Period euphemisms: Call it by its name, period.

by Rocio
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Why do men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion peo¬≠ple call their period Bloody Mary or Straw¬≠berry week? The rea¬≠son a lot of peo¬≠ple use these period euphemisms is because they are ashamed to talk about the real thing: their period. But why is that and how can we stop this period shame? Roc√≠o has some answers for us:

Chil¬≠dren start ask¬≠ing ques¬≠tions at an incred¬≠i¬≠bly young age. They start ask¬≠ing ‚Äúwhy‚ÄĚ to any sen¬≠tence they hear, and they stop when they can look for the answers by them¬≠selves. To put it another way, curios¬≠ity is in human nature, and adults love to expand the knowl¬≠edge of those lit¬≠tle human beings with all kinds of expla¬≠na¬≠tions and words. Well, mostly. There are some con¬≠ver¬≠sa¬≠tions that seem to be eas¬≠ier than oth¬≠ers, like, appar¬≠ently, the one about peri¬≠ods

A sur­vey, thou­sands of results

When peo¬≠ple talk about men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion, this word and its syn¬≠onym period seem to be the Lord Volde¬≠mort (aka He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) of this world. In 2016, Hel¬≠loClue pub¬≠lished the results of an inter¬≠na¬≠tional sur¬≠vey where they gath¬≠ered all the euphemisms used for the word period. The results were aston¬≠ish¬≠ing. They dis¬≠cov¬≠ered over 5,000 period euphemisms, from unique words to whole sen¬≠tences that in some cases rhyme or are related to his¬≠tor¬≠i¬≠cal events. Con¬≠sid¬≠er¬≠ing that fig¬≠ure, one could think that it must be the only word with so many euphemisms that describes a bio¬≠log¬≠i¬≠cal func¬≠tion of ‚Äúonly‚Äô‚ÄĚ half the pop¬≠u¬≠la¬≠tion. But why? Why have we turned the word period in such a taboo

Basi¬≠cally, we use euphemisms when we want to avoid say¬≠ing some¬≠thing that is rather unpleas¬≠ant or offen¬≠sive. In that case, we could say that the words period or men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion must have gained those con¬≠no¬≠ta¬≠tions through¬≠out the years. How¬≠ever, how exactly did peri¬≠ods become offen¬≠sive? Is it that peo¬≠ple nat¬≠u¬≠rally felt some¬≠how ashamed and they wanted to avoid the issue? Or is it rather that other fac¬≠tors (cul¬≠ture, reli¬≠gion, etc.) made peo¬≠ple feel ashamed towards peri¬≠ods? Maybe both?

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Cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal back­ground of period euphemisms

The his¬≠to¬≠rian Greg Jen¬≠ner wrote about the his¬≠tory of men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion, men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts in his¬≠tory, etc. in this post. He also pointed out some curiosi¬≠ties that could have shaped the soci¬≠eties as we know them today. For exam¬≠ple, hav¬≠ing a men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion for some reli¬≠gions could be a syn¬≠onym of impu¬≠rity. As he notes, this, together with the odour of blood, the pain and the fears related to the blood itself would have made peo¬≠ple avoid talk¬≠ing about peri¬≠ods. I mean, would you blame them? How¬≠ever, what could have hap¬≠pened in the past is exactly what Kofi Agyekum points out in Men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion as a Ver¬≠bal Taboo among the Akan of Ghana: ‚Äúas men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion, a recur¬≠rent event in human life, can¬≠not be avoided in con¬≠ver¬≠sa¬≠tions, strate¬≠gies for mak¬≠ing it speak¬≠able need to be found‚ÄĚ.

Should we really worry about using period euphemisms?

‚ÄúAlright, I get you, but why talk about period euphemisms when we should be fight¬≠ing for real issues like equal pay?‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúWhy aren‚Äôt you just thank¬≠ful for what you have and let oth¬≠ers say what they want to?‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúYou should be wor¬≠ry¬≠ing about those who don‚Äôt have the same rights as you do and stop think¬≠ing about such things‚ÄĚ. I am sure you have heard or maybe even thought some¬≠thing like this at some point.

