I don’t know how I feel about menstrual art, or the menstrual movement as a whole. As an average woman it feels strange to talk about something so intimate, so personal, but I guess that’s the point of the movement. It shouldn’t feel unnatural to talk about such a natural occurrence. But it doesn’t feel that unnatural to speak about it either. I have even relished in the thought that it’s uncomfortable for men – mainly my poor-old dad when I got a 50 bill out of him just for tampons. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know how much they were, and fortunately for me, I capitalized on the situation – buying beer and smokes for all that week. Now, my only period-pleasure comes when I gross out my live-in boyfriend when I accidentally leave a dirty tampon on the bathroom counter.
But just because I don’t feel embarrassed about my period doesn’t mean I want to wear a bleeding vagina on my t-shirt, nor do I have any inclination to go visit an art gallery that is showcasing menstrual art where the paint is period blood. Maybe that’s just me and maybe I haven’t completely elevated myself from that misogynistic belief that period blood is disgusting…. and maybe I have laughed at a sexist term for the vagina like the bearded axe-wound – but that doesn’t mean I think a picture should be deleted from Instagram showing a young woman and her period-stained pyjamas and bedsheets. Because that’s pretty bold and I don’t even want my boyfriend to see my period-stained underwear. Such shame in the underwear drawer. But maybe that shameful uncleanliness should not be felt as shame at all. Maybe that’s what the movement is trying to take back: The period shame. Periods aren’t dirty, foul or filthy – they’re a natural cycle for every women.
So when Chilean artist, Carina Úbeda Chacana, put 5 years of her period blood on display, which consisted of just the sanitary napkins she used, we shouldn’t let our first feeling of disgust overwhelm us. Because she’s trying to change that stigma we’ve attached to the women’s most natural bodily fluid. It may seem like art that’s meant to shock us, but instead it’s needed art that’s teaching future generations all areas of femininity are relevant, important and not to be hidden behind shameful emotions. Because while the masses are shocked by menstrual art, other companies sprout up designated to help young women deal with this negatively projected transition.
HelloFlo is just this type of company where they deliver customized period packages for young women. The website offers advice for girls as well, discussing topics such as ‘What should I Do When I Start Developing Breasts?’ and ‘8 Easy (and Cheap!) Home Remedies for Period Pain.’ In 2 different advertisements they’ve released, they have collectivity reached over 40,000 hits on YouTube. The first advertisement released in 2013, ‘The Camp Gyno,’ depicts a girl’s authority she feels she has over other female campers as she’s gotten her period first. She uses her authority as a way to educate other girls. It’s a fun video suggesting that knowledge is power. In the second advertisement released in 2014, ‘Full Moon Party,’ watches as a girl who desperately wants her period because her friends have theirs. To feel included in this milestone, she lies to her friends and her mother. Obviously, her mother is not blind to her tricks. So to punish her, she hosts a ‘Full Moon Party,’ and invites family, friends and colleagues. The menstrual theme party even has an ovary piñata. Mortified, the girl confesses her dishonesty and her mother laughs and hands her the HelloFlo starter kit. HelloFlo’s seems to have revitalized an idea that Gloria Steinem’s states in If Men Could Menstruate. In the short pieces, Steinem writes “young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners and stag parties would mark the day.”
So while we ardently ignore or cast aside the menstrual art movement as radical feminism, or debate whether Instagram is right or wrong in deleting a picture of a woman in period pyjamas, we should applaud the fact that menstrual cycles are becoming a celebrated milestone in a girl’s life. That a proud feeling is replacing its old shameful friend. That it’s now OK to show red.