Is this the beginning of destigmatising periods?
A new study exploring how menstruation affects women’s lives finds that more than half of the participants have never felt comfortable during their period.
The study, which surveyed 2,000 women on their period habits, experiences and beliefs, was published on April 4 by market research company OnePoll on behalf of US-based period care company Cora.
How periods affect daily lives
In the survey, 61 per cent of respondents who go through menstruation said that they experience period-induced discomforts. On the days leading up to and during their cycle, 36 per cent of respondents experience cramps, headaches and moodiness. These discomforts also lead to a change in routine, as 45 per cent of respondents avoid physical exercise during menstruation, while 41 per cent cancels social activities altogether.
62 per cent of respondents have also admitted they’ve taken time off work due to their period, for an average of five days a year. In that group, nine out of ten people have lied to their boss about the reason behind their absence because they feel guilty for taking leave.
More than half of the respondents feel like they have to “suck it up” during their periods. They reported feeling guilty for complaining, given that other people also deal with the same symptoms.
How Gen Z differs from millennial respondents
As a whole, Gen Z respondents are around 10 per cent more likely than millennials to take time off work due to their period, engage in hobbies and exercise less, or avoid household chores during menstruation.
Gen Z is also 10 per cent more likely to talk to friends about their period discomforts when compared to millennials, and 17 per cent more likely to talk to their romantic partners about the issue.
Is the stigma coming to an end?
While period discomforts are nothing new to women, there is evidence that the stigma surrounding periods—and the need to “power through” period-induced pains—may be slowly reduced thanks to open discussions on the topic.
“Simply talking about menstruation can create more positive attitudes,” according to The Menstrual Mark: Menstruation as Social Stigma, a study published in 2020 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US. “If menstruation were discussed more openly, it might be easier for girls and women to acknowledge the positive aspects of menstruation and to challenge others when they make assumptions that all women hate and want to eliminate their period,” states the report.
In countries such as South Korea, Japan and some parts of China, menstruation pain has long been recognised, with national menstrual leave in place for women. An increasing number of companies around the world—such as Australian apparel brand Modibodi and Indian food delivery startup Zomato—are also starting to implement policies that would allow women to take menstrual leaves each month. In Hong Kong, menstruation remains a somewhat taboo subject culturally and there are currently no menstrual leave laws in place.
"There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave,” wrote Zomato’s founder Deepinder Goyal on his company blog in 2020. “You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails that you are on your period leave for the day."
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