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This Is What Period-Shaming Looks Like Around The World

"Pads will be wrapped in a newspaper when they're purchased."

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Depending on who you are, where you live and what kind of cycle you have, period-shaming may not really feel like a thing for you. People bleed, life goes on. Right?

For example, it can be much more complicated to have your period when you don't have money to buy menstrual products or don't have access to a clean and safe bathroom, or if you identify as a gender other than female.
@nievesitarica / Via instagram.com

For example, it can be much more complicated to have your period when you don't have money to buy menstrual products or don't have access to a clean and safe bathroom, or if you identify as a gender other than female.

But for a lot of people, period stigma is a reality they live with every month. BuzzFeed readers around the world told us what it looks and feels like for them.

(Many of you also wrote to say that you don't feel periods are stigmatized in your culture, or that how people talk about menstruation is changing in a positive way — which is great!)

None of these responses should be taken to speak for an entire country, culture or religion; there are, of course, many diverse beliefs, practices and experiences within each. But here are some of the things readers shared with us.

1. "Pads will be wrapped in a newspaper when they're purchased."

The topic of periods is hush-hush, where people will refrain from talking about it. People have started to speak out and eliminate period-shaming lately. Pads will be wrapped in a newspaper when they're purchased, and tampons are seen as a thing that will take away the virginity of a girl or get lost inside. If someone comes out of a washroom with Random Facts, surely a pack of Libra was opened. —Nikhat, 21, Fiji
@thesadgirlgang / Via instagram.com

The topic of periods is hush-hush, where people will refrain from talking about it. People have started to speak out and eliminate period-shaming lately. Pads will be wrapped in a newspaper when they're purchased, and tampons are seen as a thing that will take away the virginity of a girl or get lost inside. If someone comes out of a washroom with Random Facts, surely a pack of Libra was opened.

—Nikhat, 21, Fiji

2. "My own mother really made a huge deal about the smell and burden of my period."

My own mother really made a huge deal about the smell and burden of my period. More than talking about reproductive health (she had endometriosis), sexual health, wellbeing, and the like, she made sure that when I was on my period I still performed all my duties well, both in and outside the home, for the sake of others and despite my pain.

—Kristy, 18, Australia

3. "My mom once told me that when I'm on my period, I shouldn't throw the 'evidence' away in the bathroom garbage because then 'people would know why I was so moody.'"

I had a party once and had cleaned the house (which included emptying the garbage) the day before. As people were starting to arrive, my boyfriend went to the bathroom and came back and whispered to me that my roommate had tossed a panty-liner wrapper in the garbage bin. He wanted me to "take care of it" so that other partygoers wouldn't have to see it. On a similar note, my mom once told me that when I'm on my period I shouldn't throw the "evidence" away in the bathroom garbage because then "people would know why I was so moody." She insisted that I either take my used pads/tampons/wrappers down to the kitchen garbage (which is changed almost daily) or throw it out in the outside bin. That was humiliating. —Lindsay, 27, Canada
http://@maxine.sarah.art / Via instagram.com

I had a party once and had cleaned the house (which included emptying the garbage) the day before. As people were starting to arrive, my boyfriend went to the bathroom and came back and whispered to me that my roommate had tossed a panty-liner wrapper in the garbage bin. He wanted me to "take care of it" so that other partygoers wouldn't have to see it.

On a similar note, my mom once told me that when I'm on my period I shouldn't throw the "evidence" away in the bathroom garbage because then "people would know why I was so moody." She insisted that I either take my used pads/tampons/wrappers down to the kitchen garbage (which is changed almost daily) or throw it out in the outside bin. That was humiliating.

—Lindsay, 27, Canada

4. "Most Malay women even wash out their tampons with soap and water before disposal."

Here in Malaysia, very few people use tampons, often due to religious beliefs. I'm Chinese, and my mom is fine with me using tampons, but most Malay women even wash out their tampons with soap and water before disposal, as it is thought to be unclean otherwise.

—Jann, 22, Malaysia

5. "My dad and brother are not even allowed to look at the pads or know about where they are stored in the storage closet."

