Yes… there is a day for everything nowadays isn’t there? Menstrual Hygiene Day, celebrated on the 28th May worldwide, is a great one though. It provides a global advocacy platform for charities, government agencies, the private sector, and individuals to promote good menstrual hygiene management for all.
Can we talk about the name though?
Menstrual Hygiene Day, is informative and clear, however, the use of the word hygiene implies that a period in itself is un-hygienic – feeding into the narrative that the period is dirty or shameful. There has to be a better name out there that is less, well, hygienic. And I’m not alone in thinking this. There is a growing number of people that are questioning the language we use to talk about periods in the public domain.
The campaign group Health not Hygiene is one such organisation that is campaigning to end the social stigma around menstruation and focuses on the language that we use when talking about periods. It argues that the word hygiene in Menstrual Hygiene Day perpetuates menstrual stigma and does not encompass the whole experience of having a period. It suggests that the word health, on the other hand, encompasses both the physical and the mental experience of having a period, focussing on well-being over hygiene.
Would a rose not smell as sweet if it were named Menstrual Health Day?
This is not to single out Menstrual Hygiene Day. I think it’s an amazing initiative and I’m totally on board. I just agree that we need to re-think the language we commonly use around menstruation, and that Menstrual Health Day is a better alternative.
Another example is the phrase ‘sanitary product’, with many organisations beginning to use ‘period product’ instead. The factual nature of the new phrase is to the point and the removal of the word ‘sanitary’ disassociates periods solely with cleanliness and the idea that it is something that needs to be sanitised.
The words we use are important, particularly around periods, which can be either incredibly clinical or wildly elaborate (eg. *BLOB*). A period is a varied experience that encompasses many things, not simply something that needs to be ‘cleaned up.’ This perpetuates menstrual stigma that, in turn, makes it more difficult to reach people that need the education, support, and advocacy around menstrual health that these initiatives provide.
So, join me in celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day, find out more on global events and campaigns running this May HERE. Whilst also recognising that the language we use is important. You can join the Health not Hygiene campaign HERE or join the conversation in the comments below.