Tweens and teens are often bullied because of their menstrual cycle, known as period shaming. Education and empowerment can help change that.
While the term period shaming may be unfamiliar to some, you know exactly what it feels like when your period comes early, and you don’t know what to do. It’s likely that you’ve experienced feelings of embarrassment, shame, and anxiety that follow an unexpected length of time.
To put it another way, the thought of bleeding through our clothes in public even as adults is enough to make us nervous, and we’ve been dealing with this for years. The pressure you place on yourself when it comes to your period isn’t the only strain you face as an adolescent who menstruates.
There are several sorts of period shaming students face in middle and high school, ranging from open teases and pick-ons to being denied use of the restroom in class. Adults often don’t understand why it could be an emergency for a teen or preteen to leave the classroom.
Menstruation is poorly understood by many people, as illustrated by a popular story from a few years ago involving an adolescent guy instructing ladies to “manage their periods until they get to a toilet.” Menstruating women are not alone in this lack of knowledge.
The dangers of menstrual shame
When was the last time you had a period? It’s shameful. What is it about menstruation that is still considered such a taboo subject? In the words of Voldemort, “that which must not be spoken,” young women are trained to keep their periods a secret and to only mention them in whispers. In the instance of Josephine Kwan, it can have a long-term influence on their mental health, body image, and self-worth. When it’s severe enough, it can be fatal.
During the summer, a story out of Kenya touched the hearts of many people around the globe. When a teacher period-shamed a 14-year-old girl, she committed suicide. The teacher allegedly called the girl “filthy” after she started her period in class and bled through her clothes. It was the girl’s first period, and she didn’t have any menstrual products on her, according to her mother.
A natural process can cause young individuals to experience shame or humiliation, as this example demonstrated. As a result of a lack of education and plain-speaking, periods and the menstrual cycle are taboo subjects, even though they are experienced by half the global population for the majority of their lives.
What parents can do to end period shame in their children
Young people can suffer from body image issues, anxiety, sadness, and self-hatred as a result of negative attitudes around menstruation and period shaming. Parents and guardians must take the lead and start the conversation about menstruation and periods at home to break the cycle of misogyny.
We may begin to reduce or eliminate period shame by demystifying menstruation and teaching teen and preteen boys that it’s normal and natural, not something to be mocked or talked about. Including boys in inclusive sex education classes is critical, as are lectures on the changes that girls go through. However, these lessons should also be taught to boys at home.
Reactions to period shaming can be taught to children. Girls should be aware that some individuals may tease them because they don’t realize how fantastic it is to have periods. In the event that it does occur, make sure they know exactly what to do:
- Stay Calm.
- Make a brief retort. (So? Who gives a fig about it?) Just a one-sentence response to prove that we’re not affected is all that’s needed. The bully will feel foolish for even starting the mocking, and your child will have a ready-made reaction to use in the event of more tormenting. For the most part, this strategy is effective in dealing with verbal teasing.
- Take a break and leave.
As part of responding to period shaming, the next step is to figure out why that child was teased and openly discuss it with your tween or teen so that they don’t believe they have a physical issue. Because body shaming can lead to serious consequences if we don’t address and normalize it early on, this is essential.