My high school was an all girls convent high school. It was strict and fed us lots of stereotypes of what it means to be feminine for example, being told not to run around in the playground because it was ‘unlady like’. Sex education was limited and by the age of 13, I wasn’t entirely sure what a period full was, let alone the impacts of a period on the body. It felt incredibly taboo. I remember a friend whispering to me what they described as a tampon, which left me in shock. “You surely can’t stick something up there? how does that work?”. Once I started my period, I felt so much shame. I didn’t know what to do or who to tell because of the embarrassment, not even my own mum. I remember deciding that I was going to hide it, but what came with that was also having to buy sanitary products, which felt even more exposing to do. I had to toy between the idea of telling someone or trying to overcome the anxiety of buying pads for the first time- both felt like I was going to be laced with huge judgement because periods were something seen as bad and embarrassing. I decided to tell my mum and I remember her hugging me and giving me some pads- we never really spoke much about it, and it took me years till I told my older sister too. Following on in high school, I still felt petrified to buy my own sanitary products because if I did, the sales assistant would know I had my period and that felt overwhelming. I paid my friends to buy me pads or relied on my mum to get them for me. As I grew into my late teens, the talk of tampons returned. Because of the religious ideologies of my school, tampons were a huge discussion between our year group. So much false information was being spread amongst us. “If you use a tampon, you’ll lose your virginity” “If you use a tampon, you’re a slut” “People who use tampons are loose” etc. There was such a heavy weight of sexism and misogyny carried with whether you used a tampon or not and what that meant for you as a person (both spoken and unspoken). It took a lot of unlearning and self-education around periods to feel more confident in something that is so natural and beautiful.
Anonymous, 25 – London