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The taboo of menstruation: getting lighter?

The taboo of menstruation: getting lighter?

The taboo of menstruation: getting lighter?

Surfing the crimson wave, ordering clams with red sauce, paging Edward Cullen….these are just a few examples of the lengths we go to avoid saying we’re on our period. Last week, British Number 1 tennis player Heather Watson rather sweetly referred to “girl things” to explain her visible struggle during her first-round defeat at the Australian Open.

Okay, so she didn’t use the word itself, but she successfully brought into the limelight a subject which is still unbelievably taboo. And for that we should be thanking her! Both current and former female tennis legends have expressed appreciation for Watson’s openness. Martina Navratilova defended her, explaining that “it sounds like an excuse but for woman it is reality” while former pro-tennis star Annabel Croft similarly thanked Watson for being “brave” about something which women everywhere will “identify completely” with.

This story has not only caused an astounding amount of media chatter but has also shed some interesting light on the lack of menstrual recognition in the tennis world. It seems the International Tennis Federation gives no guidance on this issue to their young competitors, who may be making their first solo journeys to tournaments. A challenging enough prospect, one would imagine, without the added trauma of competing on your period. And in WHITE! A rule imposed by the All England Club (in charge of the annual Wimbledon Championships), who also dictate that players are only allowed one toilet break per set. I can only presume these rules were created by someone who has never had to face the Cute White Shorts v Likelihood of Leakage predicament.

Jokes aside, Watson’s openness is a breakthrough not only for the sporting world, but also for society as a whole. In an age where we accept and discuss sex, artificial breast implants and Kim Kardashian’s derrière so openly, how is it that this menstrual taboo is still so apparent? I squirm at the thought of my box of tampons being found during an airline baggage search, and I know I’m not the only one!

While we’re on this subject, can we just talk about how tampons are still taxed as luxury items in many countries?! Funny definition of luxury, that.  What a joy, to have the means  to hide the trail of cramps, bloating, tears, hot water bottle hugging, painkiller consuming and stained undergarments in a pretty little colourful wrapper. Scented if you’re lucky. I don’t have anything against men, I really don’t, but I can hardly imagine it was a woman who sat behind her desk one day to decide ‘tampons’ and ‘luxury’ were words which complemented each other.

Suffice it to say that Watson has done a favour for all women in simply reminding that the world that periods are normal and the very reason for our existence. Although a menstrual hygiene specialist at the UN’s Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council recently said she could not think of any countries where menstrual taboo doesn’t exist, more widespread recognition does seem to be occurring. May 28th is now officially Menstrual Hygiene Day and we are witnessing more and more initiatives to make low-cost sanitary materials available.

It is shocking that, in this day and age, the adjectives of ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ are the ones used to describe Watson’s declaration that she was on her period. But I’m a firm believer in not regretting the past; we now must look positively to secure the future of menstrual acceptance and Heather Watson’s openness will have hugely helped with that. Let’s just hope we’re not flying without wings...


Anna is currently spending the fourth year of her Law degree in France, studying for a Masters in French Law at the University of Rennes. She is slightly obsessed with learning languages, having knowledge of French, Spanish, Portuguese and a little Russian under her belt so far. Alongside her studies, Anna tutors English to foreign students. Fascinated by different cultures and how they interlink, Anna recently took herself off to live in Morocco for a month. In her minimal spare time, Anna likes to read, run, eat, go to church, travel, discover beautiful countryside and improve her classical singing. She also believes that, in the words of Newton Faulkner, people should smile more.


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