friends have shares “my first period” stories and those usually end in tears, confusion and shock. Sure, as an adult it is a funny story to tell once you realize the ignorance, but why were you ignorant to begin with?
“My mom is very shy when it comes to talking about intimate things so she has never discussed my period beforehand nor has she talked to me about other stuff like shaving and all,” one girl says.
Many parents try to avoid “the talk” with their children, specifically daughters, for as much as possible because they believe it is “inappropriate”. Beyond the “congratulations, you are now a woman! Here is how you use a pad,”there is nothing further to discuss. Many girls do not know what periods are until years after they get it. Some mothers shame their daughters if they ask questions about their body, others try to guide them through the mess that is puberty.
One girl recalls,”when I first got my period, I felt something moist. I didn’t understand what that was. I thought I must’ve peed on myself and I didn’t notice. I pulled down my pants and sat on the toilet and saw red dots on my underwear. I started calling for my mum; I thought I was dying!”
This is, unfortunately, the reaction of most girls who get their periods. Another girl shares how she went to take a shower and thought her period was “shart” and other says that she thought she was “injured and started crying.”
This lack of education on the matter automatically leads to instilled shame. If no body is talking about it, then it must be wrong. Some mothers advice their daughters to hide their pads and/or tampons from their male siblings. Some girls feel too ashamed to ask their fathers for pads from the super market. Others feel too embarrassed in a public space with a pad on their hand. “I would never walk around with a pad on my hand, because I will get really weird and uncomfortable looks from people,” a girl emphasizes.
On the other hands, there are women who are extremely comfortable talking about their periods publicly. Creating an open conversation about periods with other women and men normalizes the topic. A woman says, “I talk about my period especially if it makes some men feel uncomfortable out of spite; it’s a natural thing! Why should I hide it just because it makes them uncomfortable?” She continued, “I walk around with a pad in my hand and do get weird looks from both women and men, but I couldn’t care less.”
Rather than remaining in the dark, men should take these conversations as an educational opportunity. It is shocking how little men know about the female reproductive system beyond the vagina.
If they were lucky enough to receive sex-ed, boys are only thought about the male reproductive system. I saw a tweet the other day that said ” a man thought that periods lasted a month.” Another girl mentioned how she met a guy who thought women can turn their periods on and off “like a tap.”
Puberty is a difficult time for every child. It is indeed a turning point in their life. We are often confused and excited with the changes our bodies experience. It is important to understand, especially for women, how to handle their first period and be surrounded by a community that makes room for shameless questions. I know for a fact that my puberty years were much smoother because I was well prepared for it. And while sometimes I get upset at “girl talk” outing