Women, start talking about it. Period! Calls to 'bring menstruation out of the closet' to raise self-esteem
Periods marketed as 'hygiene emergency' that must be dealt with 'quietly' in secular society, say researchersSome religions view menstruating women as 'unclean'
The curse, time of the month, Aunt Flo – having a period is an intimate subject many women would rather not talk about, with euphemisms to match.
But U.S. researchers say women across the world need to be more positive about menstruation – and that means talking about it in public.
Cramps: Women often suffer from stomach pain during their periods, but can suffer in silence
Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts at Colorado College and Nicki Dunnavant from the University of Chicago, surveyed 340 religious and non-religious women from the Rock Mountain West region of the U.S about their attitudes and experiences of menstruation.
Writing in the journal Sex Roles, they said: Across cultures and historical time, menstruation has tended to be
perceived as mysterious, dangerous and potentially contaminating.
'Most world religions place prohibitions on and prescribe
codified purity rituals for menstruating women.'
RELIGIOUS STANCE ON PERIODS
Scripture dictates 'she shall be in her impurity for 7 days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening.'
Wife forbidden from touching her husband during her period or passing objects to him.
Ritual bath required 7 days are bleeding has stopped.
The Qur'an reads 'Say it is an illness, so let women alone at such times and go not into them till they are cleansed.'
Physical contact restrictions are imposed. Menstruating women also not allowed to recite the five daily ritual prayers or visit a mosque or touch the Qur'an.
Women must perform ritual acts of ablution after cycle ends.
Women isolated as untouchables. They can't work, bathe or touch water or comb their hair.
They are restricted from sharing spaces from others and prohibited from having sex.
They said the women the religious women they surveyed rated their periods as 'more bothersome, embarrassing, shameful'
and 'endorsed more prohibitions, prescriptions and seclusion' than non-religious women.
However, even American secular cultures discouraged discussing the natural bodily function.
Although women are not confined to 'menstrual huts' the researchers said 'periods
are nonetheless marketed as a hygiene emergency that must be managed
quietly and effectively.'
even though women surveyed who were Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Hindus
viewed periods as more 'shameful' and a signal that they were 'unclean',
they felt a greater sense of female communal bonding as a result.
because their religions openly acknowledge menstruation, and
their practice of rituals spotlights menstruation as a special
time, religious women also identified a positive aspect of
their menstrual cycles not shared by their non-religious counterparts,' the writers speculated.
They quoted one Hindu woman who told them: 'My mother was very excited when I had my first period, and proud that I was finally a 'woman' in this way.
'She even called my aunts and grandmother to inform them of the news.'
Another Jewish woman said it provided a welcome break from her husband: 'When you kind of take a break from each other, I think it really helps your relationship…you just appreciate each other when you come back together,' she said.
Ms Dunnavant said the survey certainly reflected her own experiences in Nepal, where she had travelled as a student in 2008.
Behind closed doors: Researchers say there needs to be a more positive cultural view of menstruation
She had her period while being hosted
by a Hindu family in a traditional village and for the next few days
could not sit in the kitchen, had to wash her dishes separately and
couldn't receive a religious blessing.
She discovered the literal translation of menstruation was 'becoming untouchable.'
However, she found it oddly empowering as she shared the experience with the women in the village.
The researchers said western women therefore suffered all the social disgust associated with periods, but not the positive attitude of 'all females together' or it being a special time.
Professor Roberts said the answer was to encourage girls and women to feel better about their periods as this would improve their whole feeling of self-worth.
She told LiveScience.com: 'I want to bring menstruation out of the closet.'