What I Learned and What the Boys Didn't

Kay Link
Posted May 14, 2019 from United States
The worst advertising: blue liquid representing menstruation.

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?

This story was submitted in response to Menstruation Matters.

Comments 4

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Sis. Salifu
May 14
May 14

Haha, they think they are men meanwhile they are boys. I think its with the upbringing. Some boys know menses at the finger tips. To others its like a dark glasses ha.
Yes I was thought in school but it was after I made mockery of myself first haha. Thanks for sharing

Dawn Arteaga
May 15
May 15

I remember the TV in the classroom and the cheesy video too. In mine the mom said to the daughter, “You’re a woman now, let’s get ice cream!” I thought that was so cheesy my mom and I decided our code word for when I got my period would be me telling her, “let’s get ice cream.” When it finally happened- I remember feeling like all my friends got their periods before I did - I met my mom after school and said, “let’s get ice cream.” My mom just looked at me strangely and said, “not today.” I had to repeat myself several times, with meaning, before she got it! The next thing I remember my mom had gone to the grocery store and bought every pad and tampon in the store and a huge bunch of flowers. I thought that was really embarrassing but looking back it seems very sweet.

I love your point that all kids need to watch those cheesy videos together so we can laugh together at the bad acting and not feel like it’s something to be ashamed of.

Thanks for sharing your story Kay!

Jill Langhus
May 16
May 16

Hi Kay,

How are you? This made me laugh, but it shouldn't have. You are too right. This is exactly the experience I had. Boys going off in one direction, knowing much more than I did already, and the girls in the "video" room. And, yes, the boys absolutely should be in that room, and this should also be taught in Biology. I hoped that younger generations that me had received better menstruation education after me. Shocking really. What also occurred to me is how the my male co-workers don't want to talk about it either, even ones that have families already. Also shocking. I had a boss that stopped me from talking about my OB-GYN appointment because "a female co-worker had told him too much before." And another co-worker previous to that trying to tell me the men's bathroom was cleanlier than the woman's because "of all of that going on down there!" Wow! Yeah, those two instances really stuck out in my mind. So much shame surrounding this natural, and quite beautiful process. So much needs to change around this topic, in so many areas of the world.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

Hope you're having a great day and week!

Beth Lacey
May 16
May 16

Hi, Kay. You make an excellent point.
PS- I don't think I'll be having pancakes for a while either :-)

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