To mention menstruation is still taboo in some societies, but the film industry is attempting to counter the stigma.
Period. End of Sentence, a documentary about periods, won the best short documentary at this year’s Oscars, marking a big step in recognising the experience of women and of access to sanitary products.
The film focuses on women in India who don’t have access to menstrual products and the effect this has on their lives – including an end to their education.
One young woman in the documentary says: “I studied until I reached middle school, but when I started having periods, it became really challenging. When I got my period it was very tough for me to change clothes. I had to go somewhere far off.”
Globally, activists, including celebrities, have been vocal about “normalising” periods on social media.
Demetra Nyx, a sex coach from California, shared an image on Instagram of her face smeared with menstrual blood to show periods were “beautiful and powerful”.
Her series of photos was an effort to take a stand against the stigma surrounding periods.
The advertising industry has been slow in its response to the stigma. Even when an attempt is made to advertise menstrual products, blood is depicted as an unrealistic blue liquid.
In South Africa this month a campaign is being launched, #BloodNormal, by global feminine hygiene brand Libresse to spark more conversations about the subject. The campaign aims to encourage positive cultural change around euphemisms through a short film that hopes to end period shaming by showing realistic depictions of periods.
Scenes showing a man buying pads, a woman asking for a pad across the dinner table in an audible voice and school children passing a pad across the classroom, send a strong visual message that periods are normal.
Towards the end of the film, we see women who are in pain, while the blue liquid has at last been replaced with red.
Libresse brand manager Mpho Nojiwa said: “There has been a huge gap in health education on puberty and adolescence. It is crucial that we engage girls in health education in order to demystify menstrual-related myths and break down societal taboos.”.
The campaign hits the SA market at the same time as trending news that a set of “period emojis” depicting a red droplet of blood, ovaries, a pad etc, will be introduced in the next emoji collection for phones this month.
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, an advocate of reproductive justice, says conversation and education around menstruation are vital.
“Women across the world have to hide, be ashamed and some even die because of the exclusion they go through when they are having their periods.
“The sooner we get the conversation about menstruation to women around the world, even those in disadvantaged areas, the better. And when we are having this conversation, boys shouldn’t be left behind.”