Menstruation Around the World is series from Vulvani that attempts to show the diversity of menstrual experiences around the world. We portray people from different countries with their personal stories. Let us explore the wonderful and so diverse world of menstrual experiences together. How about we start with a story about period in Argentina?
Ariadna is not only the translator of Lara Bridens book Period Repair Manual, she has her own period story to tell! She tells us about her experience of getting your period in Argentina, the story of how she found about menstruation and her journey to a period positive life.
Name: Ariadna (Ari)
Gender / Sex: female
Country of birth: Argentina
Home: Aarhus, Denmark
Job: Translator and bilingual content writer
Age at first period: 13
Favorite period product: Menstrual cup
Cost per menstruation: I’ve had the cup since 2018, it cost 145dkk at the time. I also bought a pair of period panties last year, it was 150dkk.
Contraception: Fertility Awareness Method
How is the period seen in your family, culture and even Argentina?
Well, in my home country, Argentina, period was a taboo when I was growing up. It wasn’t until very recently (maybe five years ago?) that menstruation became a more open topic. I also must admit that after I worked on the translation of Lara Briden’s book Period Repair Manual, my whole vision of menstrual education changed 100 %.
How and by whom were you educated about your period in Argentina?
I had sex ed at school in Argentina, but it wasn’t enough. They tend to teach you about the biological process going on in your body, focusing entirely on the reproductive part. They tell you that your period comes every 28 days and that’s all. Teachers don’t teach you about pads, tampons, or any other alternative.
A day at the beach or how I found out about the period in Argentina
I do have a story to tell about the first time I heard menstruation existed. I remember vividly one family holiday I had when I was about eight years old. My family used to spend every summer in a beautiful city by the sea, in Argentina. We usually went there with other families who were either relatives or friends of my parents with their children. Gee, I loved those summers! This city used to be safe so as children, we were out by ourselves most of the time. One day, I was out strolling on the beach with two of my older girlfriends. I was eight, so they must have been around twelve and 14 years old.
Suddenly, the oldest girl started saying that we had to go back to the house immediately. IMMEDIATELY. I was shocked because that behaviour was so odd. Why would we go inside in such great weather? Then, right when I was about to ask what was going on, I looked at her and saw that she had blood running down her legs. I couldn’t really figure out where the blood was coming from and I thought it was so weird that she wasn’t even looking at it, so I just asked: “Why are you bleeding? Are you hurt?” She seemed so embarrassed by my question. She started giggling and said, “Hasn’t your mom explained to you what happens to women at the beginning of their teenage years?”
Her tone was so condescending that it made me think of some sort of secret I was obviously supposed to know about. I had no clue what she meant. So, though embarrassed, I was plain honest and said ‘no’. After some more giggling, she noticed that embarrassment had shifted from her to me. I had no idea what was going on! She stopped her nervous laughter abruptly.
THE Talk with the fam
Patiently, she started describing what menstruation was. She didn’t use any funny words I wouldn’t be able to understand. She was extremely clear and graphic. I was amazed. ‘So, is that how we know we are ready to have a child? Is that how we go from girls to women?’ Once we got to the house, I ran to tell my mom what an educational stroll I’d had. My mom was chatting with some other grown-ups. I went straight to her, filled with excitement, and burst out: “Mom! Jess is menstruating! She told me all about it, and now I know what that means!”
Everybody stared at me. Men were looking at women, puzzled. Women were looking at me, blushing, as if I had said something forbidden. My mom took me to the other room and tenderly explained that I wasn’t supposed to bring up menstruation in front of others – let alone men. She answered all my questions about it, but she made her point over and over again: periods were women’s stuff, and I wasn’t supposed to talk about them so ‘freely’.
Tell us a little about your first period in Argentina!
