Amika George – founder of the Free Periods initiative and teenage period poverty activist – recognises the great progress that has been made over the last few years, but insists the conversation about periods “has to keep going.” We couldn’t agree more.
Her latest campaign, #FreePeriodStories is encouraging people who have periods to speak up about them in order to change the narrative that they’re gross and shouldn’t take up space in public. It’s in opposition to any person who’s ever been told to whisper or not talk at all about being on their period, and we’re completely and utterly here for it. Read on to hear what the FGRLS team want to share about their periods.
“Periods are fast becoming one of my favourite topics, from hosting a Period Party event, to endlessly reading books about menstruation and campaigning against the tampon tax. But I wasn’t always this empowered by my periods, or passionate about making having them safe and free for everyone. I grew up clouded in shame, with misinformation and with a lack of support on the topic.
I started my period when I was just 10-years-old. I didn’t know what it was, or what was happening to my body. I was at my dad’s house, when I found loads of blood in my pants. I stuffed toilet paper in them, clearly an innate reaction built into girls, and sobbed. I called my mum on the landline, and she told me I’d started my period. My dad came back to the house a little while later, having received a phone call from my mum, and said the words ‘I hear you’re a woman now’. I now, as an adult, know this was out of stoic British uncomfortableness, but at the time it was a less than ideal response. He did, however, go to the shop and get me pads. You know, those giant 30p ones, that look like nappies.
Since then, I’ve had 15 years of periods that control my life – the intensity of my cramps can make me faint, the heaviness of my flow means I go through 10 or more pads a day, and the length of them means I can get anaemic from the amount of blood loss. I’ve spent countless hours in doctor’s waiting rooms begging someone to tell me this isn’t normal. To not just dismiss me because, when you’re a woman, pain is accepted as a part of our lives.
Whether you have good periods, bad periods, no periods – one thing I’ve learnt is that periods matter. They’re not going anywhere, so we may as well try to understand them better.”
“I got my first period when I was about thirteen, in my Granny’s house where I went after school. To put it mildly, I was stunned. What on God’s green earth had just happened and why was I bleeding?! It took me a few moments to realise that it was, in fact, just my period, and not a sign that I was about to collapse and die. My mind wandered back to a vague flashback of a healthcare nurse coming into talk to my Primary Seven class (the last year in Northern Irish Primary school) and shoving a tampon into a jug of water to show us how much it expanded. That’s the only take-away I had from our ‘period education’ session, so I racked my brain and tried to remind myself of the chat we had at the lockers, when girls in my class were talking about getting their periods. What did they do? What did they use? All I could remember was one girl who got her period aged eleven telling us that the sanitary towel she’d put on before hockey was ‘like wearing a nappy,’ so I quickly assembled a sort of toilet roll nappy and then bolted upstairs to hide for an hour. I rang my best friend, sitting on the floor with my back against the radiator, and in a quiet voice told her I’d got my period and asked what I should do. When my Mum came to collect me from my Grandmother’s house, I kept quiet because my Dad was there too, and it didn’t seem like something I should mention in front of him. I dealt with the toilet paper situation until I finally got my Mum on her own that evening, and whispered quietly, embarrassed and unsure, that I’d started bleeding. She got me sorted, and told me she’d buy some supplies, and that was that, but the utter dread I’d felt in bringing it up with her was palpable. I can still remember it.
Thinking back to this episode now, when I’m an adult woman who sits with a postcard stuck to her wall at work that reads ‘Stop Tampon Smuggling,’ I find it almost unbelievable that little Mini Me was so ashamed. This is why we desperately need to talk about periods more, with our little sisters and cousins, our brothers and fathers, our boyfriends, online communities and our friends. Wouldn’t it be great if all young people getting their first period were equipped with full knowledge about was happening to them and felt able to tell others when it happened? Carry your tampons in your hand at work, tell your boyfriend about your period pain and support charities like Free Periods and The Red Box Project. Let’s ensure that no young person feels the way that we did when we were younger.”
“There was an urban myth at my school that will go down as either the most impressively intricate lie I’ve ever heard, or the best period story, PERIOD. A friend of a friend of a friend was jogging around town when she spotted the hot guy she had a huge, huge crush on. She happened to be on her period, but was running with a tampon in, so all was well and good. Being absolutely besotted with the guy, she started to follow him. She got closer and closer, more and more distracted and worked up over his beauty… that she fell. The force and exact angle of which she hit the floor shot her tampon up inside her, causing her to orgasm in a pile on the pavement right behind him. He turned around to find her panting on the floor, metres behind him, took one confused look and sharply walked away.
I have no idea whether this is a) true, or b) physically and anatomically possible, but it nevertheless goes down in history for me as one of the most legendary tales I’ve heard.”
Anon, Contributing Writer
“My period story of choice sticks out like a sore, rather red, thumb and goes down in HERstory as a ‘please, ground, swallow me the fuck up’ moment. Now, not that I’m particularly embarrassed that every few months (yes am blessed with an irregular flow) my uterus feels like it is being attacked with a chainsaw and I wolf down chips and bread like they’re going out of style, in fact I am quite proud of my body doing its thing and take pleasure in sashaying desk to loo swinging my sanitary product of choice in people’s faces. It just so happens that this story involved a 13-year-old me, a music lesson and a big fat first crush. Yes, embarrassment 101. Being the edgy rebel teenager I was (lol ok Katie) I was sat at the back of my year 10 music lesson on the desk, swinging my legs, chewing Hubba bubba and v unsuccessfully flirting with a group of boys of which included the dreamy *Liam Thompson, who, of course, was strumming an acoustic guitar. So, whilst I dreamed of Liam strumming me like the instrument on his lap I decided to, in my v tight Jane Norman black school trousers, slide off the table I was perched on and offer Liam a few tips on the G string. A collection of “Ewwws” echoed around the music room (goddam acoustics) and to my horror in my sexy slide I had left behind an arse wipe of bloody brown on the school desk the boys were sat around. Although now I would scald the dramatisation of such a normal event as a period leak, 2006 me was horrified and proceeded to join in and pretend I had absolutely ZERO idea where the stain had appeared from. In fact, to prove my innocence and total horror even further I proceeded to smell the table and yes, taste it, to show that I also could not explain where this mysterious weird sludge had emerged. Reader, I licked my own menstruation. It’s true what they say though, tastes like pennies.”
*name changed because I obv never told him I had a crush and 26-year-old me is protecting her teenage self 4 life.
Got a tale that could trump one of ours? Or just want to do your bit to break the stigma around a natural and essential bodily process? Share your story on socials using the #FreePeriodStories hashtag and tag us, @fgrlsclub.