The ‘Men’ in Menstruation

Whenever we talk about menstruation and the female reproductive system we tend to forget the men, thinking periods are just a female issue. When we do this we leave men and boys uneducated about what a period truly is and continue to perpetuate stigma and shame surrounding menstruation.

If you follow me on social media you would know that I have been going to a series of events put on by HerFlow, a nonprofit organization, that advocates for Female Reproductive Health and Rights. I went to their Healthy Pelvis Conference and a Period Talk, both events aimed at increasing the knowledge and conversations around the female reproductive system.

IMG_6468Shelly- Ann “Dr Sexy- Ann” Weeks founder of HerFlow and I just one day before the Healthy Pelvis Conference.

When I was deciding to go to these events, I wondered how many males would be there, in fact I wasn’t even sure if males were allowed to be there. At the conference there was one male attendee while the other males were either workers or presenters at the conference. He was applauded for coming and the entire room was told to encourage males, young and old to come out to these events. I had gotten my answer.

IMG_7102Doctor Michael Abrahams, a well known Jamaican Gynaecologist, performer and Women’s Rights Advocate and I at the Healthy Pelvis Conference.

When I went to the Period Talk, just earlier this week and a month, after the conference I really wasn’t thinking about if they would be there, I was focused on what I would say when sharing my story about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). When I got to the event, it was all female, with the silver lining of young girls also being in attendance. At the end of it we all commented that men and boys should be included.

IMG_7742The attendees of the Period Talk held on Thursday (13/12/18)

 

IMG_7766Shelly- Ann “Dr. Sexy- Ann” Weeks and I after I spoke about my experience with PCOS.

 

So why aren’t men included? 

  • We still think periods are a female issue only. Even so, many of us women don’t even like talking about periods amongst ourselves. Read an older blog post I made called ‘Why ‘Girl Talk’ Is Important’ where I talked about why we as women should talk about our periods and other aspects of our reproductive system.

 

  •  Our period still has a lot of shame and stigma attached. It’s 2018 and a lot of incorrect and backwards beliefs about menstruation still persist and this has a lot to do with how we see periods culturally and our general lack of knowledge around it.

Shelly- Ann shared a story with us at the Period Talk about a mother who told her that she didn’t teach her son about periods because he wasn’t yet old enough, but had started the conversation with her younger daughter. When asked, why tell the younger daughter but not the older son she replied that the daughter is the one that will have to go through it.

This is just one example of the way we see and think about periods in Jamaica and why our men and boys are not involved in the conversation. Yes, men don’t have periods, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn about the anatomy and function of the female reproductive system.

 

Why should we teach males about periods?

  • It clears up misconceptions they may have about what a period actually is.
  • It helps to eradicate the stigma and shame around periods and talking about periods.
  • It allows them to be more sympathetic and supportive towards women especially those who may have difficult periods.
  • It empowers them to become period advocates and allies to women.

 

Another story was shared, but this one about the HerFlow team. The team has men included and they have now become experts on periods and allies. They are always armed with menstrual products now and are not afraid to correct and educate persons- including women- who have misconceptions about periods.

 

How should we teach males about periods?

  • We can start in schools, both in mixed and single sex classes, where the conversations are open and judgement free. Disrespect must be addressed as it happens and corrected with information. The teachers who do this must be trained and open to talking about this topic outside of a biology class but also addressing the psychosocial aspects as well.

 

  • Encourage men or simply tell men that they can attend events about the female reproductive system because they may not have known that they’re invited to the conversation.

 

  • Parents, talk to both your daughters and sons about periods.

 

  • In your own circles and communities, you can speak about periods and start a discussion and become an advocate in your own spaces or you can reach out to experts to facilitate these conversations.

 

I think HerFlow is doing a fantastic job, I encourage you to check them out on Twitter and Instagram so you can get all the details about them and events they are having. It is absolutely important to include everyone, from children to adults, in the conversations about periods. They also focus on period poverty, which is a real problem here in Jamaica and the world. If you feel passionate about this cause and would like to offer help you can reach out to them.

Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”. For us to change the attitudes of men and women towards menstruation we must use forums where knowledge can be transferred in an open and judgement free way.

Samantha C. Johnson.

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