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Periods / Ali Horsfall

How We’re Fighting Back Against Online Period Shame

It goes without saying that here at Pink Parcel HQ, we’re all about period positivity. We’re working super-hard to smash menstrual myths, taboos and prejudice and we want to make real progress when it comes to educating women, girls, and the world about periods.

Sadly though, there’s clearly still a long way to go – with period negativity surrounding the majority of content found online, further perpetuating period shame among women as a result. Yep, we’re talking about those cringy pics of hot water bottle clutching, PJ wearing women in oodles of pain. Hardly realistic are they?

According to new research, commissioned as part of our I’M ON campaign to challenge negative perceptions of periods, it was found that a whopping 91% of online images show women to be weak, sad, or vulnerable, when they’ve got their period.

Punch the word “periods” into Google, search a stock image website or even give NHS online a quick scroll and it’s likely you’ll find images depicting menstruating women as helpless and emotional, reveals the research.

Of the period-related images, 40% showed women clutching stomachs in crippling pain, 52% showed women laying down, and 49% featured women in pyjamas. Less than a fifth of images portrayed women laughing or socialising and less than 10% showed a woman at work or playing sport. The online searches also depicted women as angry or with furrowed brows and frowns when they have their period with a further linguistic analysis revealing the negatively spilled over into language when writing about periods too.

So how are these neggy, and quite frankly miserable, messages making us feel? Well unsurprisingly not at all kick-ass and unstoppable. Over half of the women quizzed said that the dramatised online content is not reflective of their actual experience of periods, with 21% admitting that these negative depictions actually make them feel ugly and/or embarrassed. Boo.

Plus the cyber shame doesn’t stop at images of real people. Even cartoons were found guilty of misleading and unfair stereotyping. Over two thirds of images generated when searching for ‘period pictures’ showed animated women crying, in a pool of blood or ferociously angry, along with many internet memes also serving as ‘warnings’ for men to steer clear of women during the time of the month. Charming.

So the Pink Parcel I’M ON campaign is all about bringing this to the surface in a bid to challenge society’s negative impressions of periods and make people think differently about something natural, normal and that affects 50% of the population.

I’M ON also sees a collective of top fashion figures collaborate to design a range of empowering slogan tees combatting the public’s view of bleeding women.

The collective is made up of British fashion designer Olivia Rubin, style influencer and activist Natalie Lee (Style Me Sunday), former fashion editors Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton – the driving forces behind podcast sensation The High Low. These industry icons have designed a collection of limited edition t-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with period positive slogans, in an effort to combat negative stereotypes and empower, educate and inspire women to talk openly and honestly about menstruation.

With research finding over a third of women use the phrase ‘I’m on’ to describe being on their period, shying away from including the word ‘period’, the I’M ON collection turns the phrase on its head, featuring a selection of powerful statements and quirky quips such as ‘I’m on the up’, ‘I’m on a roll’, ‘I’m on it’ and ‘I’m on and I’m strong’.

The I’M ON t-shirts will be available here, with £5 from each sale being donated to Bloody Good Period which aims to create a sustainable flow of period essentials for those who can’t afford to buy it.

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