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Survey Finds One in Five UK Girls Bullied for Having Periods

A new survey revealed one in five girls and women in the UK are bullied and shamed for their periods. About 20 percent of 14 to 21-year-olds said they have been targeted and about half of respondents said they haven’t shared their experience of abuse with anyone.

The survey also found 67 percent of girls experience bullying in school, with 66 percent having missed school as a result. Plan International UK published the survey and has partnered with the women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt to co-chair the government’s period poverty task force. "For too long, women and girls in the UK have faced unnecessary adversity around their periods, that is why we have formed this task force," Mordaunt said in a statement.

Plan Internation UK’s chief executive Tanya Barron said the shame and stigma girls are experiencing are damaging their self-confidence, self-esteem and are having an “often overlooked impact on their education.” She added, “Girls tell us they are missing out on school because of their period and struggling to catch up on schoolwork as a result. We can’t allow this to continue.”

The Realist Woman’s take:

So TMI moment, but I’m 34 and I’ve had my period since I was 11-years-old. I remember feeling embarrassed for having a period. I wasn’t necessarily bullied by others but I shamed myself for the disgust I felt over having a period. I had extremely heavy periods and extremely painful cramps from my stomach to my toes. The pain is the reason why I wouldn't want to go to school.

I can’t imagine someone making fun of me for something that I now view as a natural experience for anyone born biologically female. Something is wrong culturally on an international level regarding the shaming that girls feel over having a period and the shame that is projected onto us in our culture. From childhood to the present day, I've watched commercials for menstrual products use blue colored water to display how well pads and tampons absorb liquid. Because using red water, which resembles blood, would be "too much" for our little virgin eyes to see.

As we know from previous news stories, girls in underdeveloped countries don’t have a choice but to miss school over their periods, either due to ancient rituals of shaming a girl into isolation for the week of her period or miss school due to a lack of sanitary menstrual products. So to have girls purposely missing school due to bullying over this is shameful in itself. Shameful on the part of the bullies and the lack of protection and defense by teachers and school staff.

Bullying a girl over her period is detrimental to her education, her mental health, and emotional well being. I hope this task force comes up with ideas confronting and correcting this bullying culture, ultimately normalizing the conversation and behavior towards a girl's menstrual cycle.