Women are using code names for periods and it is deepening the taboo

Women are giving their period a code name and it is fuelling stigma [Photo: Getty]
Women are giving their period a code name and it is fuelling stigma [Photo: Getty]

Aunt Flo, code red, on the blob....new research has revealed just under half of women use a code name when referring to their period, but this refusal to call a period a period could be deepening the stigma.

The survey, by period product subscription service, Mondays, found women are turning to covert code names because many believe the term 'period' sounds dirty, rude, awkward and embarrassing.  

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Mary is the most popular code name used by the women who choose to avoid saying terms such as 'period' or 'menstruation', while Sophie, Pat, Penelope and Pam are also regularly used.

But while it might seem a bit of light-hearted fun to give your time of the month an alternative name, experts believe this feeling of embarrassment and awkwardness is stifling open discussions around menstruation.

READ MORE: Menstrual cups: everything you need to know

What’s more this refusal to acknowledge a period as a period is creating confusion and driving a lack of knowledge amongst men and women.

Worryingly this culture of silence looks set to be passed onto the next generation with the research also finding that almost 2.4 million women are shying away from saying the word 'period' in front of children. 

Commenting on the findings Nancy Saddington, co-founder of Mondays, says: “Women should be the natural authority on the topic of periods. They're in a position of power to drive accurate education and open up the conversation.

“However, in feeling like they need to use code names, while light-hearted in many cases, they border on apologising for a natural and fundamentally human function. It can only lead to a stifling of conversation around female health and increase the stigma attached to periods.” 

This lack of discussion about periods could be contributing to a lack of understanding about menstruation even among women with over 4.5 million women admitting they aren't fully clued up when it comes to period products, with topics such as period flow, duration, tampon size and product suitability all causing confusion. 

READ MORE: Period-proof swimwear for teenagers has landed

There is still a culture of silence surrounding periods [Photo: Getty]
There is still a culture of silence surrounding periods [Photo: Getty]

And if women aren’t period savvy, men stand even less chance of understanding the topic.

Over a third (37%) claim to know little to nothing about periods at all and over 2.5 million men said they only really found out about periods when they got married.

Men were most likely to learn about periods via girlfriends (13%), followed by their wives (10%), their mothers (9%) or for some, their sisters (8%). 

“We have a responsibility to arm young people with accurate information about periods, yet the language we use, and the way we talk about them insinuates that periods are something to hide and be ashamed of.

“Unintentionally, we're deepening the taboo and fuelling the confusion around an integral part of female biology.” 

So why is it that we’re still ashamed about our perfectly natural periods?

The Great British Bake Off star Candice Brown bemoaned the unwritten ‘rules’ about having a period on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time.

“We need to stop hiding our tampon up our sleeves,” she said. “We still do that, don't we? It's just weird. It's a weird taboo subject.” 

Amika George, an activist who set up Free Periods to end period poverty in the UK, believes this embarrassment starts from a young age.

“I believe it's so culturally engrained in us, this huge sense of shame and embarrassment that stops us from talking about our periods,” she says.

“It's engrained in us from a really young age that periods are something we keep to ourselves, don't discuss with our friends and family - almost as though it's something we need to apologise for.

“The manufacturers of period products haven't helped either by calling products names like 'whisper' or 'discreet' like periods are a shameful secret.”

But things are starting to change.

Following on from the news that free sanitary protection will now be provided to all patients in NHS hospitals, the Government has pledged to end period poverty around the world by 2030.

The pledge will see millions go to projects providing sanitary protection and will work to take down the stigma that still persists surrounding menstruation.

And this year has seen efforts made to address that, not only has Scotland offered free sanitary protection to women and girls living in period poverty, but there is now a period emoji. 

The blood droplet is the result of a campaign led by girls’ rights group Plan International UK, which hopes the new symbol will help tackle period stigma.

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