Besides the ubiquitous pad and tampon commercials featuring blue liquid poured onto a pad and very happy women frolicking around like they were definitely not on their periods, my first time hearing menstruation talked about openly was in a classroom when I was eleven. All the girls were ushered into a room, a TV was wheeled out, and we watched a very cheesy video about a girl who gets her period while at a sleepover. Her friend's mother promptly explained the female reproductive system by making pancakes in the shape of a uterus. I remember my friends and I were incredibly grossed out by pancakes for quite a long time.
Looking back, I wish the boys had been included. Why did they not think menstruation was something boys should know about when half the world deals with it for what amounts to years of their total life? How are men to understand menstruation when they have never been taught and have only have ever heard jokes about women being emotional or crazy because they were on their period? How are they to conceptualize menstruation when women feel they cannot talk about it and ads shown on TV depicting menstruation show drops of blue water poured on white pads and happy women dancing?
Perhaps this is why women's health is so neglected across the world. Society tends to see a women's pain as something for her alone to deal with on her own, quietly or silently. Women bear the burden of all the symptoms of menstruation and our social, economic, and health systems often ignore or actively deny any reprieve.
Despite a woman's reproductive system bringing every person into this world, it was not deemed important in my school for boys to learn about. Or even, really, for the girls. The reproductive system was completely glossed over in most of my biology classes. Somehow dissecting frogs was seen as more crucial to a students knowledge than discussing our own bodies.
But we have to talk about it. Openly, unabashedly, and with males as well as females. Sons need to be taught as well as daughters, at home and in schools. To remove the stigma and advance women's health, menstruation can't be seen as just a women's issue.
What about you, dear sisters? Were you taught about menstruation in school? Were the boys taught, too? Do you still struggle to talk openly about it? Are you teaching your children, your students, or the men in your life about menstruation?