Menstruation consideration — talks on periods, tampons, cramps and more

(Photo by Elizabeth Van Dam/Flickr)

(Photo by Elizabeth Van Dam/Flickr)

In many, many places across the world, periods are considered shameful, disgusting and taboo things. It’s considered normal to for women to be in pain during their period, to be afraid to ask for feminine products and to not talk about menstruation publicly. Recently, states in the U.S. have hosted highly contentious debates about whether tampons and sanitary pads should be taxed as luxury items, and just this year, the Mayor of New York signed a bill to guarantee access to feminine products in schools, shelters and jails.

At TEDx events around the world, speakers are talking about menstruation. Below, talks on tampons, healthcare, education and more:

“Who decided that toilet paper is free and tampons aren’t? Who decided that paper towels, soap, seat covers are free and tampons aren’t?”

When Nancy Kramer walked into the bathroom at Apple, she found free tampons and pads, something she’d never seen in any other office. At TEDxColumbus, she shares her plan for radical bathroom equality, which includes free menstruation supplies for all women.

“We grow up in a society where we learn it is okay for a woman to be in pain, as if it is something normal and should be expected.”

Blasé attitudes toward period pain stop women from getting treatment they need, says journalist Carine El Boustani at TEDxLAU. After ending up in the hospital from extreme menstrual cramps, El Boustani was diagnosed with endometriosis, a disorder that affects one in ten women, in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus and causes severe pain. In her talk, El Boustani urges us to take period pain seriously and speak up for women experiencing it.

“I got my first period when I was 12. I was told to keep it a secret from others — even from my father and brother — as if it were some kind of unspeakable sin.”

Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul created a comic book to teach young people in India about menstruation and fight a culture of shame and lack of information. At a time when over 88% of girls and women in India use unhygienic ways to manage their menstrual cycles, including ashes and husk sand, and 90% of women surveyed across five different states in the country didn’t know what a menstrual period was before they had their first menses, accurate, accessible, and clear information is vital, say Gupta and Paul at TEDxBangalore.

“Menstrual health is often overlooked when it comes to international humanitarian interventions.”

When traveling in East Africa, Sabrina Rubli met Rachel, a woman whose arts collective raised money to buy sanitary pads. Rachel’s work drove Rubli to learn more about menstrual health around the world, an issue she found surprisingly underrepresented in social work. “Menstruation is one of the biggest reasons why girls in developing nations miss school once they reach adolescence,” Rubli says at TEDxUW. “[This] puts the girls at a distinct disadvantage compared to male counterparts.” In this engaging talk, Rubli makes a case for fighting for girls’ menstrual rights around the world.

“It’s really weird that we talk about guns and violence all the time, but periods are considered gross.”

Sophie Houser and Andy Gonzales are co-creators of Tampon Run, a video game designed to fight the menstruation taboo teens like them face. In a talk at TEDxYouth@Hewitt, the high schoolers explain why they created the game, how it opened their eyes to the lack of women in STEM fields and why they are proud to be girls who code.

“Menstruation is one of the last taboos of our society, even though a woman spends more than 3,000 days of her life on her period.”

Annemarie Harant and Bettina Steinbrugger founded the German site, Erdbeerwoche (Strawberry Week), an information portal (and shop) dedicated to sustainable solutions for menstruation care. “A woman spends more than 3,000 days of her life on her period,” the women say at TEDxDonauinsel, but yet so many people are afraid to talk about the process of menstruation. How can we talk about the environmental impact of menstruation, they ask, if no one will even talk about periods?

“When I attended a film festival in New York, passport control asked me what I was doing in the US. I said that I got invited to a film festival, that I have a documentary about menstruation. Right away he took me to the terrorist department.”

Diana Fabianova has directed two documentaries on menstruation — The Moon Inside You and Monthlies — the latter dedicated to teaching Slovakian boys and girls about periods. At TEDxBratislava, she explains what she’s learned from the process, shares stories collected from showing the films and rallies against menstrual misconception and stigma that prevent women from receiving proper healthcare and health education.

Share and watch all of the talks here.

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