– BY MAGGIE DI SANZA –
Periods: not a simple concept to tackle, especially when revolving around education. If your ‘Health Class’ experience was anything like mine, you will vividly remember the subject of menstruation coming up. Boys being asked to leave the room, a blanket of hushed giggles covering your peers, and a lack of accurate and inclusive information be preached to an exclusively female population. To put it simply, a bad experience.
As a menstruating person, I have come to terms with my own period, femininity, and philosophy about menstruation. But many children who were never given a well-rounded view of comprehensive and scientifically relevant sex education, will mature into adults who preach and practise exclusive ideas about periods. Due to the societally stigmatized idea of menstruation itself, I can imagine how awkward it is to teach children about their monthly shedding. Nonetheless, we must sacrifice comfort for an accepting culture.
Girls move forward, knowing little about the biology of males, and vice versa
The main problem with our current sex education system is the separation of classes on the basis of gender. While the girls are cast into a single classroom to master all there is to know about menstruation, boys are stationed in another wading through the details of male puberty. As a result, girls move forward through their educational career knowing little about the biology and reproductive system of males, and vice versa. This has proven particularly relevant when it comes to a menstruating person’s monthly shedding.
Periods are a natural phenomenon that those with a female reproductive system have endured for thousands upon thousands of years – in fact, they’re the reason that any of us are even here! Despite the importance of menstruation, periods are recognized globally as shameful, disgusting, and impure. Women themselves express vexation and uneasiness when addressing their own periods. Obviously, silencing those who menstruate when ‘that time of the month’ rolls around is problematic.
If we coerce girls into believing that their cycles are something to be kept a secret, we only encourage boys to be immensely uncomfortable when the subject of periods come up. This taboo is only perpetuated by our sexual education systems, as we give girls a ‘how-to’ booklet on keeping menstruation a secret, and shield boys from the ‘bloody horrors’ that periods are perceived to be.
Menstrual education should include boys, non-binary and transgender people
So, what should menstrual education encompass? For one, it should be made for everyone – not just girls. Menstrual education should include boys, non-binary and transgender people. Why? Everyone will, at some point come across someone who is on their period. They will meet someone who has to push through cramps, headaches, and uterus lining shedding from their vagina – if not experience it themselves. As has been proven with racial insensitivity, sexism, homophobia, and ableism, simply because one cannot speak to an occurrence, does not negate the fact that it’s important to be sensitive to the occurrence as a whole.
Perhaps we would have a more compassionate and inclusive society if we did not limit our education to such outdated binaries. I know it may sound crazy – but it would be incredible if we could exist in a culture where peers made an effort to understand what others experience. If not just to keep from uttering the phrase, ‘Are you on your period?’ when a woman is particularly engaged, passionate, or refuses to back down from an argument.
For every classroom where girls and boys are separated in fear of uncomfortable questions and awkward giggles and glances, we raise a generation of youth who perpetuate the stigmas against menstruation. It is up to everyone to stop defending and perpetuating the ignorance of boys at the expense of menstruating people.
About the author
Maggie Di Sanza (USA) is creator of the social campaign Bleed Shamelessly. She is a current sophomore at James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin. She has lobbied for rights at the capitol, protested alongside her peers for equal rights, and presented the importance of equality at multiple educational institutions. She started Bleed Shamelessly with the hope of educating others about the menstrual inequities that exist in our culture.
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Photo above: Shutterstock. Portrait: Maggie Di Sanza.