In 2016, the International Women's Health Coalition released a report finding that women around the world use more than 5,000 euphemisms for their periods. We bet you're familiar with a few of them: "shark week," "that time of the month," "riding the crimson wave," "Aunt Flo," "the rag."
But why do so many of these silly code names exist? That's what YouTuber Amanda Montell and her special guest, Bustle fashion and beauty editor Sara Tan, tried to suss out in the latest episode of YouTube series "The Dirty Word."
First, Montell and Tan played a game. How many period euphemisms could they each write down in one minute? It turns out, a lot. Tan came up with such classics as "that time of the month" and your "monthly visitor" and Montell added "the curse," "the red wedding," and "ladies' days."
As Montell and Tan discussed, these aren't just cute terms to make your period a little more fun — they're actually problematic in that many of them are specifically girly (which excludes transgender men, and gender non-conforming folk who also get their periods) and are especially negative.
"Fair enough, periods aren't pretty," Montell said. And we can give her that — calling your period "the curse" doesn't seem that far off when your cramps are off the wall and you've bled on yet another pair of your favorite underwear.
But even though periods aren't pretty and it can be kind of funny to call it "shark week," the real problem lies in why we feel the need to avoid words like "period" and "menstruation." Which, it seems pretty obvious, is because women's sexuality and reproductive rights are still thought to be shameful or gross and need to be hidden.
As Montell says in the beginning of the video, when talking about research from linguist Muriel Schulz, euphemisms often contribute to prejudice because when we talk around something instead of just naming it, it creates a sense of shame.
So go ahead and tell your friends that Aunt Flo has come for a visit, but do it because it's funny to think of a little old lady coming to town and gifting you with a few days of vaginal bleeding —not because you're ashamed to talk about menstruation.
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