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Illustration: Katrin Friedmann

Culture

How to talk about menstruation

by Maddie Sheesley, Product Owner at Clue
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Ever needed to talk to someone about periods but didn’t really know how? Now’s the time. After our #justsayperiod campaign, we wanted to take it a step further and give you some tips for talking about menstruation—to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

But why is it important to talk about periods?

By bringing menstruation out into the open, you’re letting others know that it’s okay to discuss. And the first step in breaking taboos is properly naming and talking about menstruation—without using euphemisms. It can be awkward at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be.

With your parent or relative

It’s likely that your adult family members will be among the first people to know when you’ve gotten your first period. Adults are usually very familiar with periods, and can be supportive. And even though they’re from a different generation and might not want to talk about periods openly, you can help broaden their horizons and get them more comfortable talking about topics that are taboo.

Here are some ideas: 1. If you’re not comfortable telling your parents in person, you could text, email or write them a letter instead. This is a first step to being able to talk about face-to-face. 2. Ask your parents a question to open the conversation casually. “Why do you think we, as a culture, don’t talk about periods? It’s so normal!” 3. Bonus challenge: Ask your dad (or another relative who doesn’t menstruate) to buy you tampons.

With your friends

Periods are a fact of life, which means the subject will probably pop up with your friends sooner or later. And that’s awesome! Because the more you discuss with your friends and share your experiences, the more they’ll understand that menstruation is not a weird or gross thing. It’s normal.

More ideas for talking about menstruation with your friends:

  1. Talk about anything weird or unexpected that happened during your last period, and ask if they’ve ever experienced the same thing
  2. Don’t focus on the negative. Is there anything positive that happened during your cycle you can share? (For some inspiration, check out the positive symptoms of PMS.)
  3. Share any articles or new facts you learned (maybe from Clue) ;)
  4. Share your cycle with your friends on Clue Connect—you can wish them a Happy Ovulation Day, or share tampons or pads when they have their period.

At school

Someone will definitely get their period at school — and won’t be prepared for it. That’s a great opportunity for you to educate your peers (especially the boys) about periods. In many cultures, boys and people who don’t menstruate can be really misinformed.

  1. If the guys need “evidence” that talking about periods isn’t weird, just share this article with them. The guys who work at Clue are perfectly comfortable talking about periods — anytime, anywhere, with anyone.
  2. Print out a labeled uterus to use as your binder cover and quiz people on the names of different parts of the body
  3. Talk to a teacher. They’ll be able to help you if you ask and will definitely keep it private.

At work

This situation can be a bit more challenging, as in most workplaces it’s not “necessary” to talk about periods. However, if you work with basically anyone who’s ever had a period, the topic of menstruation will inevitably arise—who hasn’t needed to borrow a tampon at work!?

Here are some ways you can normalize menstruation in your workplace. 1. Boldly hold your tampon in your hand when you go to the bathroom (don’t hide it!) 2. Speak up when someone uses inappropriate or demeaning language to talk about women and/or menstruation. 3. Support fellow colleagues who are on the receiving end of inappropriate jokes or comments (see example below).

With someone you’re dating

If you’re in a relationship with another person (who doesn't menstruate), thenit’s hard to avoid talking about periods. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or avoiding it completely, your partner needs to understand how the menstrual cycle works.

To help you out, we wrote a handy piece: 6 things you should know about your partner’s cycle. Talk to your partner about each of these things (generally) and more specifically how your energy levels or your skin change. (And let us know how it goes!)

When someone makes an inappropriate joke

We’ve all heard it. You react strongly to something and someone says back, “is it that time of the month?”

Cue the red rage emoji. Or use these fab comebacks: 1. Total blank face. Don’t smile or roll your eyes, just stare at them without any response whatsoever. Make it awkward for them. 2. Play dumb. “What time of the month? What do you mean? What are you talking about?” Get them to say it again. Chances are they won’t. 3. Go for the jugular. “Be careful or I’ll leave my bloody tampon on your desk.” or “Did you say you wanted to see my bloody tampon?” Your choice!

When your president says “blood coming out of her wherever”

It’s called a vagina. That’s not an alternative fact.

Need more inspiration?

Check out these fab women:

  • Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui talked about getting her period at the world’s most prestigious sporting event. Read more about how strength training affects the menstrual cycle.
  • Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon while free bleeding to highlight how people are shamed for having periods.
  • Rupi Kaur posted a photo of her bleeding through her pants and onto her bed—and Instagram deleted it twice.

Download Clue to learn more about your period and your body.

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