North Korean women soldiers are forced to reuse pads, and due to lack of nutrition for several months continuously, they stop getting their periods altogether. Sally Ride was the first female NASA astronaut to go to space. Her trip was to last for one week, and her male colleagues wanted to send her to space with 100 tampons.
One hundred tampons for one week!
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A group of scientists performed a study in 1960, believing that since men wear lighter and consume less, they would function better in the cramped spaces of a space shuttle. Out of 32 men, 18 passed the rigorous testing. Out of 18 women, 13 passed the test.
Women qualified with a better ratio than men; 72.2% women vs 56.25% men. They concluded that women were better suited for space than men. Still, since NASA only accepted people who graduated from jet training, women could not apply for the NASA astronaut program, as women couldn’t apply for jet training.
It would take another ten years for NASA to accept its first woman candidate in the 1980s but still worried about women menstruating in space while they had to control such a complicated machine. Did they not know that a woman’s prominent hormones are testosterone during periods, making them more “manly”?
Ah, the irony!
When I was in 11th, I asked my closest guy friend what he thought a pad does and what he thought periods were. He replied, “A pad is like a diaper. To hold your pee.” I didn’t know whether I should’ve laughed or wept; the situation was funny and sad. Then I explained what periods are, and he was shaken. “So you mean to tell me girls bleed for five days and still worked as if everything is normal? How do you manage it?” he asked in genuine wonder.
Another time when I was outside with my friends, I felt the telltale signs of my period coming. I wasn’t wearing a pad, and I am not ashamed saying the “P-word“, so I told them I needed to go home as I was menstruating, and one of my guy friends asked me to hold it in. Yes, he said that.
FYI, non-menstruators, we cannot hold our periods in. So you might be wondering why non-menstruators need to know about menstruation. Let me tell you why. A lack of understanding of periods might lead to “how bad can it be” syndrome in non-menstruators aged 35 and younger and “period problems? This is why women should stay at home” syndrome in the older generation non-menstruators.
Marie Claire reports that there are only three countries where the number of female bosses is greater than male bosses. So you see, we have a greater chance of facing and dealing with a male boss than a female one. A male boss thinks menstruation is an excuse, which is why women should not be hired in the workforce. About half of Indian startups and 40% of managers avoid hiring women, so that they need to provide paid maternity leave. If they do not understand how periods affect us, period leaves will also discriminatory affect hiring menstruators.
So yes, it matters that non-menstruators understand what periods are and how they affect us.
The menstruation cycle is run by shifting levels of various hormones in a menstruator’s body. I’ll try my best to explain it as simply as a possible, promise.
The menstrual cycle usually lasts for about 28-34 days. The first phase is menstruation. Menstruation is the process in which a person sheds their uterine layer. Periods can last from 2 days (lucky!) to 7 days (I feel you). The second phase is where eggs start to form in the ovaries.
The third phase is where the egg bursts out from the ovaries and sticks itself to the uterine layer; this phase is usually the most fertile phase meaning unprotected sex during this time has high chances of leading to pregnancy. In the final phase, if the egg is not fertilized, it withers and is absorbed into the uterine lining.
Since pregnancy has not occurred, the progesterone level drops, which causes the uterine layer to shed, hence menstruation, and the whole cycle repeats.
This word is thrown around like free money, especially to discredit menstruators and their emotions. “Why are you so angry? Are you PMSing?” No! They might be PMSing, they might not be PMSing, but that shouldn’t bother you.
PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a range of symptoms experienced by menstruators before just before their period begins and even during periods. The symptoms can range from mood swings to cramps, headache, backache, tender breasts, nausea, constipation and in extreme cases, even losing consciousness.
Every period is different, and people experience it differently. Some people do not experience PMS at all, and on the other hand, some people’s PMS gets so bad that they need bed rest.
There is a range of remedies for PMS, but PMS and periods in general cause discomfort to some extent at the end of the day. Lack of understanding and disregard from non-menstruators makes it worse. We should stop acting as if it’s a crime to feel irritated when we are bleeding and in pain.
For a lot of people, pain and periods go hand in hand. I experience a lot of pain, especially during my first three days. It gets so bad that I physically cannot lie down in peace. Everyone who has gone through a painful period knows that a hot water bag and medication is our best friend.
Cramps, headaches, and lower backache are likely due to prostaglandins, a hormone that plays a significant role in contracting the uterus to shed the uterine lining. Severe pain which does not decrease by using over the counter medication can be a sign of dysmenorrhea, and in that case, do not be shy to seek help from a doctor.
Here you go, an essential guide to what menstruators experience every month. Going through periods doesn’t make us weak. You can not pick and point who is menstruating just by looking at them. Periods happen to us every month for about 30-40 years of our life! So let’s no longer keep periods a hush-hush topic and embrace it— the more people who understand periods, the better because you know someone who deals with menstruation.