This Is What Period-Shaming Looks Like Around The World
"Pads will be wrapped in a newspaper when they're purchased."
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?
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."
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.'"
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."
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?'"
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!!!
9. "Asking for pads or tampons using secret codes is just reinforcing the idea that periods are something wrong or something shameful."
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."
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.'"
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
25. "My mother was very cross with me, telling me I should take better care to wear thicker pads."
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."
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.
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."
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.