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Why Are We Still Talking About Our Periods?

Photograph by Getty Images

My 6-year-old daughter recently scratched her knee at precisely the moment I realized a cardinal parenting sin had been committed: Apparently I had not replenished our family's Band-Aid supply. So I did the next best thing for her emotional boo-boo, which was to take out a sanitary napkin and tape it around her knee.

Not only did the pad not have princesses or fairies on it, but she also realized something else was amiss.

"Is this a diaper?" she asked.

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"Nope," was all I said. The time will come when she'll know all-too-well about pads (with or without wings, for heavy or light days, and the kinds that, indeed, seem like diapers) and tampons. That was not the day I cared to share more on the topic, though.

I'm not necessarily hiding the existence of my period from her, although since she often mistakes ketchup for blood and has been known to feel faint at the sight of both, I have no intention of rushing out to get her a copy of "What's Happening to Me?"

No, I'm neither ashamed of my period nor am I proud of it. I'm a woman and it's a thing that occurs to me each month. Since I haven't been 15 years old for quite some time, my girlfriends and I no longer really discuss our periods with each other. Cramps happen, and then so do Advil to chase them away. Because most women I know are on some form of birth control, having our periods synced with one another isn't really a thing anymore, either.

How is it 2015 and there are adult human beings who talk about the abilities of women based on their menstrual cycles?

Of course I find it tragic that in some areas of the world, menstruating girls and women are treated like lepers. On Amy Poehler's Smart Girls website, Clarke Wolffe recently wrote about how girls in rural Uganda are forced to miss more than a week of school each month, or 11 percent of the school year, for the crime of having a period. Lack of access to hygienic supplies and even plain old washrooms with clean water contribute to the problem—and not just in Uganda. Talk to your local homeless shelter, too, and you'll learn about issues women without permanent homes face when it's their time of the month.

Fortunately there are non-profit organizations working to distribute pads, tampons and bras to women in need all over the world, as well as other groups helping to educate women about their reproductive health. But even in first-world countries (present country included), period shaming is definitely still a thing.

How is it 2015 and there are adult human beings who talk about the abilities of women based on their menstrual cycles (true, it's Rush Limbaugh, but still—Time magazine wrote about it, too)? And just a few months ago, Instagram deleted a photo of a woman whose period stain was front and center, although Instagram probably didn't delete any photos posted of bloody noses from the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight last month, even though the former occurred naturally and the latter ridiculously.

From the taboo nature of breastfeeding in public to period blood being somehow worse than the blood from a scraped elbow, there is a common denominator: It's the people who don't lactate or bleed vaginally who are usually the ones uncomfortable about what doesn't even happen to them anyway.

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It would seem that educating men about how women's bodies function is almost as important as educating women about their own bodies. Since most people fear less when they understand better, the more they know can only be a good thing. This still doesn't mean I think my period needs to become a topic of conversation at the dinner table, although not because I'm embarrassed, but because, really, what more is there possibly to say? Period.

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