*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.
So, should we now write ‘menstruating people’ rather than women?
The term ‘menstruating people’ is in no way intended to replace the term ‘women’. Women are women, a group of people who define themselves as women. Menstruating people are an even larger group of people, as there are people who menstruate but do not define themselves as women. However, in the group of menstruating people, women make up the largest percentage in terms of numbers. Since we are, among other things, a menstrual education platform, we usually talk about menstruating people and mean women + other groups with menstrual experiences.
All these terms we are talking about here are not substitutes for the word ‘woman’. They are additional ways of grouping people with similar characteristics together in order to describe them properly and not exclude anyone.
To make it even clearer here is another example: travelers. We can say travelers or traveling people to all people who travel. However, in this group of people there are traveling men and women, but also people who do not identify as men or women, such as non-binary or transgender people.
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!