Here, Chella Quint, comedian-turned-menstruation education researcher and the creator of Adventures in Menstruating, creates, promotes and shares resources and recommendations from her menstruation education research project and signposts other great resources for #periodpositive menstruation education for all ages and genders, menstruators and non-menstruators.
Chella coined the term #periodpositive in 2006 while touring her free Adventures in Menstruating comedy show and workshops in school holidays while teaching drama and PSHE. She kept meeting audiences who wanted her to speak at their school or university and share this work more widely. Finally she went back to university, completed an MA in education, and started researching issues in menstruation education to find out how she could do more.
Chella developed #PeriodPositive to counteract the frequently negative public discourse about periods. She accepts that people may both love and hate periods, but tries to unpick how big an influence the media plays in these attitudes. She aims for ‘period neutral’, using a positive approach.
The most compelling bits of my research findings are the impact of advertising messages on the fears kids have reported about menstruation. Their concerns have been of shame, secrecy and leakage fear. There’s a history of language use and deliberate marketing in schools that demonstrates a clear link, and it all comes down to two things – secrecy-vs.-privacy, and shame. Privacy is fine – that’s a boundary you’re setting and it’s about safety, choice and consent. Secrecy, on the other hand, is not ok. Secrecy is someone else – whether that’s a parent, teacher, advertising message or society more generally – telling you that you need to be quiet about something – or that you need to do whatever it takes to make a part of you invisible. That’s no way to be, as anyone who experiences intersectional oppressions or whose gender identity, race or ethnicity, sexuality, or disability is not immediately apparent.
And that’s where shame comes in. No one has the right to imply that anyone’s identity, body, or bodily function (or dysfunction, for that matter) is shameful, makes people uncomfortable, or should be hidden or kept secret, and yet that is how menstruation education is most often approached (or avoided) in schools. By not taking more interest in the quality and purpose of the current menstruation education currently on offer in all but a handful of schools (and there are some where individual teachers are aiming to change this), there is a tacit complicity in the status quo, which #periodpositive serves to challenge.