To this day sex education is still an awkward topic for many people. If you think back to your primary school memories of sex education lessons, what do you remember? Probably, hearing about a penis inserting into a vagina or a girl needing to wear a tampon or pad once a month. Perhaps, we do not remember much because it was so long ago, or maybe the information was never offered in enough detail.
I am not going to go into detail about the menstrual cycle of women and how it works, you can probably find that out on google if you haven’t already. I still only know the basics myself. I am privy to the consistent there is lack of knowledge known about women’s periods, their cycles, and the female body.
Dating back to the Victorian periods, women’s mental and physical health issues were treated with limited respect and limited observation. No one cared enough about the female body – unless it was being used for men’s enjoyment. Women were named hysterical if they had sexual desires, yet a man could use a women’s body whenever he wanted. This led to a lack of thought and research into women’s bodies which still persists today.
When I first started my period, I had issues with it. The doctors performed tests and checked for any medical issues. Luckily, they found none but how does it suffice to offer a 14-year-old the pill as a solution for her period problems?
There is undeniably a lack of knowledge known about the hormonal situations of a female which fluctuate every day and change excessively more than males. One colleague I spoke to at work believes the greatest thing a women can do is love and embrace her cycle. How can a lady do that when all she understands is the basics? That normally you will have a period once a month and the lining of the uterus will be building up or breaking down at certain points in your cycle. Here the word normally presents an obvious problem: every female body is different. This is where the lack of knowledge is. Embrace diversity, they say. Learn about other cultures, they say. Let’s learn about women’s menstrual diversities and hormone fluctuations too!
When were you taught about menopause? It is likely you were not. Menopause is a large part of an ageing transition for a woman. Many women suffer from menopause in ways they should not need to due to lack of knowledge and support. The embarrassment women have about their periods, perhaps at a young age or even later in life is disturbing. Some women then feel embarrassed or helpless later in life during their menopause. Women should not feel like this, and men should not feel awkward around the subject either. My boyfriend is very supportive about my monthly cycle and my period issues, but I know that many men hear the word “period” and squirm in their seat or blush. They are ignorant and unknowledgeable. The fact men do not have periods means it was not cared about in the past. Their lack of understanding comes from the social construction that men were more important. Why do we learn so much about puberty but not as much (or at all) about menstrual cycles and menopause? Men go through puberty. Men do not get periods.
We need to know more about female bodies, menstrual cycles, and female hormones. Period.
Words: Emma Gardner, she/her
Images: Emily Matthews, they/she