Period Shaming

Period Shaming is a new topic in the world of feminism. Women are beginning to showcase their periods in order to make a statement regarding its normalcy. An article entitled “Runner who completed the London marathon during her period without a tampon says she did it to ‘break the stigma’ after receiving support- and criticism- for her actions” by Bianca London for MailOnline tells the story of Kiran Gandi, 26, a musician and Harvard graduate, who ran the London marathon last year while she was on her period. So what’s the point? We all take part in physical activities while on our periods, but Kiran did so without any form of sanitary product to contain the bleeding. Kiran says she did it for “sisters who don’t have tampons” and “to say, it (menstruation) does exist, and we overcome it every day.” She obviously received mixed responses from both men and women all over the world, some were supportive, and some lashed out.

We see a very similar situation in The Bluest Eye. When Pecola gets her first period, it is a cause for confusion, fear, and an accusation of “nastiness” from Rosemary. “‘Mrs. MacTeer! Mrs. MacTeer!’ Rosemary hollered. ‘Frieda and Claudia are out here playing nasty! Mrs. MacTeer!’”(30). Frieda and Claudia do their best to help Pecola clean up. They think the best solution is to throw away her pants to hide the fact that she got her period. Mrs. MacTeer even beats Frieda before she has a clear understanding of what is going on. Girls are taught from early on that a period is something to be kept hidden. Girls hide tampons and pads in their backpacks, pockets, and sleeves every time they go to the bathroom during their period in fear that someone might see. They live in anxiety each month that they will bleed through their sanitary product and be an embarrassment at school.


In Keywords For Children’s Literature, we get a feeling that topics of period shaming and body shaming in general occur in many books categorized as children’s literature. Kelly Hager’s essay on the body states that “contemporary literary investigations into the Girl continue to envision girlhood according to tropes and plots familiar since the dawn of novelistic fiction….Physicality—the Girl’s experience of her body, engagement in or denial of sex, her cultural ‘value’ as young female body—remains crucial.” (19). We wonder why people show disgust for menstruation but then see shaming of it in all forms of media including literature. People makes jokes all the time connecting a girl’s frustration and anger with her period. We hear “Oh is it that time of the month again?” because a girl shows her feelings. In the essay on innocence by Marah Gubar in Keywords For Children’s Literature, she says, “books and films for adolescents often suggest that the advent of mature sexuality makes you a monster. In Brian de Palma’s 1976 film of Stephen King’s (1974), the teen heroine’s first period coincides with her sudden ability to use her mind as a weapon to murder and destroy.” (126) It’s time for girls and women to stop being okay with being made out to be monsters, or gross beings because of a naturally occurring process that our bodies undergo.

12 thoughts on “Period Shaming”

  1. I appreciate the movement to create menstruation less “taboo.” However, purposefully not using any form of sanitation material (such as a pad or tampon) may offend women in countries who wish nothing more than for sanitary products while on “their period.” Yes, I do wish menstruation could be a topic of normalcy but I feel for the men in the world too. If guys were the sex capable of carrying a child, and on non-child bearing months shed a lining in the form of blood, I would most likely be disgusted because it’s someone’s blood and any body fluid is just nasty to me. Do you see a way of creating “normalcy” for menstruation which doesn’t involve women forgoing sanitation products to prove a point?

    1. Kiran actually raised money by running the marathon to support women who cannot afford sanitary products. I think Kiran was just trying to make a bold statement in this one instance. Sometimes it takes a bold act to harbor people’s attention and that’s exactly what she did. I don’t think she meant to offend anyone and really just wanted her message to be heard.

  2. I think this is an excellent topic to discuss. Although many media outlets still shame periods, more and more we see popular culture trying to normalize periods as something that should be embraced rather than shamed. For example, on BuzzFeed, many articles and videos are made in reference to menstruation. Sites like this, which reach a wide variety of people, can help make periods and women’s health a topic of discussion that is comfortable to partake in. I think by having sites like BuzzFeed that push the boundaries of what is deemed okay to talk about, it will make the general population more open to topics like menstruation.

