“World Menstruation Day” – of gloves, fists and period blood

May 28th is World Menstruation Day or Menstrual Hygiene Day. The aim is to break taboos surrounding the subject of periods and to ensure that girls and women worldwide have access to safe menstrual products. An important topic, our author thinks.

A warning in advance: I am bleeding as I write this text. But you won’t notice it while reading – I promise.

25,100 female students are enrolled at the University of Hamburg, and about 4,400 of them are menstruating right now. No wonder the trash cans in the university’s women’s restrooms are so often overflowing.

At least there are some there. When I tried to change my tampon in a restroom at the mall, I could only find a toilet brush next to the toilet in the stall. In front of it was a colourful pile of pads, toilet paper and a pregnancy test. Because I didn’t want to add my used tampon to the pile, I wrapped it in toilet paper, gritted my teeth, and threw it into a waste bin 63 steps away. My fist a miserable fighting metaphor: Just don’t clench it too tightly or it will drip.

source: Lisa Kahl

On May 28th, “World Menstruation Day” gives rise to common resistance against (everyday) sexism and structural discrimination. The date is made up of the average cycle length (28 days) and the average menstruation period (5 days). Clever. Initiated in 2013 by the Berlin-based non-profit organisation “WASH-United,” this year marks the ninth time the day has been celebrated worldwide with events centered around the taboo topic of periods.

Unfortunately, such destigmatisation is still necessary. Young girls in particular often dread the suspicious crackle of the pad pack and the subsequent ridicule of their male classmates. It is therefore all the more important that boys also get used to the subject of menstruation at an early age. Parents and teachers alike have a duty to break the social silence.

Information materials are provided free of charge on the official Menstrual Hygiene Day website to all those who do not use them for profit.

A good caveat, because of course it is also possible to make capital out of the period issue. Similar to the principle of “greenwashing,” companies and corporations stand in supposed solidarity with issues of inequality for profit. I’m reminded of the “Pinky Gloves,” pink disposable gloves in which women are supposed to wrap their full tampons to spare their male roommates the gruesome sight of period blood in the bathroom trash can. Entrepreneur Ralf Dümmel paid 30,000 euros for this product idea in 2021 on the Vox show “Die Höhle der Löwen.” In the meantime, the company has been taken off the market again – what remains is a feeling of bewilderment: Really?! Still?!

source: Lisa Kahl

But let’s be honest: as much as I get annoyed by the Julians and Timos and Kristians who ponder aloud whether I’m having my “strawberry week”, as frustrating as it is to buy overpriced menstrual products, in an international comparison Germany is far from the worst when it comes to safe menstruation.

Period poverty is a global problem. More than 500 million girls and women worldwide do not have the opportunity to menstruate safely. Change in this situation does not come about through cynical comments, but through educational work, carried out for example by initiatives such as that of “World Menstruation Day”, and a complete deconstruction of patriarchal oppression.