“We have to struggle to hide it, worry about being exposed, and feel ashamed when it happens. It prevents us from demanding more knowledge, better care, more effective menstrual hygiene products, lower prices, and more research. The silence strips us of our power,” stated author and journalist Anna Dahlqvist, editor-in-chief at Sweden’s Ottar magazine, a publication focusing on sexual politics.
She was speaking to Gabby Edlin, the founder of Bloody Good Period, during an event that coincided with the launch of Dahlqvist’s debut book, It’s Only Blood. Alongside the chat, the pair urged listeners to recognise the extremity of period poverty, that is sadly, widespread and far-reaching.
“Can you tell us about your new book and what you’re hoping to achieve through it’s publication?” continued Edlin. “It’s Only Blood tells the stories of some of the 2,000,000,000 people who experience menstruation. I met and interviewed individuals across the world—from Bangladesh to Sweden, Uganda to the United States—the book reveals the inspirational courage of those who are fighting back against this stigma”.
Essentially, It’s Only Blood is made-up of a series of interviews with women from all over the world. Together, they offer up their personal experiences with period poverty, which for the large part, they continue to face daily. Below are some of the best insights from the talk, that help us to shine a light on the secrecy shrouding periods, the women who inspired Dahlqvists’s book and why period poverty is an epidemic that needs immediate redress.
Taboo is founded in silence
“Invisible menstrual protection is a virtue. Tellingly, Always products are sold under the name Whisper in Asian countries like India, China, and Japan. This goes hand-in-hand with ‘the great silence’ - that is, the notion that menstruation is not an appropriate topic of conversation other than in very particular private situations.”
Lack of education incites fear and in some cases, fatalities
“How many menstruators do not understand what is happening when they get their first period? There are no statistics to cover all the billions of menstruators in the world, no estimation of menstrual preparation at a global level. Menstrual knowledge is difficult to combine with one of the fundamental, global rules of menstruation: the one about silence. Certain things manage to get through. Secrecy. Cleanliness and dirt. Sex and boys. But facts bounce against false notions and numerous myths. The image of what happens inside the body is blurry. The strategies for managing the blood are haphazard”.
Women shouldn't need to use makeshift sanitary products, but they do
“Around 90% of the approximately 4,000,000 people who work in textile factories in Bangladesh are women and therefore, there are millions of menstruating textile workers. Here, pads are seen as a luxury product and therefore not appropriate for a textile worker with very limited resources. Pads are something the rich can treat themselves to, not a necessity for the one who menstruates.
Instead, the women resort to ‘joot’, which is the small leftover pieces of fabric that end up on the floor of the textile factories. They are not big enough for T-shirts, dresses, or even pockets. Instead, they become menstrual protection for the millions of menstruators who work in the textile industry in Bangladesh. They take a fistful of joot and push it down their panties. The cloth is then washed during brief moments of solitude but never dries completely in dark corners. Cloth is all too often washed in dirty water without soap”.
Our bodies face ironic, double standards
“Our bodies are celebrated when we bear children. But menstruation - a prerequisite for pregnancy - is something that we are expected to hide. Menstruating bodies quickly turn from miracle makers into polluters. The stain becomes a mark of shame. It’s only blood”.