Periods are having a moment. Often taboo and hushed away, celebrities like Lena Dunham have put menstruation and disorders like endometriosis in the spotlight. In New York, the "tampon tax", which made menstrual products even more expensive, was eliminated. And for the first time in decades, new products like Thinx, an underwear meant to keep you dry during your period, are challenging a market dominated only by pads and tampons.
Will this heightened awareness change the way we experience periods? Or at least, educate more people about the realities of menstruation?
This week on Radio Motherboard we speak with Kiran Gandhi, formerly a drummer for the artist M.I.A., who you might have heard about last year when she ran the London Marathon "free bleeding", which basically means she ran 26.2 miles without a pad or tampon. Her radical act cast her into the limelight, and she became one of the voices speaking out against the stigma that often surrounds periods.
Gandhi is not the only one who thinks we need to stop hiding our blood. Poet Rupi Kaur also became headline news when an Instagram photo of her lying on a bed with a period stain, was censored and taken off the social sharing app. In response, Kaur, who said she posted the photo to normalize and demystify periods.
"I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be ok with a small leak when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human," she said in a statement.
It will take a lot more work, research, science, technology, education and understanding to improve the experience of having periods. And that is an especially tall order in countries like Nepal or Ghana, where women are often isolated or ostracized during their periods. But the recent surge of attention and innovative thinking around periods could still signal hope for the future.