And yes, it comes with a slide
Words by Kay Field
Time of the month. The Crimson wave. Aunt Flo. It comes around like clockwork every month and affects half of the world’s population. So why are periods still such a taboo subject? New research on women’s attitudes towards periods has found that 58% of women felt embarrassed about getting their first period whilst 50% didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell anyone about the completely natural process.
‘I was almost 13 when I started my period,’ says Gill, 36. ‘It was August Bank Holiday weekend, and my parents had organized a huge garden party. By the time I realized what was happening my mum had had quite a lot of wine and couldn’t drive me to pick up sanitary products, and there was nothing in the house. So my dad had to take me. We drove around from supermarket to corner shop to petrol station, all the while in awkward silence. When we finally did find somewhere open, my dad opted to wait in the car – so, embarrassed and unsure of what was actually going on, I wandered in to look for sanitary products. That was my first time.’
betty for schools, a new curriculum-linked campaign created to de-stigmatise the subject of periods believe that the current ‘culture of shame’ around menstruation develops from an early age, and that old-fashioned educational approaches are partly to blame. A recent study found 76% of 16-24 year-olds find classes discussing periods awkward, whilst adults are just as unwilling to broach the subject. Studies found that women would rather talk to young children about Brexit and politics than periods (16% ranked periods as the topic they would least like to discuss compared to 14% for voting for Brexit). betty for schools are calling for a change to current educational approaches, suggesting that PSHE lessons on menstruation and puberty are started from a younger age and are taught to both boys and girls.
Rebecca Martin, Head of Partner Relations at betty for schools discusses the need for more ‘open dialogue’ when talking about periods and the inspiration behind the campaign. ‘We talk about everything else, but for some strange reason there’s still an abundance of shame and embarrassment associated with periods. This starts from our very first time and sits with us until adulthood – which is why it’s so important to educate young girls on their cycle, and offer them the emotional support to truly be at ease with what’s happening to their bodies.’
Martin continues to emphasise the importance of teaching both boys and girls on the subject if we are to end the negative mentality surrounding periods once and for all. ‘Our research has highlighted the need for more open and honest dialogue. 83% of women believe that there isn’t enough emphasis on educating boys about periods and some boys aren’t getting any education at all. By breaking down the taboos, talking confidently about a normal, healthy bodily function, and not in hushed tones, we can change the narrative and combat the stigma, making what can be a confusing and frightening time a lot more comfortable.”
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Harry, 26, says the campaign’s new approach in targeting both boys and girls is sorely in need. ‘Even as someone with three younger sisters and a long term girlfriend since the age of 17, I still don’t feel I know all that much about periods; certainly not as much as I should. We did get taught about periods at school as part of biology – but that’s more the biological and functional aspect, rather than looking at the wider issues around periods and what they mean for women. You can’t help but feel that if periods were a ‘male thing’, society would be likely to talk and think about them in a very different way. Periods are often seen as things that women can’t be open about – which is crazy when you think that they happen with such regularity to half the population!’
betty for schools are travelling around schools nationwide to teach boys and girls aged 8-12 both the science behind periods and the more practical aspects . Designed from a combination of both educational experts and young people, the lessons include a mix of animations, quizzes and interactive activities to create a more relaxed and open atmosphere. From this betty hopes to create a new generation of empowered girls, unashamed about their times of the month, and of boys more understanding of periods and at ease to talk about them.
What’s more, the sessions will take part on the betty bus, a fun brightly-coloured bus with an attachable slide. What more could a 10 year old want?