When it comes to talking about periods - words matter. Whether it’s challenging the concept of periods being connected to one gender, busting myths around them being dirty, or simply ending the shame and stigma that surrounds menstruation, the language we use carries weight.
If you’re confused as to which terms should be kicked out of your period chat - and why - here’s our handy guide.
Feminine or ‘Women who have Periods’
At Lunette, we have been rallying against the use of ‘feminine’ alongside periods for years. Firstly, the fact is that periods are not something that only happens to women - so they should not be something that should be intrinsically linked to femininity. There are many trans-men or non binary people that are born with a uterus and who may have periods - and for them the connection to femininity can be triggering.
The other thing to note is that some women do not have periods - including trans-women or women who don't have a uterus, be that through a hysterectomy or conditions like MRKH. By linking menstruation with femininity we not only leave out people who don’t identify as women, but it also implies that in order to be feminine you have to have a menstrual cycle - which is certainly not true.
Femininity and masculinity are social concepts of gender which can mean different things to different people. We each have the choice to decide whether we identify with feminine or masculine energies (and for many of us it's a bit of both!) - so let's just leave menstruation out of this shall we?
We are dedicated to making the conversation around periods as inclusive as possible. Using gender neutral terms is a simple way to help everyone who menstruates feel confident and cared for when it comes to their period care - which is why you won’t find the word ‘feminine’ on any of our products.
Hygiene or Sanitary
The myth that periods are dirty and unhygienic has been around for millenia - and the implications can be far reaching. From people refusing to have sex with you if you’re menstruating (more fool them, period sex can be great) to young people being embarrassed to go to school when they’re on their period - none of the repercussions are positive.
In some cultures, people who are menstruating are even ostracized from their communities - banned from places of worship and in some cases, even their homes - until their period is over.
The idea that periods are unhygienic or dirty probably comes from the fact that a lot of our period related activity happens in the bathroom. But unlike urine or feces, our period is not the body’s way of getting rid of toxic waste! In fact, period blood (which is actually a mix of blood, mucus, good bacteria and uterine tissue) is really clean. Think about it, it’s the womb lining that - if a baby was in there - would be supporting the growth of an embryo, so it definitely wouldn’t be toxic or bad for you!
Many large brands still use the words ‘hygiene’ or ‘sanitary’ when discussing period care products, and this perpetuates the idea that menstruation is dirty. It might not seem like a big deal, but this myth feeds into period shame - something we have to stamp out!
A whole range of euphemisms
So we’ve busted the myths around periods being associated with hygiene and femininity - but what about the long list of euphemisms that people use to discuss menstruation? From “a visit from Aunt Flo” to “Shark Week”, saying “The Decorators Are In” to announcing a “Code Red” - we’re sure you’ve heard many of these before.
Whilst these phrases might seem harmless, they all play a part in period shame. Euphemisms in language are used when, culturally, we feel like saying the exact, direct terminology is inappropriate. By teaching menstruators that sharing openly (and simply) that they are “on their period” is not acceptable- we’re teaching them that periods are shameful, and something not to be discussed in ‘polite company’.
Just like it’s important for us to know and use the correct words for our anatomy (here’s looking at you vagina vs vulva) we must be able to speak about periods openly and clearly. If we need to go to a doctor about our reproductive health, or if we need to ask a classmate or colleague for some support, we need to know it’s ok to get right to the point when it comes to our periods.
How to talk about periods more accurately and inclusively
If you’re aware that you have been using some of the above languages, don’t worry. Our understanding of period culture and language is always evolving - and the important thing is that we stay open to learning and committed to making changes.
Here are some easy swaps you can make…
Instead of feminine hygiene - say period care or menstrual care
Instead of menstrual hygiene - say menstrual health
Instead of sanitary products - say period care products
Instead of ‘women’s health’ - say ‘reproductive health’
Instead of ‘women who have periods’ - say ‘people who have periods’
To browse Lunette's reusable period care products, click here.