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#HERStory – Episode 7: The Period Amazon

What Did She Do?

I Spoke Up Against Period Shaming

The Period Amazon: I have always struggled with my menstrual cycle. There are times it comes with zero stress and other times it just comes with a lot of pain and discomfort. One time, in the university, I passed out because of my period. The flow was so heavy and I had not had a decent meal that day. I lost consciousness on the queue in the banking hall. So, yes, ‘Granma’ or the ‘red devil’ and I are not the best of friends. I dread days when I have to go to work on my period. The cramps feel like I’m being constantly pricked by tiny needles in my lower abdomen. I am too tired to look fashionable or to even wear any make-up. I just show up to be present while fighting the pain and discomfort. Usually, my boss is very irritated with me during times like this. The very first time it happened my boss seemed more understanding. I called her to the side to tell her I was on my period and that it was difficult for me. She told me to take the rest of the day off. On some other months, I’d come to work feeling stronger because my flow was less traumatic. Other months, it would be almost fatal, and I would have to call-in sick or leave the office halfway through work. As expected, Tina, my boss, got a bit less tolerant of my unstable health hazard. On this particular day, she seemed to have lost all her human empathy and forgotten that she was a woman too, and I was not going to have it.

How Did She Do it?

I Just Wanted to Put the Shame Back Where It Belonged

The Period Amazon: So, that day, we had a very important presentation we were going to pitch to management for approval. We, or rather, ‘I’ had been working on this memo for weeks. It was very crucial to the success of our set goals for the department. The night before the presentation, the monthly reminder for my period went off. “Shit, not today”, I thought. I needed to be on my A-game for the next 3 days. I was already feeling the cramps build up at 11:30pm as a I pulled a late night to cross my T’s and dot my I’s in preparation for the big presentation the next day. The drive home was even worse. I felt dizzy and extremely tired. I just hoped this month’s period was not going to be a painful one. I woke up that morning feeling like I had been in an accident and my lower abdomen squashed into a tree by a giant truck. All I kept thinking was “Not today, Satan”. I had to make it to that presentation whether the devil liked it or not. I pushed myself so hard to prepare for work, had breakfast (so I would not faint again), took some painkillers to fight the cramps. Everything I could do to fight the pain. I still felt very weak. I got to the office a few minutes to 8:00am. Our meeting was for 9:30am. I decided to just take a breather in my car to calm down and regain some strength for the big day ahead. I walked into the office at about 8:13am and the first thing I heard was Tina, screaming at the top of her lungs, “How can you be late, today of all days? You are so incompetent!”. I was confused. I had done all the work I needed to do in preparation for today. I stayed back late the night before, just to get things ready and set for this morning. She was nowhere to be found all this time. I did not understand why she was being so aggressive. I apologized and dashed to my desk to see if there was anything outstanding that I needed to address. Nothing. Everything was on track for our big presentation. But Tina kept going on about me coming in late on this important day. I went to her side and tried to quietly explain that I was on my period. As soon as she heard the word ‘period’ she burst out into a louder scream “You’re on your period? Madam, we are all women here! You’re not the only one that experiences periods!”. I was completely embarrassed. This woman had not only told the entire office I was on my period so rudely, she had also discriminated against me because of my peculiar period challenges. I just could not hold it back, I had to speak up, “Please stop period shaming me, Ma, I do not appreciate your last statement” I said calmly but loudly. “Please keep shut. You are not the only woman here!”, she continued. At this point, I was no longer having it either. I snapped, and told her a piece of my mind and educated her on the realities of period shaming and discrimination, especially in her action. She was in total shock at my audacity. I was too. We managed to wave through the presentation and secure the approval. But that evening was met with more issues. From a query, to a meeting with the ‘Human Resource Manager’ who seemed to not see the wrong in the act of period discrimination by my boss. When I brought up the issue, I was told it was 'not a real issue' and I should not create a problem that does not exist because I was not the only woman at work who experienced menstruation. After that, I knew I had to resume my job hunting because that was not the kind of work environment I wanted to be a part of. I started my new job a month later.

A Moment That Tested Her

Having my Menstrual Status so Publicly Announced

The Period Amazon: I think the most hurtful part of this experience for me was when I was humiliated by Tina. The moment she rudely announced to the hearing of all my colleagues (male, female, young, old) that I was on my period. I felt like sinking in the ground. Then to make it even worse, she followed it with a statement that made me feel bad and less than excellent because of my complicated menstrual cycle. I was more disappointed because I did not expect that from her. I felt she would be more considerate being a woman who also has to battle period cramps.

Her Eureka Moment?

Realizing That the Firm and Many Others were Oblivious to the Issue of Period Shaming

The Period Amazon: It was apparent that my boss, and the HR manager saw no wrong in the unfortunate incident. It was like they were completely oblivious to the fact that period shaming and discrimination is an actual gender issue that has led many girls like me to depression, exclusion and stereotyping as ‘weak or lazy’. It made me realize that we have a long way to go as a country when it comes to awareness creation on period discrimination. I should not be made to feel inadequate or inferior because of a biological condition that I have to manage and survive through, and people should be more considerate and understanding of the fact that the magnitude of the side effects of menstruation differs for different women.

What She Learnt

The Period Amazon:

  • There is need for more awareness creation on period shaming and discrimination in this country, and more women need to champion this agenda by speaking up about it! People do not even know the act exists, how can they work towards eliminating it?


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