Actu¬≠ally, it turns out that it is not only about using cer¬≠tain words. If you are ashamed of talk¬≠ing about peri¬≠ods, how would you feel if you could not afford period sup¬≠plies? Only in Berlin, approx¬≠i¬≠mately 70% of 11,100 home¬≠less womxn are men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tors. This could imply that their access to men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts could be hin¬≠dered or even non-existent.

Roc√≠o, period euphemisms, code words for period, slang for period, euphemisms for menstruation, slang terms for period, period slang, another word for menstruation, funny period synonyms, funny period names, menstruation slang terms, Umschreibung f√ľr Periode, witzige Umschreibung f√ľr Periode, Synonyme Periode, synonyms period, Codewort Periode, Tante Rosa Periode, Rote Armee Periode, Periode zu Besuch, Slangw√∂rter f√ľr Periode, Euphemismen f√ľr die Menstruation, Perioden-Euphemismen, anderes Wort f√ľr Menstruation, lustige Synonyme Periode, Perioden-Slang, Vulvani

Impli¬≠ca¬≠tions of not fight¬≠ing the period taboo cycle

Yet, you don‚Äôt need to be home¬≠less to not be able to buy essen¬≠tial prod¬≠ucts. There are teenage/children men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tors grow¬≠ing up with the idea that peri¬≠ods are so shame¬≠ful they can¬≠not even use the word. If these chil¬≠dren needed men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts that they could not afford, they could start, for exam¬≠ple, miss¬≠ing classes while they are on their peri¬≠ods. Con¬≠se¬≠quently, as Amika George states in ‚ÄúThe Power of the Period‚ÄĚ, this sit¬≠u¬≠a¬≠tion could ‚Äú[‚Ķ] cre¬≠ate a mark gen¬≠der divide in edu¬≠ca¬≠tional pro¬≠gres¬≠sion, leav¬≠ing these girls trapped in the clutches of poverty and depri¬≠va¬≠tion‚ÄĚ. As pointed out, this gen¬≠der divide orig¬≠i¬≠nally started with shame of talk¬≠ing about peri¬≠ods and the lack of men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts. How¬≠ever, it can develop and grow until it affects every aspect of our soci¬≠ety nowa¬≠days.

Cur¬≠rent trends and new inven¬≠tions would be signs of being on the right track. At least, that is what I thought until I recently read the news about this three guys‚Äô ‚Äúinno¬≠v¬≠a¬≠tive‚ÄĚ idea. Peri¬≠ods are not dis¬≠gust¬≠ing, and we can¬≠not let peo¬≠ple think they are and/or be dis¬≠gusted by our own peri¬≠ods. We know bet¬≠ter now. By using the proper nouns, we can stop the cycle of shame! After all, there is noth¬≠ing more pow¬≠er¬≠ful than words and we need to use the right ones.

Embrac¬≠ing peri¬≠ods for a future with¬≠out shame

This change may not come eas¬≠ily, but I do believe in the power of the next gen¬≠er¬≠a¬≠tions of peo¬≠ple. We are wit¬≠ness¬≠ing this change in all the new apps, men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts, etc. being cre¬≠ated, and all the data being gath¬≠ered and pub¬≠lished. Our only duty now, as Chi¬≠ma¬≠manda Ngozi Adichie advices in her A Fem¬≠i¬≠nist Man¬≠i¬≠festo in Fif¬≠teen Sug¬≠ges¬≠tions, is to keep teach¬≠ing peo¬≠ple ‚Äúto reject the link¬≠ing of shame and female biol¬≠ogy‚ÄĚ. Ulti¬≠mately, and I quote her, ‚ÄúPeri¬≠ods are nor¬≠mal and nat¬≠ural, and the human species would not be here if peri¬≠ods did not exist‚ÄĚ.

Published at 20. August 2021
Rocío is an English and German to Spanish translator specialized in IT and Health sectors and living in Germany. Feminist since she learnt about the word in high school, she enrolled in a university project about Women and Science that aimed to increase the visibility of scientist women in Wikipedia and bridge the gender gap on the platform. After completing a Master’s Degree on Medicine and Healthcare Translation, she studies the way of giving women’s health the space it deserves using the most powerful tool: words. You can find her and connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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