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

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

Espe¬≠cially mar¬≠ke¬≠ting messages and pro¬≠ducts are stron¬≠gly desi¬≠gned to sup¬≠po¬≠sed gen¬≠der-spe¬≠ci¬≠fic cha¬≠rac¬≠te¬≠ris¬≠tics, as is the case with mens¬≠trual pro¬≠ducts as well. Mens¬≠trua¬≠tion is still far too often asso¬≠cia¬≠ted only with girls and women. Now you may still think, yes, that‚Äôs how it is! But not all women mens¬≠truate and not all who iden¬≠tify them¬≠sel¬≠ves as women mens¬≠truate.  Say what? Even trans-, non-binary or gen¬≠der-neu¬≠tral people can bleed mon¬≠thly. The pre¬≠sen¬≠ta¬≠tion of mens¬≠trua¬≠tion as an expe¬≠ri¬≠ence shared exclu¬≠si¬≠vely by women is the¬≠re¬≠fore not com¬≠ple¬≠tely right. Cis-sexist assump¬≠ti¬≠ons about peri¬≠ods and bodies can exclude and discri¬≠mi¬≠nate against cer¬≠tain indi¬≠vi¬≠du¬≠als. The¬≠re¬≠fore, we use the term ‚Äėmens¬≠trua¬≠ting people‚Äô or ‚Äėmens¬≠trua¬≠tors‚Äô and try not to speak of women or girls. This is our attempt to start inclu¬≠ding all people who have mens¬≠trual expe¬≠ri¬≠en¬≠ces lin¬≠gu¬≠is¬≠ti¬≠cally. Because lan¬≠guage matters.

Not all women menstruate

Ano¬≠t¬≠her important aspect in this con¬≠text is that not all cis-women mens¬≠truate. This can have dif¬≠fe¬≠rent rea¬≠sons, such as meno¬≠pause, stress or hys¬≠terec¬≠tomy (sur¬≠gi¬≠cal remo¬≠val of the ute¬≠rus). Some cis-women may have never had their mens¬≠trua¬≠tion due to health con¬≠di¬≠ti¬≠ons. Howe¬≠ver, the lack of mens¬≠trua¬≠tion does not make them less of a woman than those who bleed mon¬≠thly. It is important for state¬≠ments that define mens¬≠trua¬≠tion as a pure source of femi¬≠nin¬≠ity to pay atten¬≠tion to what the effects of such claims can have on people. Because with these messages the expe¬≠ri¬≠en¬≠ces of indi¬≠vi¬≠dual people can be made invi¬≠si¬≠ble and the nor¬≠ma¬≠lity of the binary gen¬≠der sys¬≠tem will be fur¬≠ther supported.

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

Lan¬≠guage can be com¬≠pli¬≠ca¬≠ted and defi¬≠ni¬≠ti¬≠ons can be con¬≠to¬≠ver¬≠sial. There are still no expres¬≠si¬≠ons or terms with which all people feel 100 per¬≠cent com¬≠for¬≠ta¬≠ble. Howe¬≠ver, one thing is cer¬≠tain: people who do not feel that they are women or men essen¬≠ti¬≠ally ques¬≠tion the idea that gen¬≠der = geni¬≠tals. For a bet¬≠ter com¬≠pre¬≠hen¬≠si¬≠bi¬≠lity of the text, here is our attempt to give a brief over¬≠view of the various con¬≠cepts around sex and gen¬≠der identities:

  • Binary gen¬≠der sys¬≠tem: Assump¬≠tion that there are only two sexes (male or female)
  • Cis-woman or Cis-man: People who iden¬≠tify with the sex to which they were assi¬≠gned at birth
  • Trans¬≠gen¬≠der: People who do not iden¬≠tify with the sex to which they were assi¬≠gned at birth
  • Non-binary: People whose gen¬≠der iden¬≠tity lies out¬≠side the binary gen¬≠der sys¬≠tem and who iden¬≠tify neit¬≠her as a man nor as a woman (e.g. queer)
  • *: The use of the gen¬≠der star is the attempt to include the diver¬≠sity of gen¬≠der iden¬≠ti¬≠ties in writing.

If you are inte¬≠res¬≠ted to learn more about the topic? Then maybe the Trans 101 glos¬≠sary with fur¬≠ther rea¬≠ding recom¬≠men¬≠da¬≠ti¬≠ons could be a good recom¬≠men¬≠da¬≠tion for you!

Menstruating people and the diversity of menstrual experiences

Vul¬≠vani is for all people, all sexes, all gen¬≠ders and all bodies. We want to create an inte¬≠gra¬≠tive and invi¬≠t¬≠ing space for all people, com¬≠ple¬≠tely inde¬≠pen¬≠dent of gen¬≠der iden¬≠ti¬≠ties. We want to respect, appre¬≠ciate and cele¬≠brate the diver¬≠sity of expe¬≠ri¬≠en¬≠ces and iden¬≠ti¬≠ties. For even if the majo¬≠rity of people who mens¬≠truate iden¬≠tify them¬≠sel¬≠ves as girls and women, they are not the only ones. It should be pos¬≠si¬≠ble for all people to talk about mens¬≠trua¬≠tion without being assi¬≠gned to a par¬≠ti¬≠cu¬≠lar gen¬≠der or sex.

‚ÄöMy body is not female. My mens¬≠trua¬≠tion is not female. It just is. My body just is. My body is its own thing. It does what it does, and that‚Äôs fine. Get¬≠ting my period is pain¬≠ful and bloody and messy and annoy¬≠ing, but it doesn‚Äôt have to make me feel like less of a guy‚Ķ Mens¬≠trua¬≠ting doesn‚Äôt have to be a girl thing.‚Äô
(Wiley Rea­ding)

Why inclusion is so important 

Inclu¬≠sion and inte¬≠gra¬≠tion are often writ¬≠ten off as beau¬≠ti¬≠ful ide¬≠als or uto¬≠pias. But when they are prac¬≠ti¬≠ced, they can make an important dif¬≠fe¬≠rence in the ever¬≠y¬≠day lives of real people. Inclu¬≠sion is important for ever¬≠yone, but above all for people who place them¬≠sel¬≠ves out¬≠side the binary gen¬≠der sys¬≠tem. True inclu¬≠sion is so much more than what we say. But what we say and above all how we say it is cru¬≠cial. Who are we tal¬≠king to? Who do we exclude? Because exclu¬≠sion already begins with lan¬≠guage and is often syn¬≠ony¬≠mous with exclu¬≠sion in ever¬≠y¬≠day life. That is why we are loo¬≠king for bet¬≠ter solu¬≠ti¬≠ons and terms for all people. And we hope that with Vul¬≠vani we can moti¬≠vate and con¬≠tri¬≠bute to a more com¬≠pre¬≠hen¬≠sive dia¬≠lo¬≠gue about mens¬≠trua¬≠tion for all people.

Are you a menstruating individual?

If you iden¬≠tify yourself out¬≠side the binary gen¬≠der sys¬≠tem, we are espe¬≠cially happy to hear from you in order to make our lan¬≠guage and dis¬≠cus¬≠sions more inclu¬≠sive for all. Send us a mes¬≠sage with your feed¬≠back, ideas and tips ‚Äď we are so exci¬≠ted 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.