The very fab Bryony Gordon, she of the Telegraph and The Wrong Knickers, is with us for International Women’s Day, with this to say…
My name is Bryony and today, on International Women’s Day, I have my period. It couldn’t be more perfect, syncing with IWD. Certainly a lot better than the time I synced with the London Marathon, which I ran last year for the mental health charity Heads Together. Before I signed up to do that, it was a bit of a stretch to get me to run for a bus – let alone 26.2 miles, slap bang in the middle of a particularly heavy blood flow. But that was the position I found myself in on the morning of my first marathon, with not a clue what to do. Were tampons or pads better? Which would cause less chafing? Was the added weight of sanitary protection going to slow me down, and would I have space in my legging pockets for spares? I hadn’t read anything about this in the running magazines I devoured during my training (not literally, though there were points when I would eat anything available to me).
Tip for new female runners: both pads and tampons are essential, as is lots of Vaseline to prevent chafing, and don’t rely on any of the portaloos having loo paper – if you can, plant sanitary protection and sheets of paper on friends who are coming to spectate. Anyway, despite all of this the marathon was going swimmingly – or runningly – until about mile 19, when I became aware of a strange sensation on my right thigh. Had I pulled a muscle? No. Was I chafing badly? Well yes, but that wasn’t it. What had happened? My sanitary towel had slipped free of my knickers and slid down my leggings until it reached my knee. Panicking, and by this stage so exhausted that I didn’t care what anybody thought of me, I reached into my Lululemons and liberated the towel, before disposing of it in the nearest bin. Free of the offending item, I carried on and completed the marathon without any more menstrual-related incidents. I collected my medal, changed my tampon, put on a fresh pad, and headed home for some crisps and beer.
When I tell people this story – which I do, quite frequently – they always grimace. “Gross!” is the look that tends to spread across their face. But is it really? Right now, countless millions of women around the world are having their period. They are menstruating, on the blob, experiencing ‘their time of the month’, or any of the other euphemisms we use to avoid talking properly about periods. It amazes me that for so many of us, menstruating is still something to be embarrassed about. We hide tampons up our sleeves as we go to the loo, and blush as crimson as… well, a menstruating vagina, when a sanitary towel falls out of a handbag. I remember being appalled at an episode of South Park when a character announced that you should “never trust an animal that bleeds every month for a week without dying”. An outre joke to the cartoon’s creators, no doubt, but like all the best jokes, there is an element of truth to it. We are ashamed of making our periods public. Even though they are a result of the most natural thing in the world, we would rather keep them under wraps and never, ever talk about them.
That’s changing, thankfully, with campaigning groups like the Pink Protest (run by the marvellous Grace Campbell and Scarlett Curtis), and Free Periods, launched by Amika George. Then there is Emma Barnett’s upcoming book Period (when she announced the news on Instagram last week, she wrote that she was “delighted it’s out there – like periods should be, but aren’t. Yet.”) Then there’s Kiran Gandhi, who bravely free bled throughout the London Marathon in 2016 to prove a point (I couldn’t stomach the chafing, but doff my cap to her). Not forgetting Martha Silcott, inventor of FabLittleBags, who has created a way for us to dispose of our tampons and pads (such is the woeful state of period education, it was only relatively recently thar I discovered you couldn’t flush tampons) Finally, these bright young things are speaking up about a subject that has, for many eons of years (since the year dot in fact) caused women to feel shame – shame for having periods, shame for not having periods, shame for having been born with two X chromosomes. And if we don’t speak up, about everything from cramps to leaks to frankly piss-poor sanitary disposal units, then how can people in poverty, people who can’t afford sanitary protection or even basic sanitation, ever hope to be heard? So today, in a small show of solidarity, I am not going to hide the fact I have my period. My name is Bryony, and I am menstruating. How about you?
Thanks Bryony! Try our quiz for International Women’s Day here (yes, there are prizes). We are matching all of today’s sales of FabLittleBag with donated supplies to Bloody Good Period in honour of the day!