When Donald Trump went on CNN to complain about why he felt Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly was "too hard" on him during the first Republican presidential debate, of course he blamed it on her period, making the classless statement that she must have “blood coming out of her wherever.” As if that is the only reason why someone would have issues with Trump. Trump's disrespectful lies aren’t a surprise to anyone, but he did unwittingly highlight the current menstrual cycle frenzy taking over pop and consumer culture.
Case in point: Lammily, a doll company, recently debuted their latest “normal” doll — a counterpoint to Barbie — who get’s her period. Because if dolls can cry and poop, why not bleed, too? Lammily creator Nickolay Lamm told TIME magazine that his latest doll was inspired by what Trump had said about Kelly, and that periods should not be considered scary. “I don’t want to make [the doll] a whole political project or anything, but I think when [Trump] said that it was just an example of the overall culture where menstruation is very taboo, and not only taboo, but some people use it as an insult,” Lamm said.
The images we have seen about periods in television and film are partially to blame for the misconceptions that exists in our culture about menstruation. Dr. Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia, has written several books about this very topic including Periods In Pop Culture: Menstruation in Film and Television (2012).
“I think popular culture - film, television, advertising — is one contributor to our cultural understandings,” Rosewarne says. “In my book, I contend that the largely negative picture of menstruation on screen contributes to cultural misunderstandings as well as shame, embarrassment and the perception that menstruation is, at best, a hygiene issue.”
One of the most frightening and iconic depictions of periods came in the 1979 horror film Carrie. Who can forget the scene when Carrie gets her first period while taking a shower in the locker room? Her mother doesn't talk to her about menstruation so she literally thought she was bleeding to death and was rightfully terrified. Her female schoolmates then bully and ridicule her, throwing a barrage of tampons at her.
That imagery alone exemplifies the shame a person endures when having a period malfunction, but, also, how cruel people can be instead of showing compassion and sensitivity.
On July 14, singer Mexican Patricia Navidad performed on the Spanish morning show Despierta America and while she was singing something white slip out from between her legs. The internet straight up lost its mind at the thought that this could have been a maxi pad. The singer tried to laugh off the claims and took to social media to assert that the white material was not a maxi pad but rather tissue to absorb sweat, adding that she does not even use maxi pads. But the internet trolls, mostly men of course, continued with their onslaught of nasty and insensitive comments.
“Periods are an enigma for men,” comedic actress Jenni Ruiza says. “Anything you don't understand inevitably makes you uncomfortable. It's hard for men to fathom bleeding out of your sexual instrument and not immediately drop dead. We have our periods as a reminder every month that we can contribute to the ecosystem."
Instagram is also a contributor to the taboo view of periods. Its version of “real” images does not apply to menstrual cycles, according to its standards. Rupi Kaur, a Sikh poet living in Canada, posted an image of herself with period-stained sweatpants and sheets, which was for a college project. Instagram removed it. In protest, other women followed suit and posted their own period Instagrams.
During this year’s London Marathon, musician Kiran Gandhi got her period around the same time as the marathon, and decided a day before her big run that she would do the entire thing while she was on her period and not wear a tampon. She ran 26.2 miles and bled through her running pants. Gandhi wrote on her blog that she took on that extra challenge of running without protection because of the stigma that surrounds women and their periods. “I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist.”
So why do we hide when we’re suffering with cramps, or why are we afraid of even talking about menstrual cycles at all? Is it because we don’t want to inconvenience men, or because we don’t want to burden anyone with the natural stages of our womanhood?
This year seems to have helped turn the crimson tide for the better, making it a lot easier and real to at least have an open conversation about periods, and it doesn’t have to be all serious either. Comedians Key & Peele did an incredible and hilarious sketch titled “Menstruation Orientation” for men only, of course, on period dos and don'ts: “Listen for once in your life! Don’t say ‘chillax,’ ‘relax,’ ‘calm down,’ and ‘how come?’”
PMS is quite real, but it’s not the end of the world. Do men really need smartphone apps to track women's menstrual cycles?"
Regardless of the nature of our society’s current period dialogue, there is definitely more openness regarding women and their monthly menstrual cycles. A Queens high school is getting its first free tampon and maxi pad dispenser after New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland proposed it in June. She also wants to provide free access to feminine products for women in homeless shelters and prisons.
“Offering free menstrual care supplies as we do toilet paper and condoms is a matter of avoiding health risks, eliminating the stigma that surrounds a natural part of a woman’s life, and for girls in school, not having to skip class because they got their period,” Ferreras-Copeland said.
There’s also new revolutionary ways for women to stay protected when they’re on their periods, like THINX, a brand of cute eco-friendly underwear with an absorbent material sewed into it (which means no more pads!). And Lunapads have a signature collection of menstrual products, such as stylish and reusable pads made of cotton, bell-shaped menstrual cups, and underwear, among other things. The company's aim is to inspire customers "to feel more empowered about their periods, and bodies.”