Tuck the tampon behind your ear and head forth

Updated: Sep 25, 2019, 19:23 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan | Mumbai

A Brit journalist Emma Barnett, who outed her period on national TV, says it's about bloody time women talk about 'those days'.

Emma Barnett
Emma Barnett

"If men could menstruate, periods would be enviable," wrote Gloria Steinem, American feminist and activist in her 1986 article, If Men Could Menstruate. She, of course, goes on to demonstrate how the conversation around periods would change—if you haven't read it, please Google it now—and, "Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day."

Over three decades later, not much has changed. Women still don't talk, comfortably at least, about their periods. Certainly not all. And British broadcaster Emma Barnett is hoping to change that. Barnett, who is remembered as the first person in the UK to announce she was menstruating on live TV news, and has recently authored Period. (HarperCollins UK), says part of why her attitude towards menstruation is as healthy as it is, is because her mother celebrated her first period. "She actively toasted it with a celebratory hot chocolate. And congratulated me on becoming a woman. It made me feel safe, warm and proud. I wish all women felt like that—she definitely instilled a sense of period pride in me," says Barnett in an email interview.

The book, 287 pages long, runs various points of discussion—how capitalism deals with the period, how lack of sanitary napkins prevent access to education for girls even in the UK, the need for period trackers (and why Apple didn't have it in its first health tracker) and the need for medical science to address women's health and endometriosis. On the policies that need changing, she says, "Periods should be free. Period. If men had them, the laws mandating soap and toilet roll in all toilets would have stretched to period products. This is the next step."

"I would love for it [the book] to help women feel they have the permission to talk about their periods as and when they need to. Not all the time, but when they need and want. It's high time periods came out of the darkness of our pants so we can laugh and cry about them," she adds.
On how women still hide their pads or tampons while heading to the restroom, she says, "Yes the sleeve smuggle. We should stride to the toilet with our tampons or pads proudly under our arm or tucked behind our ears."

Do you love your period? It isn't something most of us even think about. Barnett has an answer though, "I loathe mine." The question was about periods being only seen as a marker of fertility and how the conversation may extend beyond that. "I think they are an integral part of women's lives from when we were children. We have to manage them and live with them every month for a long time. They are signifiers of health and also something we barely understand... I don't think we need to love our periods. We just need to learn to understand them better and live as well as we can with them."

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