*Note: terms related to gender iden­tit­ies are explained in the info box.*

Why gender-inclus­ive lan­guage is so import­ant when talk­ing about menstruation

Espe­cially mar­ket­ing mes­sages and products are strongly designed to sup­posed gender-spe­cific char­ac­ter­ist­ics, as is the case with men­strual products as well. Men­stru­ation is still far too often asso­ci­ated only with girls and women. Now you may still think, yes, that’s how it is! But not all women men­stru­ate and not all who identify them­selves as women men­stru­ate.  Say what? Even trans-, non-bin­ary or gender-neut­ral people can bleed monthly. The present­a­tion of men­stru­ation as an exper­i­ence shared exclus­ively by women is there­fore not com­pletely right. Cis-sex­ist assump­tions about peri­ods and bod­ies can exclude and dis­crim­in­ate against cer­tain indi­vidu­als. There­fore, we use the term ‘men­stru­at­ing people’ or ‘men­stru­at­ors’ and try not to speak of women or girls. This is our attempt to start includ­ing all people who have men­strual exper­i­ences lin­guist­ic­ally. Because lan­guage matters.

Not all women menstruate

Another import­ant aspect in this con­text is that not all cis-women men­stru­ate. This can have dif­fer­ent reas­ons, such as men­o­pause, stress or hys­ter­ec­tomy (sur­gical removal of the uterus). Some cis-women may have never had their men­stru­ation due to health con­di­tions. How­ever, the lack of men­stru­ation does not make them less of a woman than those who bleed monthly. It is import­ant for state­ments that define men­stru­ation as a pure source of fem­in­in­ity to pay atten­tion to what the effects of such claims can have on people. Because with these mes­sages the exper­i­ences of indi­vidual people can be made invis­ible and the nor­mal­ity of the bin­ary gender sys­tem will be fur­ther supported.

INFO-BOX: What gender iden­tit­ies are out there? And what do the terms mean?

Lan­guage can be com­plic­ated and defin­i­tions can be contover­sial. There are still no expres­sions or terms with which all people feel 100 per­cent com­fort­able. How­ever, one thing is cer­tain: people who do not feel that they are women or men essen­tially ques­tion the idea that gender = gen­it­als. For a bet­ter com­pre­hens­ib­il­ity of the text, here is our attempt to give a brief over­view of the vari­ous con­cepts around sex and gender identities:

  • Bin­ary gender sys­tem: Assump­tion that there are only two sexes (male or female)
  • Cis-woman or Cis-man: People who identify with the sex to which they were assigned at birth
  • Trans­gender: People who do not identify with the sex to which they were assigned at birth
  • Non-bin­ary: People whose gender iden­tity lies out­side the bin­ary gender sys­tem and who identify neither as a man nor as a woman (e.g. queer)
  • *: The use of the gender star is the attempt to include the diversity of gender iden­tit­ies in writing.

If you are inter­ested to learn more about the topic? Then maybe the Trans 101 gloss­ary with fur­ther read­ing recom­mend­a­tions could be a good recom­mend­a­tion for you!

Men­stru­at­ing people and the diversity of men­strual experiences

Vul­vani is for all people, all sexes, all genders and all bod­ies. We want to cre­ate an integ­rat­ive and invit­ing space for all people, com­pletely inde­pend­ent of gender iden­tit­ies. We want to respect, appre­ci­ate and cel­eb­rate the diversity of exper­i­ences and iden­tit­ies. For even if the major­ity of people who men­stru­ate identify them­selves as girls and women, they are not the only ones. It should be pos­sible for all people to talk about men­stru­ation without being assigned to a par­tic­u­lar gender or sex.

‚My body is not female. My men­stru­ation is not female. It just is. My body just is. My body is its own thing. It does what it does, and that’s fine. Get­ting my period is pain­ful and bloody and messy and annoy­ing, but it doesn’t have to make me feel like less of a guy… Men­stru­at­ing doesn’t have to be a girl thing.’
(Wiley Read­ing)

Why inclu­sion is so important 

Inclu­sion and integ­ra­tion are often writ­ten off as beau­ti­ful ideals or uto­pias. But when they are prac­ticed, they can make an import­ant dif­fer­ence in the every­day lives of real people. Inclu­sion is import­ant for every­one, but above all for people who place them­selves out­side the bin­ary gender sys­tem. True inclu­sion is so much more than what we say. But what we say and above all how we say it is cru­cial. Who are we talk­ing to? Who do we exclude? Because exclu­sion already begins with lan­guage and is often syn­onym­ous with exclu­sion in every­day life. That is why we are look­ing for bet­ter solu­tions and terms for all people. And we hope that with Vul­vani we can motiv­ate and con­trib­ute to a more com­pre­hens­ive dia­logue about men­stru­ation for all people.

Are you a men­stru­at­ing individual?

If you identify your­self out­side the bin­ary gender sys­tem, we are espe­cially happy to hear from you in order to make our lan­guage and dis­cus­sions more inclus­ive for all. Send us a mes­sage with your feed­back, ideas and tips – we are so excited to hear from you!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Co-Founder Vul­vani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vul­vani. She loves research­ing, writ­ing and design­ing new art­icles or innov­at­ive edu­ca­tional con­cepts about men­stru­ation all day long. When she is not trav­el­ling the world, she enjoys spend­ing time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.