Health NOT Hygiene – why talking about periods isn’t dirty

On the first of January the tampon tax was abolished, after years of campaigning from many women, including Eve Ambassador, Laura Coryton. The news was welcomed by many, but the language used gave us the ick. Periods are not unsanitary or unhygienic, and it is about time we stopped using this language. Eve CEO, Athena, blogs about the language around periods and why we need to make it about health and not hygiene.

Tackling the taboos around all things gynae needs to be addressed if we’re going to make headway on the early diagnosis of these five cancers – womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal. This has to include focusing on the language – using proper, anatomical words correctly, using inclusive language and making sure we don’t compound and reinforce stigma by using terms that may be in common currency but really shouldn’t be.

So let’s stop now. Open up the conversation about what some of this means to you and think about the impact it might have.

What we know, and all the evidence supports – is that having normal conversations about gynae issues is vital. Opening up the conversation, getting rid of red faces and euphemisms. There’s not a woman alive who isn’t aware of breast cancer and at least one of the key signs – that’s where we want the gynae health to be.

Now how do we know that there’s culture and taboos to break? Well, there’s all the obvious things – if you go to a supermarket or even a high street pharmacy looking for a box of tampons, don’t go looking for a sign that says, ‘Menstrual Products’ or ‘Stuff for Your Period’,  oh no – check out Sanitary Products, Feminine Hygiene or Female Care. You’ll often find these items, side by side with incontinence pads, durex, lube and the one that kills me, nappies!

Eve, along with many other campaigners and activists, celebrated the abolition of the Tampon Tax last week. It’s been a hard and long fought campaign. There was an opportunity to abolish this tax back in 2015 but the political will to so wasn’t behind it then.

The celebratory messages from so many quarters were wonderful. Brilliant to see the Chancellor and so many MPs welcome the move.

And it is a step forward, but the language used in so many messages – from government departments to health influencers – should be banished to the past.

There is nothing ‘unsanitary’ about periods.

There isn’t a ‘masculine hygiene’ range in every supermarket.

We need to reclaim and use the words ‘periods’ and ‘menstruation’ – embed them in education and our everyday language.

Periods are normal and talking about them should be too.

Words to use: menstrual / periods

Words not to use: sanitary, hygiene, feminine care