My dad and brother are not even allowed to look at the pads or know about where they stored are in the storage closet. I asked my brother to bring up a bag from the garage and my mother told me to get it myself because, as she whispered to me later, it had a box of pads in it and my brother would either see it or find out. —Anonymous, 21, US (but grew up with super-conservative Indian parents)
@aryaprakash / Via instagram.com

My dad and brother are not even allowed to look at the pads or know about where they stored are in the storage closet. I asked my brother to bring up a bag from the garage and my mother told me to get it myself because, as she whispered to me later, it had a box of pads in it and my brother would either see it or find out.

—Anonymous, 21, US (but grew up with super-conservative Indian parents)

6. "Once when I was 14 my grandfather ran out of the bathroom to ask me if I had a bloody nose... I questioned whether he even knew what a period was."

My family is Cambodian-Chinese. My mom and grandmother (who live in the same house) are OBSESSED with making sure I cover up all traces of bloodied tissue or used (and wrapped) menstrual products in the bathroom wastebasket, so that the men in my family don't know I'm on my period. Even the wrapper used to conceal the used pad being visible was a no-no.

Once when I was 14 my grandfather ran out of the bathroom to ask me if I had a bloody nose; it was then that I questioned whether he even knew what a period was, because the matriarchs hid it so well.

—Colette, 19, US

7. "I always hated the 'tucking your pad in your sleeve so no one sees it' thing ... now I'm owning it and walking with the neon green package like, 'What? You don't like something?'"

Around high school I started talking more openly with my best friend, and I owe her for helping me escape the period taboo I grew up with. I always hated the "tucking your pad in your sleeve so no one sees it" thing and only now I'm owning it and walking with the neon green package like, "What? You don't like something? Oh, you thought I'll be embarrassed? Ha ha... I grew out of that, thank you."—Magda, 22, Poland
@muskinn_budapest / Via instagram.com

Around high school I started talking more openly with my best friend, and I owe her for helping me escape the period taboo I grew up with. I always hated the "tucking your pad in your sleeve so no one sees it" thing and only now I'm owning it and walking with the neon green package like, "What? You don't like something? Oh, you thought I'll be embarrassed? Ha ha... I grew out of that, thank you."

—Magda, 22, Poland

8. "It's like pulling off a heist any time I need to smuggle tampons into the bathroom. HOW DOES EVERYONE ELSE DO IT WITHOUT ME NOTICING?!?"

I wish it was something I didn't have to hide. Not because I want to openly talk about it all the time to desensitize people (because my period is a thing I consider personal and between me/my body), but because it is like pulling off a heist any time I need to smuggle tampons into the bathroom. HOW DOES EVERYONE ELSE DO IT WITHOUT ME NOTICING?!? Teach me!!!

—Anonymous, Canada

9. "Asking for pads or tampons using secret codes is just reinforcing the idea that periods are something wrong or something shameful."

instagram.com / Via instagram.com

I've been trying to make my friends think over how they react to the fact that women get periods. Asking for pads or tampons using secret codes is just reinforcing the idea that periods are something wrong or shameful. We all should understand how IMPORTANT periods are. Instead of teaching little girls how they should hide or code-call tampons and pads when they get their period, there should be correct education about this subject.

I'm 16 and a feminist, and thanks to this movement I have developed a certain kind of self-consciousness and confidence about this subject, in a country where talking about is considered as wrong. Every time I get to talk about menstruation, I take my chance and do it.

—Elise, 16, Ecuador

10. "My guy friend told us about his frickin' wet dream but would freak about me mentioning my period." —Kaya, 17, US

11. "The whole idea about women being unclean and some sort of untouchable creature has got to go."

What pisses me off is that everyone knows what menstruation is, yet no one is ever willing to talk about it. If you have a problem or you're worried you haven't had your period for months or something related, there's never anyone you can talk to easily other than your friends, which is especially a problem when you're in your early teens and you aren't that independent. People keep shutting you up even if you do start to open up a conversation. I am glad that there are a lot more people raising awareness about it and talking publicly about it (and asking others to do so too), but the whole idea about women being unclean and some sort of untouchable creature has got to go. There is too much stigmatization — in Urdu, sharmindagi — attached to having your period, and I really don't get it.—Anonymous, 18, Pakistan
@diemenstruationsbeauftragte / Via instagram.com

What pisses me off is that everyone knows what menstruation is, yet no one is ever willing to talk about it. If you have a problem or you're worried you haven't had your period for months or something related, there's never anyone you can talk to easily other than your friends, which is especially a problem when you're in your early teens and you aren't that independent.

