Plan Australia’s Policy and Advocacy team conducted some research into something that happens to women every month: the almighty period. For many girls around the world, it’s a barrier to going to school – so we’re working to provide access to sanitary products and education to help girls manage their periods better. Here’s what they learned this Menstrual Hygiene Day:
Walt Disney made the first-ever movie about menstruation titled ‘The Story of Menstruation’ in 1946. Spolier Alert! The cartoon does not feature a song by a snow princess called ‘Let it flow.’
In Disney’s world, menstrual blood is snow-white … of course it is.
Doctors used to believe bad period cramps were a symptom of a woman rejecting her femininity, while scientists in the 1930s believed women got PMS because they were repressing their desire to fall pregnant.
In Sri Lanka, when a girl first gets her period, it’s common for her family to perform a ritual and host a celebration.
The word ‘period’ first appeared in TV advertising in a Tampax commercial starring Courteney Cox Arquette in 1985. Make sure you watch the extras in the background. That’s all I have to say about that.
Another great leap forward was made in 2000 when Kotex’s Red Dot campaign was the first to use the words ‘period’ and ‘red,’ in the same ad.
In 2011, the maxi-pad company Always made history by producing the first-ever feminine hygiene ad to feature blood. Well, it’s a red dot on a maxi-pad but progress is progress!
In Denmark, a commonly used euphemism for having your period is ‘Der Er Kommunister i Lysthuset‘ (which translates to: ‘There Are Communists in the Funhouse’).
Also, worthy of note: In South Africa, a commonly used euphemism for having your period is ‘Granny’s stuck in traffic.’
The word taboo comes from the Polyneisain tapua, and means both ‘sacred’ and ‘menstruation.’ The English word ‘period’ to describe menstruation dates from at least 1822 and means an ‘interval of time’ or a ‘repeated cycle of events.’
In 1896, Johnson & Johnson sold the very-first disposable pad, Lister’s Towels (named after Joseph Lister, a UK surgeon and advocate for sterile surgery). The original disposable pads were attached with safety pins to elastic belts worn around the waist.
There’s no shame in talking about your period any more for most girls and women in Australia. But for some adolescent girls in developing countries, getting your period is a whole other story.
In countries like Uganda, many girls miss school when they get their period – one in ten drop out altogether simply because their schools lack safe and private toilets and they don’t have access to affordable feminine hygiene products. Plan is educating girls and providing access to affordable, reusable pads so they can continue their education.
Plan International is also working to tackle period stigma and menstruation myths through our water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs, and providing girls and women with sexual reproductive health and rights information.