Hating ‘my aunt’: Why we need to normalize menstruation

Illustration of handing off pad and tampon
Katherine Qiu/File

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If you’re someone who menstruates, you only have three weeks a month to feel like yourself. Technically, it’s only two weeks if you count PMSing the week before “Mother Nature” pays you a visit. Alas, today I’m not interested in discussing all the ways periods suck because we all know; we’ve heard it before.

Not only does the blood escaping your body reek, but so does the stench of injustice: politically, socially, culturally and otherwise. Why can’t we talk about our periods in an open and honest fashion? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish to expel every nitty-gritty detail about what happens in my uterus to everyone I know every given month. What I mean is, when someone is on their period, why can’t they just say it?

Why do we have to hide our natural, regular bodily functions with crass, childish euphemisms? When someone asks me, “What’s wrong?” I feel compelled to say, “You know it’s my shark week!” and laugh it off. Or the classics: “It’s that time of the month.” “My Aunt Flo is here.” And we can’t forget the more derogatory one used when people want to explain why you’re so moody or grumpy on a certain day: “She’s on the rag.”

These euphemisms work to sweep a normal, and oftentimes indescribably painful, bodily experience that affects half the population every single month under the rug. Using language that hides such a common, often alienating and uncontrollable experience has succeeded in making periods too taboo to talk about. It minimizes our reality of suffering or discomfort every single month. It makes us uncomfortable to even utter a few simple, nonvulgar words: “I’m not feeling well because I’m on my period” or “I’m menstruating.”

When I’ve been honest and said, “I’m on my period,” with a straight face instead of using the hot euphemism of the month and laughing it off, I’ve been met with uncomfortable shuffling and an awkward, “Oh, umm.” To me, it’s the same as saying I’m sick. It’s true, I get sick on my period, and many others do as well, so why can’t it be treated the same in normal conversation?

Periods are seen as gross or — my favoriteunladylike to talk about. For those who menstruate, blood coming out of your uterus against your will is another thing you get blamed for every day that’s out of your control. The more we talk about our experiences with unfiltered language, hopefully, the more it stops being a newsworthy event when someone decides not to use one of those inane euphemisms.

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].