Published on 20th September 2017


The period taboo is a global issue. Attitudes towards periods, even in these modern times, are surprisingly negative. In countries such as Nepal periods are met with shame. When menstruating, women are branded ‘impure’ or ‘contaminated.’ Those on their period are told to stay away from fresh food due to superstitious beliefs about menstruation. Even in the UK and US, the period taboo is still very present. A US woman recently claimed she had a warning from HR for using a hot water bottle at work to soothe menstrual cramps. The woman claims she was warned to not disclose her “medical problems to anyone who isn't part of HR as it can make them uncomfortable.” Crazy.

A dangerous taboo

What do behaviours such as these teach us? Well, they tell us that periods are shameful, and should be kept private like a dirty little secret. If we accept or encourage this type of behaviour, we’re entering dangerous water. It can affect confidence and feed anxiety about menstruation. It can also force women all over the world to suffer period-related discomfort in silence. A survey by Action Aid in May 2017 revealed that one in five British women under 40 are too embarrassed to talk about periods. Even to female friends!

This silence can lead to period-related health symptoms being overlooked or ignored. Periods are natural and menstrual health is very important. We need to understand how to menstruate healthily. Using products that work for our bodies, and maintaining hygiene to avoid risks such as TSS (toxic shock syndrome).

Fighting the taboo

It’s not all doom and gloom, in the last few years there have been movements that inspire change. Change that is important to end the shame, break the silence and alter attitudes towards periods. Momentous change is needed, so this will never happen overnight, but people are finally standing up and saying “NO” to period shaming.

Here, we’ve looked at five people who have spoken out about the period taboo. They have embraced openness to show that periods are not shameful and should not be kept a secret. Have a read and maybe you might feel inspired to take a stand against this outdated taboo!

Meghan Markle

Who can discuss the period taboo without referencing Meghan Markle? On International Women’s Day 2017, Meghan wrote an essay for Time Magazine called “How Periods Affect Potential.” In this article she addressed menstrual taboos in the developing world. Meghan explored the inequality that girls face from having to skip school due to their periods. As a humanitarian who has worked side by side with girls in these countries, Meghan’s message was powerful. She explained how “we need to rise above our puritanical bashfulness when it comes to talking about menstruation.”  Amen to that.

Fu Yuanhi

Onto the sporting world! The period taboo is a prevalent movement in this industry and in 2016 Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhi spoke out. After finishing in 4th place at a competition, Fu openly told reporters, “It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired – but this isn’t an excuse, I still didn’t swim well enough.” Her honestly about how her period affects her sporting ability was welcomed by fans on social media. It’s refreshing to see an athlete talk about something that affects us all. Fu’s lively personality has made her a regular viral sensation online. She used her platform to speak up about periods, and that’s why we love her!

Rupi Kaur

Artist Rupi Kaur is often linked to the period taboo. Why? That’s because she caused a stir online with her ‘period blood’ Instagram photo. Just in case you missed it, here’s what happened. Rupi posted a photo from her photography series ‘Period’ on Instagram. The photo showed a woman lying in bed with a red blood stain on the back of her lounge pants. She used this photo to speak out about the taboo BUT Instagram deleted it due to their censorship. Cue a wave of viral outrage and heated debate online. Instagram later apologised and permitted the photo to be posted but Rupi’s response was the best part. She posted “Help keep Instagram safe from periods. Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is showing. We won't be censored.” Take a peek at the full post and original caption here.

Kiran Ghandi

Also known as the free-bleeding marathon runner. Kiran, a London-based musician, got her period on the day of the London marathon. Periods can often turn up unannounced, there’s nothing major about that, right? Well in Kiran’s case there was. After getting her period, she decided it would be far more comfortable to run without a tampon or pad. Kiran chose to just get on with it and free-bleed the 26.2 miles. Many reacted with disgust but Kiran simply shut down shamers by posting “because it is all kept quiet, women are socialised not to complain or talk about their own bodily functions, since no one can see it happening.” She made a statement to show us exactly what was happening. She had her period, like many of us do! We celebrate Kiran and her confident, bold attempt to break the taboo.

Chance Ward

Getting caught short by your period without a tampon to hand can be stressful. If this happens to you in public, you need Chance Ward to be within ear shot. Chance is featured on our list of people who are breaking the period taboo, because of this rather lovely viral post. Chance explained in a viral Facebook post about an incident that happened at the gym. A girl asked her friend for an emergency tampon and felt “clearly embarrassed” when she noticed Chance was in earshot. On Facebook, Chance explained how she didn’t need to feel embarrassed. In fact, Chance was the one who came to her aid! Despite not getting periods, Chance handed the girl a tampon from a fanny pack. Apparently, Chance has a supply of tampons, and carries them around ready to hand them out to girls in need. Breaking the taboo, and helping us out when we need it? A woman after our own hearts.

Truth be told, we’re just scratching the surface here. Remember, to take note of these bold, inspiring people. They are sending a very positive message. We need to embrace it and bring conversations about periods into the mainstream. Do you agree? Take to social and let us know – tag @elvie and @totmorganic! Or visit the TOTM website for more.