People keep shutting you up even if you do start to open up a conversation. I am glad that there are a lot more people raising awareness about it and talking publicly about it (and asking others to do so too), but the whole idea about women being unclean and some sort of untouchable creature has got to go. There is too much stigmatization — in Urdu, sharmindagi — attached to having your period, and I really don't get it.

—Anonymous, 18, Pakistan

12. "Girls can't buy pads in shops without being stared at like they're committing a crime or something."

It's a big taboo, and girls can't buy pads in shops without being stared at like they're committing a crime or something. After you buy it, it's wrapped in such a way nobody can see it.

—Anonymous, 18, Bangladesh

13. "Last week I told a male friend that I was sad and that I was on my period, and he responded, 'Disgusting.'"

After I got my first period, I hid it for three months. I didn't tell mom, just my cousin. I was 10 years old, so I felt embarrassed.Last week I told a male friend that I was sad and that I was on my period, and he responded, "Disgusting."—Florencia, 27, Argentina
@littletowngreen / Via instagram.com

After I got my first period, I hid it for three months. I didn't tell mom, just my cousin. I was 10 years old, so I felt embarrassed.

Last week I told a male friend that I was sad and that I was on my period, and he responded, "Disgusting."

—Florencia, 27, Argentina

14. "Most men wouldn't want to eat food cooked by a menstruating woman or share a bucket or bathroom with her." —Eni, 17, Ghana

15. "There is still a lot of taboo in wearing anything but disposable pads."

No one really talks about periods (unless they're feminists! Girl power!). Even when you have cramps or PMS, when someone asks you what's wrong, you just say you're unwell, or have a headache or stomachache. There is still a lot of taboo in wearing anything but disposable pads. Many women are afraid of inserting anything because of their hymen and the fear of "losing their virginity," so most women don't swim on their period. Period sex is seen as disgusting.—Val, 22, Mexico
@suzie_grime / Via instagram.com

No one really talks about periods (unless they're feminists! Girl power!). Even when you have cramps or PMS, when someone asks you what's wrong, you just say you're unwell, or have a headache or stomachache.

There is still a lot of taboo in wearing anything but disposable pads. Many women are afraid of inserting anything because of their hymen and the fear of "losing their virginity," so most women don't swim on their period. Period sex is seen as disgusting.

—Val, 22, Mexico

16. "In Hinduism, people worship goddesses fervently, but when it comes to the actual women in their lives, they kick them out of temples and kitchens, and at times even their homes."

In Hinduism, people worship goddesses fervently, but when it comes to the actual women in their lives, they kick them out of temples and kitchens, and at times even their homes during a period of time when their health, reproductive and otherwise, should be celebrated!

It's ridiculous and I'm glad it's begun to wane, though I'd argue that a lot more effort is still needed to de-stigmatize periods.

—Anonymous, 23, India

[You can read more about menstrual taboos in India and Hinduism and their origins here.]

17. "[You have to] say you have a headache while stupidly hugging your abdomen."

You're not supposed to show that you have your period in public, so you just kind of have to clench your teeth and smile through the pain. Or worse, say you have a headache while stupidly hugging your abdomen.—D, 22, Libya
ActionAid / Via actionaid.org.uk

You're not supposed to show that you have your period in public, so you just kind of have to clench your teeth and smile through the pain. Or worse, say you have a headache while stupidly hugging your abdomen.

—D, 22, Libya

18. "Take an aspirin and move on... Hello! I am bleeding from my uterus, give me a minute."

It's still a taboo. Even though we are quite open and accepting, women — and especially young girls — still hide our tampons and pads. It's even encouraged to take birth control that eliminates your period. Like taking the Pill without a stop week, or getting an IUD, like I have.

And when you do have your period, you shouldn't complain about it: Take an aspirin and move on. It's still considered weak. Hello! I am bleeding from my uterus, give me a minute.

