The Victorian Women's Trust (VWT) and its harm prevention entity, the Dugdale Trust for Women & Girls have launched its ground-breaking book About Bloody Time: the menstrual revolution we have to have, which aims to break the long-standing taboo that exists around menstruation.
Written by feminist author Karen Pickering and Australia's most renowned menstrual educator Jane Bennett, the investigative book is the culmination of six years of research and analysis on menstrual health, including an international survey of almost 3,500 women, making it an extraordinarily comprehensive study.
About Bloody Time explores women's experiences of menstruation from puberty to menopause and examines the menstrual taboo from all angles. Among its many findings, the research underpinning the book revealed that over half of the women surveyed (55%; and ranging in age from 12 to 46+) did not feel prepared for their first period. The fact that girls currently in their teens feel as unprepared now as women who had their first period decades ago, indicates that while other subjects such as sex and pornography are increasingly discussed, menstruation remains a mysterious and off-limits topic.
VWT's Executive Director Mary Crooks AO says, "Menstruation and menopause is an intrinsic part of our health and wellbeing, however the way periods are shrouded in secrecy and shame is anything but healthy. This has enormous implications for women and girls. If women are to achieve full gender equality, dismantling this taboo is one of the last frontiers to be addressed."
Co-author and menstrual educator Jane Bennett says, "A resource like About Bloody Time is long overdue. It is our hope that it becomes a staple of schools, libraries and households all over the country so that girls and women are no longer confused or ashamed by the incredible things that their bodies can do."
Co-author and feminist writer Karen Pickering says, "We know that by building a positive menstrual culture " in homes, schools, workplaces and in government policy – we can change the future for girls. A positive understanding of menstrual wellbeing should be the right of every child."
Funding for the publication of About Bloody Time has been raised through a Pozible crowdfunding campaign which saw supporters donate the initial goal of $15,000 in just six days. The immediate success of the campaign highlights the demand for an accessible resource on this topic and since meeting its goal, the campaign has been extended to raise additional funds and allow more copies of the book to be printed.
About Bloody Time has been designed by Aimee Carruthers, with artwork by Alice Lindstrom, Michelle Pereira, and Lucy Fahey, and includes a foreword from feminist writer, Clementine Ford.
Question: What inspired you to write About Bloody Time?
Karen Pickering and Jane Bennett: We were so thrilled to be able to share the story of thousands of girls and women, but many of them felt real shame and embarrassment around periods. So we wanted to explore why there is such a taboo around menstruation, how it makes people feel ashamed and disgusted about something that's really normal, and what we can do to fix it. This book is the incredible true story of menstruation and how misunderstood it has been for thousands of years, how amazing it actually is, and how we can build a better relationship with it, as a society and as individuals.
Question: What message do you hope to spread with About Bloody Time?
Karen Pickering and Jane Bennett: About Bloody Time is an impassioned plea for change. It's so unfair that girls and women are led to feel ashamed or embarrassed by their period! Menstruation is so totally normal, and actually pretty awesome, so we lay out all the reasons we should value it, or at least not be grossed out or scared by it.
Question: How can we promote positive menstruation discussions in our own homes?
Karen Pickering and Jane Bennett: We share in the book how change can happen in our society through each person that decides to do things differently. Of course, we need big-scale change, like better education for students, better training in health care, and workplaces changing their policies. But every person can be more period positive, by just being open and up for conversation. It might be chatting with your family or friends, or your boyfriend or girlfriend - just finding ways to be comfortable talking about anything from cramps to buying tampons. The more people talking with each other about how normal periods are, the better.
Question: How can we break the period taboo?
Karen Pickering and Jane Bennett: We think there need to be big cultural and societal changes, as well as individuals learning about their own cycle. You personally can get on good terms with your period, by knowing what's happening inside your body every month. But you can also help others get more comfortable about periods by opening up in conversation. You can also be a good bystander if you see other people period shaming, like making fun of someone for a period accident, for example. It doesn't take much to say "Hey, that's not cool. There's nothing wrong with getting your period." And hopefully your little bit of courage will be contagious.
Interview by Brooke Hunter