Even though billions of people around the world menstruate, the biological reality of the period has long been, and to some degree remains, stigmatized. A menstrual health app called Clue, which launched in 2013 and has more than two million users, intends to change that. Clue recently partnered with the International Women's Health Coalition to conduct an unprecedented global survey that measured the experiences of nearly 90,000 women in 190 countries around the world. In their press release, Clue highlighted the importance of women's reproductive health education, and among other findings, revealed that only 31 percent of American women are comfortable speaking to a male family member about their period.
Ida Tin is the co-founder of Clue. In an interview with Broadly, she explained why it is "crucial" to provide people with education about menstruation. "A good education lays great foundations for the future," Tin said, adding that education isn't only important for women, but also for the men in women's lives. "[If we use] empirical evidence and educational techniques to show people how natural periods are, they will be able to talk about them more comfortably in day-to-day life." Because menstruation is fundamental to most women's well-being, Tin says that "education is crucial in order to live a healthy life."
The sheer number of euphemisms shows that using indirect turns of phrase to avoid talking about periods is a global issue.
The cultural othering of the female body is common; in the United States there's an enduring stereotype that the physiological differences between men and women are irreconcilable; historically, women have been pathologized through fallacious diagnoses like the debunked condition hysteria, which was deployed to institutionalize and oppress women for hundreds of years.
Although it varies from country to country, the stigma around menstruation is pervasive throughout the world, and it affects the way periods are discussed: Clue collected over 5,000 different euphemisms and terms used to refer to a woman's period. "The sheer number of euphemisms shows that using indirect turns of phrase to avoid talking about periods is a global issue," Tin said. "These examples show the lengths people will go to to avoid using the word 'period' and are evidence that the taboo exists."
"Nearly 1 in 5 women in the world are so afraid of being 'caught' on their period that they have avoided an engagement altogether," Tin says. In the United States, exactly one-fifth of women have had the stigma around periods impact their behavior: "Twenty percent [of women] have missed school, work, or an event because they were afraid of someone finding out they were on their period," Tin said. "This fear is stopping women all over the world from reaching their potential."