Well, after hearing about menstruation from my friend Jess, I thought I knew what was coming. It turns out, I didn’t. My first period came on May 25th, 1998. It’s a public holiday in Argentina, as we celebrate our country’s independence on that day. So, because it was a public holiday, I was at my grandma’s. I was honestly expecting red blood, I had no idea my first period would be brown, and kind of scarce. I had no clue what was going on! Too embarrassed to ask my grandma, I called my mom, and she told me it was probably my first period. My grandma gave me some pantiliners she had in her bathroom, and that was it.
How do you feel about your own menstruation?
To be honest, before I learned properly about how my cycle works, I used to hate it. Period positivity is something that I learned in the last few years. There’s another concept that helped me a lot, body-literacy. When you’re able to fully understand what’s going on, how your hormonal fluctuations work, how to respect your body during every phase of your menstrual cycle, your whole life changes.
Which menstrual products have you already tried?
My favourite product is the menstrual cup. I’ve had my own since 2018, and I don’t know how I survived 20 years of menstruation without it. By using it, I can see the real colour of my blood, I noticed that it doesn’t smell – at least, it doesn’t stink; it has a rather earthy aroma. I can see when and if there are blood clots, and I realised that I don’t bleed as much as I thought. The cup is also a friend of the environment, which is one of its most important advantages. Apart from this, I combine the cup with cloth pads and period panties, both great alternatives.
What do you like to do when on your period?
I like to rest if that’s what my body needs. I also write a lot (FYI, I’m on my period right now!) because I usually feel reflexive during these days. Besides, I typically wear comfortable clothes, and if I feel like it, I work out. What I don’t like to do is force myself to attend social meetings when I need to rest.
How are you feeling when menstruating? Do you experience period pain?
It depends on every cycle, but I usually experience some tolerable pain. I know it’s not severe because I feel relieved after I take some painkiller. I attempt to avoid wheat, dairy, and alcohol the week before my period comes, as these are inflammatory foods, and they don’t help at all during my bleeding days.
Who are you talking to about your period in Argentina?
Nowadays, everyone. It is a field I work with quite a lot as a translator, so I talk a lot about the menstrual cycle with my friends, my family, and over social media. Sometimes, especially on social media, random people ask me questions about their periods, fertility, or sex life. I feel great when I’m able to help them, but I always feel the need of reminding them that I’m not a doctor, so I can speak only for what I’ve learned from my work and from my own cycle.
Do you have a particular funny, embarrassing, or important story about your period in Argentina?
An adult (non-menstruating) man once asked me if I had to take my menstrual cup off every time I went to pee. I answered ‘no’, but I couldn’t really understand where this was coming from. He seemed confused, trying to figure out how my pee would come out if the cup would be there blocking the way out. After my initial shock, I explained a bit about the anatomy of a menstruating person, and he was genuinely surprised.
Period in Argentina – What else can you tell us?
Just some random thoughts I’ve been having for a while. Have you ever felt identified with commercials telling you that your period is blue? Or that while menstruating, you should feel as good as ever; or that you can wear white pants? No menstruator in the history of humanity has had blue blood; has felt perfect or has wanted to wear white pants during her period. The world needs way more menstrual education. One that explains real issues in a way that we can all understand. I wish I knew menstruation doesn’t mean going from being a child to being an adult. How can you be an adult when you’re twelve?
I wish someone had told me that excruciating menstrual pain is NOT normal. How can it be normal to feel your guts are about to explode? I wish I knew then and there about the menstrual cup, such a fantastic and environmental-friendly product that helped me see my menstrual blood just as it is. However, there’s still hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Like Lara Briden says at the beginning of her book, Period Repair Manual: “Something BIG is happening in period health.” We have woken up to learn so much about our menstrual cycles in the last few years. Even Disney is talking about periods now! Things are finally changing. It was about time.
Do you want to become part of ‘Menstruation around the world’?
We hope to be able to present the portraits of menstruating people as varied and diverse as possible. And for this we need you – no matter how you feel about your own menstruation or where you come from! If you would like to be part of this series and share your personal experiences and thoughts about menstruation with us, please write us a message or simply fill out this questionnaire (anonymously is also possible). We are already looking forward to sharing your story with the Vulvani community!