If you have a period, it is both likely and unfortunate that you will encounter a period-shamer during your life. The first time this happened to me, I didn’t know how to respond. Since then, I’ve worked on figuring out strategies that help me feel like a badass AND enlighten those amongst us who think period-shaming is still okay.
Dealing with a less-than-ideal situation yourself? We feel you. Here are 3 ways to shut down period-shaming while keeping your sanity intact.
Ask them to explain what they mean
Next time someone period-shames you in any way, pretend that you don’t understand. Ask them to explain it. They will try to enlighten you to their misogynistic joke while clasping their sweaty palms together and fumbling their words. Act completely oblivious. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions (‘What do you mean by “women are emotional”? Does that really happen?’ Do you think I should not go to the meeting then?’).
This is most effective when you leave the sarcasm out. Trying to explain it is going to make them sound like the sexist jerk that they probably are. They’re going to try to make light of what they said and brush it off as a joke. Keep asking for an explanation, no matter how awkward it feels.
If they get flustered, explain it to them. Try saying: “What you were saying to me is that because I feel a certain way about this, you’re calling me emotional and blaming it on my period. While that may or may not be true, it’s highly unprofessional/sexist/inappropriate for you to be making any kind of comments about my body.”
Say “Are you period-shaming me right now?”
Or “It seems like you don’t have a clear idea of what is and isn’t appropriate to say to me”.
Or “You’re trying to make me feel bad about having a period”.
Sometimes the most effective way to shut down period-shaming is to name it. Not only do you put an end to it, but you may just be doing some educating, too. We live with a lot of deep-rooted menstrual stigma and maybe your period-shamer doesn’t even understand what they’re really doing. It can be an opportunity to grow for your interlocutor, and maybe they’ll change their ways. That’s the ideal outcome.
Even if you don’t change hearts and minds, calling out period-shaming makes it awkward and embarrassing for those who choose to partake (and hopefully make them think twice before shaming someone again). Either way, you shut it down. Go you.
Sometimes, because of power dynamics or other pressures, you can’t take a confrontational approach. If so, just ignore it. Really, it’s not worth it.
If someone is motivated to get a reaction out of you, don’t give them what they want.. If you really want to make their so-called point ineffective, don’t respond. Like, literally ignore them. They’ll get bored. You don’t need to waste your precious time and energy engaging with someone who would try to shame you in the first place. There is always something more important to do – like be your awesome self. Onwards and upwards!
What is your go-to strategy when someone tries to shame you for having a period? We’d love to hear it!
Christina Vanvuren is a freelance sex & reproductive health writer living vicariously through herself in Atlanta, GA. When she’s not championing for a world free from period and slut-shaming you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee, traveling, and nurturing her friendships with badass women around the world. You can connect with her on Facebook, her website, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org