Tackling the Taboo of Menstruation

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For almost a decade I wouldn’t step foot in the menstrual product aisle at a grocery store- doing so would be confronting the most prevalent taboo in my life.

For a long time I wouldn’t, couldn’t, talk about periods. Not unlike many other tweens, I had no idea what the hell was going on when it first happened. No one was talking about periods outside of the occasional whispers during recess, and moms were hiding their pads and tampons under the bathroom sink. The message was clear to me early on- shhh, it’s a secret.

And now we’re here.

Again.

Had you told 11-year-old Sierra that one day she’d be a 20-year-old college student writing about her period for a newspaper for the second time she probably would have, well…not said anything. Y’know, because of the whole ‘shhh, it’s a secret’ thing.

I knew that putting a bloody tampon on the cover of my college newspaper would be an unorthodox choice, but I was unprepared for the can of worms that I opened. I may have been a little blinded by the fact that I had convinced anyone that this was important enough to be front page news.

Within hours of the papers hitting the stands I had received mixed reviews. Two strangers told me that it was “offensive”, dirty looks were thrown my way, my own advisor called it “graphic” and yet I also had many positive interactions. As they were being delivered multiple people asked for one, and I received several emails commending me for talking about such a taboo topic. Positive or negative, I was just proud that I had made strangers think about an issue that was under discussed.

Within a few days my inbox was empty again, which comes with the job. It was now yesterday’s news, though it’s still an issue that I will continue to fight for. However, I wasn’t prepared for the new wave of critics that followed. The silent ones.

Shortly after publication I began noticing something: more often than not, when I walked by a new stand the front page was covered in some ways. The first few times I thought little of it, but two months later and the occurrences still haven’t waned.

Every morning I walk through Brier and into Mountlake Terrace for my 10:30 psychology class, and almost every morning without fail I find myself fixing one of the three stands on my way. Usually they’re just flipped over, or something from a different paper stand has been used to cover the image. Sometimes they get creative, such as smearing food on the top paper. On more than one occasion I’ve come up to a stand to find an invitation to accept Jesus Christ as my lord and savior.

I was prepared for opinions, for counter-arguments, but I did not consider that there would be some so opposed to talking about it that they would not only avoid the topic themselves, but try to hinder others from educating themselves as well. I suppose I shouldn’t have been so naive considering my own past reluctance.

While at the time I didn’t consider how evasive people would be when confronted with the topic, I have since realized that that’s exactly why broached it myself. No one was talking about it. Someone had to, and I was in the position to be that person.

A lot of conversations have started because of this choice. Multiple teachers have devoted entire class periods to talking about it. Our student government allowed me to present the issue to them, leading to further discussions which jump started a second, as well as more official survey seeking to learn the extent of period poverty in our community. Check your EdMail account for a link to this survey.

In the meantime The Triton Review and the Wellness Center are collaborating and will be hosting a menstrual product drive on May 20 and 21, where we will be accepting donations of menstrual products, as well as cash to purchase more, to be distributed on campus.

I would like to thank our local Value Village, as they have donated hundreds of menstrual product to the drive in order to make menstrual products accessible to staff and students.