—Eva, 22, Netherlands

19. "It's not as if I can take four days off sick every month."

Because we're British and reserved, it is impossible to talk about your menstrual health at work. I work in a team which is all male, apart from me. I have had really ridiculously heavy and painful periods (I'll wear one of those "super plus" tampons and a nighttime pad, and I have to change every 25 minutes because it leaks), but I'll still be at work pretending everything's fine.Sometimes I have to sit with clients for up to three hours in the same position, which obviously is a recipe for disaster. I have never felt comfortable talking to men about my period, but especially at work, where there are no women to corroborate my story. And it's not as if I can take four days off sick every month. So how can I deal? —Anonymous, 23, UK
@diemenstruationsbeauftragte / Via instagram.com

Because we're British and reserved, it is impossible to talk about your menstrual health at work. I work in a team which is all male, apart from me. I have had really ridiculously heavy and painful periods (I'll wear one of those "super plus" tampons and a nighttime pad, and I have to change every 25 minutes because it leaks), but I'll still be at work pretending everything's fine.

Sometimes I have to sit with clients for up to three hours in the same position, which obviously is a recipe for disaster. I have never felt comfortable talking to men about my period, but especially at work, where there are no women to corroborate my story. And it's not as if I can take four days off sick every month. So how can I deal?

—Anonymous, 23, UK

20. "There are lots of misunderstandings, like: 'My period is so light, so yours must be light too.'"

Some major companies may give you paid holiday for periods but it's very rare. There are lots of people, even women, who don't understand how periods are so hard for the women who have got terrible ones. There are lots of misunderstandings, like: "My period is so light, so yours must be light too — menstrual pain is not that hard. Why do you need to take a day off for it? You're being lazy."

—Anonymous, 23, Japan

21. "It's not talked about enough. I'm almost 18 and I still have no clue how to use a tampon correctly."

instagram.com / Via instagram.com

It's not talked about enough. I'm almost 18 and I still have no clue how to use a tampon correctly or how a Diva Cup works exactly. We have zero sex education. None.

—Laura, 17, Latvia

22. "We've had mini health lessons [with my husband] because he knew nothing about it, and I believe my partner should be informed about what's happening to my body."

I work in a salon, so we're pretty open about period stuff. I suffer from PMDD and endometriosis. I've learned to be honest about the struggle and pain, and a lot of clients have opened up to me about similar situations. As for family (including my mother) it's not spoken of.

I grew up very Catholic, so birth control was a big no-no. I went more than a decade with untreated endometriosis and PMDD because you only go to a gynecologist when you're pregnant, since they'll just put you on birth control. When I was around 11, I started passing out from the cramps and the women told me to get used to it — it'd be happening for the rest of my life.

My husband isn't allowed to shy away. He knows about it and what I need, has had to take me to the ER for the pain. We've had mini health lessons because he knew nothing about it, and I believe my partner should be informed about what's happening to my body. He knows what meds help, what to say, and what not to say.

It wasn't until I was 25 and finally started seeing a gynecologist that I got an IUD that literally changed my life. Unfortunately I can't tell anyone from home about it because it's a form of birth control and it's "wrong."

—Anonymous, 26, US

23. "Being the feminist and rebel I am, I was just like, fuck this, everyone's gonna know when I menstruate."

You're not supposed to talk about it. But me being the feminist and rebel I am, I was just like, fuck this, everyone's gonna know when I menstruate, because damn — it's a process in nature.—Anonymous, Hong Kong
@inborndesigns / Via instagram.com

You're not supposed to talk about it. But me being the feminist and rebel I am, I was just like, fuck this, everyone's gonna know when I menstruate, because damn — it's a process in nature.

—Anonymous, Hong Kong

24. "My university is very open-minded about issues like women's rights, so talking about menstruation is like talking about where you want to eat."

There is definitely a taboo on menstruation in the Filipino culture. I was fortunate that my university is very open-minded about issues like women's rights, so talking about menstruation is like talking about where you want to eat.

However, in some communities outside my university, the taboo is strong. I remember during my elementary school years that the boys often ridiculed a classmate for her menstruation.

—Marivic, Philippines

25. "My mother was very cross with me, telling me I should take better care to wear thicker pads."