  3. Wow, I thought this was a very well done piece of work! It is interesting to see how others see this topic. It is hard because I feel like periods are such a hard topic to discuss, when it really shouldn’t be. It is a very natural event in life and it takes way to long for people to be okay with it. To me, the thing that is most intriguing is that fact that there are so many people that can not handle it. It is guaranteed that everyone is going to know someone who goes through this nature part of being a woman, yet so many people can not handle it. In the article that I posted, there are three men that see what is like to have their period for three days. They talk about how everyone should try this so that everyone can have a greater respect for women when they go through this. I thought to myself that maybe if everyone did this, then periods wouldn’t be made out to be so horrible or disgusting. However, this point can never be made because often times, the people that are hating on acts such as the one Kiran Gandi took part in, are women who experience it themselves.

  4. This was a great topic to bring up and a very interesting article to relate the book to. Period shaming is definitely wrong, mostly because menstruation is a natural thing and also happens to be a ket aspect in creating life. Going off of your comment on embarrassment; I remember secretly passing tampons to a friend if she needed one before going to the bathroom in middle school and high school. I also remember a few of my friends making up a code word for period in middle school so that we could say it out loud in public. I wonder if having your period will ever become more socially acceptable and not such a “gross” thing to talk about

  5. As someone who has bled through numerous pairs of pants throughout my life, I can agree 100% with the fact that getting your period can bring on nothing but shame and embarrassment. I think that Kiran Gandi’s movement towards normalizing menstruation is very powerful but also very complicated. Sanitary products are exactly what the name suggests, they are intended to keep yourself clean and assist in the avoidance of having “an accident”. In my opinion it would be inappropriate for girls like us to do something like what Kiran did since we sit in shared seats and lecture halls all day, but running that race to make a point is awesome and I’m glad someone has shed some light on this situation! 🙂

  6. I think it’s great that women are trying to break the stigma of menstruation. If half the population goes through it every month, why does it have to be something scary or gross? Obviously there are many ways people can go about attempting to show periods as something natural and necessary, and others are always going to disagree with that method. Overall, however, I think it’s important for women in general to have this movement started, no matter the manner.

  7. I think you make some really good points here. Though I’m not really sure how I feel about the runner’s decision I can understand the message she was trying to get across. Do you think that women are shamed for their period because it is a sign of sexual maturity and women are expected to be less sexual? Or, do you think that period shaming comes more from an ingrained discomfort with bodily excretions, especially blood?

  8. Hi Kelsey,

    I actually disagree completely with your comment – as stated above, part of Kiran’s point was to raise awareness of individuals lack of access to sanitary products. I’m also not really sure what there is exactly to “feel for the men”. When a child falls down, gets a scrape and starts bleeding, our reaction as a society isn’t to turn away in disgust, in fact, we consider that just a byproduct of being a kid. We don’t feel shame for carrying a bandaid, and yet young girls are taught to hide their sanitary products as they walk to the bathroom. I think Grace’s (and the cited readings) point was that there is an intimate connection between disgust of period blood and a societal attitude towards women. Being ‘disgusted’ by a menstrual cycle isn’t a feeling that exists outside of one’s attitude towards women – it isn’t a ‘neutral disgust’ as you describe. I think there is certainly more complexity to the argument that you’re giving it credit for – just food some for thought.

  9. I agree that menstruation in today’s society is looked upon as a “disgusting and nasty thing.” Also, I agree that it should be talked about as a normal thing because it is something that females must grapple with on a monthly basis. However, since there are negative connotations that comes with menstruation, what do you suggest women do to counteract these views?

  10. Hey Grace,
    Very interesting topic! I found myself questioning this girl’s “bravery” in going unprotected because when I’m on my period, yes, a million anxieties run through my head. I find that each “time of the month” is the worst for me because, naturally having anxiety, it is always the hardest time. I can’t remember ever feeling like ” Man, I feel good about this one this month” because all the little anxieties would kick in. I feel like the need to spread awareness, physically rather than communicatively was strange to see because it made me realize that this must have been the only way people could hear the argument. I agree with Kelsey that it could be considered unfair/rude to those who can’t afford protection, but if that’s the only way menstruation awareness can be heard then that speaks wonders about our society. ( 🙁 )

  11. I remember hearing about this when it happened and was impressed with Kiran’s bravery to do something like this. I’m sure she was well aware that she would get loads of support met with loads of backlash. I think that this is a good way to bring more attention to normalizing menstruation, particularly among men. As far as the education about menstruation goes, I think that in order for it to be more normal, men would have to be more educated about the topic. But, I think that Kiran’s action was a really unique way to go about this issue and it definitely gets the topic more out into the open to be discussed further among communities, and possibly even schools.

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