I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a bubble. I didn’t learn about periods until some woke kids at 4th grade summer camp broke the news and tore my innocent world apart. Later, I found out that my mom forced my older sister to hide her period products from me so I wouldn’t ask questions. When my mom picked me up from summer camp, I let her know that I knew all about periods, and she passed me the American Girl Body Book baton and I OBSESSED over it. I read that thing more than my Nanna reads the Bible. Knowledge = power.
It wasn’t until my 20s when my best friend started oversharing her weird vagina woes, that I started opening up my own dialogue with other friends. That’s when I first learned that many of my international lady friends had never once used a tampon. What??
I had to learn more.
So I did.
I recently surveyed over 2,000 women from all around the world about their period experiences. And now I’d like to impart some of this knowledge onto you, so you can have a mind-blowing or bubble-breaking experience, too.
Fact #1: Fewer American women learn about their periods from their mothers than in every other country. This may be because we as Americans are conservative and rely on our education system to inaccurately educate our children on topics we’re too embarrassed to talk to them about ourselves (hi, mom!)
Oh also, we’re the only country that uses tampons more than pads. So there’s that...
As someone who had to:
1) personally bury her used tampons on a camping trip to avoid getting attacked by a bear and
2) wasn’t allowed to attend lakeside swimming lessons during her period for fear of attracting leeches, I relate to this next fact in a big way.
In India, 34% of women are afraid of being attacked by a lion or bear during their period. This certainly puts my fear of leaking through my white jeans in perspective.
While we are on the subject of women in India, Indian women are also most likely to miss work when they’re on their period.
Through this study I also found that 73% of women globally hide their period from others which makes me wonder if that has something to do with it.
Not going to lie, when I was a young, innocent newly-menstruating girl of 12, I remember asking my mom “If a tampon goes in the same place as a penis, does it feel good to put it in?” This opened up a very uncomfortable conversation (for both parties) about the birds, the bees and the wonders of the female anatomy. In retrospect, I was super lucky to get schooled on this subject at a young age, but not everyone is.
Case in point, 60% of Chinese women are concerned that using tampons affect their virginity.
While all of these statistics were surprising to me perhaps the most surprising of all is that 68% of women globally are afraid to talk about their periods with men.
Even now in 2017, there is still so much stigma surrounding menstruation that we’re literally terrified to talk about it with each other which only further prevents accurate education in school, new products from being invented, and real change from happening.
So I challenge you. Start talking. Talk to men about how periods work. Talk to your mom about what you wish she told you. Tell your dad that it doesn’t have to be embarrassing. High five your coworker on syncing. In doing so my hypothesis is that all women will have greater confidence, and men will in turn have compassion and rally behind us to help drive change .
Share your period story with the hashtag #myperiodstory or shout it loud in the comments below.