Women do complain among each other about their periods, but there are many women who tell others not to make a big fuss as well. This quietness around periods meant that I had a super-hard time in the beginning. My second period was the heaviest period I had in my life, and many heavy periods would follow. I wore two overnight pads and a tampon at night, and still my mattress and sheets were covered in blood.My mother was very cross with me, telling me I should take better care to wear thicker pads. My period would not stop, and she said it was just normal puberty. I was severely anemic and had fainted at school. I also remember my sister said my heavy periods were related to my weight, because I was slightly overweight. It made me feel like it was all my fault. Much later in life I learned that I had a huge ovarian cyst and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I now have only one ovary. I am on the Pill, which makes my periods much lighter. I am now happy to have my period because it is manageable and it means my body is still working. I want other women to feel more informed and self-confident in their bodies. I am happy times are changing. I saw they have free tampons in my local Bagels & Beans, and I cheer those little things.—Anonymous, 26, Netherlands
@artwhorting / Via instagram.com

Women do complain among each other about their periods, but there are many women who tell others not to make a big fuss as well. This quietness around periods meant that I had a super-hard time in the beginning. My second period was the heaviest period I had in my life, and many heavy periods would follow. I wore two overnight pads and a tampon at night, and still my mattress and sheets were covered in blood.

My mother was very cross with me, telling me I should take better care to wear thicker pads. My period would not stop, and she said it was just normal puberty. I was severely anemic and had fainted at school. I also remember my sister said my heavy periods were related to my weight, because I was slightly overweight. It made me feel like it was all my fault.

Much later in life I learned that I had a huge ovarian cyst and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I now have only one ovary. I am on the Pill, which makes my periods much lighter. I am now happy to have my period because it is manageable and it means my body is still working.

I want other women to feel more informed and self-confident in their bodies. I am happy times are changing. I saw they have free tampons in my local Bagels & Beans, and I cheer those little things.

—Anonymous, 26, Netherlands

26. "I'm making sure my daughters are up to speed on everything and it's not a shock or treated as shameful when the time comes."

My mum never discussed periods with me or bought me protection — because her mum didn't. Old Irish embarrassment. I'm making sure my daughters are up to speed on everything and it's not a shock or treated as shameful when the time comes.

—Leanne, 38, UK

27. "You can be a little open about your menstruation but they still think it is disgusting to talk about it."

I live in the city, and here you can be a little open about your menstruation but they still think it is disgusting to talk about it. Outside the city you can't even consider talking about it. Menstruation is something they think you should be ashamed of.—Anonymous, 26, Guatemala
@goibphotography / Via instagram.com

I live in the city, and here you can be a little open about your menstruation but they still think it is disgusting to talk about it. Outside the city you can't even consider talking about it. Menstruation is something they think you should be ashamed of.

—Anonymous, 26, Guatemala

28. "Lately, every woman I know — young ones, older ones, all girls — seems a lot more open talking about tampons, cups, pads, cramps, bleeding a lot, sore tits, moodiness, anything!"

It's weird, because you're not supposed to cook certain things or it will spoil. As a hairdresser, clients once in a blue moon ask if you're on your period (if so, it's thought you'll mess up their hair), but if you talk about it, you're demonized.

But, lately, every woman I know — young ones, older ones, all girls — seems a lot more open to talk about tampons, cups, pads, cramps, bleeding a lot, sore tits, moodiness, anything! So eventually, menstruating and women's health will not be as taboo as they used to be.

—Isabely, Brazil

29. "Women have started to embrace their bodies along with everything that comes out of it... Now if the patriarchy could catch up that would be great."

instagram.com / Via instagram.com

I'm glad my mother chose to speak to me so openly about it — and at the age of 9! Most of my friends had no idea what it was and I remember many of them getting scared their first time. It made me realize the level of taboo surrounding such a natural normal occurrence. Things are changing, though, and feminism is on the rise. Women have started to embrace their bodies, along with everything that comes out of it. It's a good time to be a woman. Now if the patriarchy could catch up that would be great. Mmmkay?

—Mia, 26, Indian national born and raised in the Middle East

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What does period-shaming look and feel like for you? Let us know in the comments.

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