Half of the population experiences it monthly. And all of us just exist because of it. Menstruation is not only a “normal” but crucial bodily function for the continuation of the human race – in fact, it is the sign of feminine potency and fertility.
Yet, periods are considered a social “taboo”, connected to shame or even disgust.
Throughout history, in many different cultures ideas of impurity have been linked to menstruation and taught through religion, superstition or cultural practices. The overall effect is that women are placed in a different social category and this allows them to be controlled and oppressed.
In modern (western) societies, these ideas have not disappeared –but have changed form. Today, we don’t talk about purity. We talk about hygiene.
Franka Frei, a writer, reporter and activist based in Berlin went viral in September 2018 when she shared a Facebook Post detailing the challenges she faced from the administration of her German university, while writing her B.A thesis about this topic – coordinators thought it was “too taboo”.
Not only did Franka write her thesis but recently completed a research trip to South Asia to find out about the roots of an ancient taboo in different societies, how “feminine hygiene” industries are picking up on it and how these factors have an impact on the environment, the economy and the relationship between body and mind.
Looking at menstruation, a gendered bodily function, and how it is portrayed in media and society means not only discussing biology – but also gender, poverty, equality on a global scale and overall, the link between patriarchy and capitalism.