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It’s only blood

Dispelling the myth that period blood is blue!

In the eyes of both women and men, the sight of period blood is divisive. Firstly it can create joy if you don’t want to be pregnant and despair if you do. We’ve all been conditioned over centuries to think of periods as dirty, shameful, embarrassing, smelly, and yet also so magical that menstruating women could turn fruit rotten just by looking at it.

Blood is honoured on the battlefield, in horror films, in modern fighting arenas or contact sports, but period blood has its own set of rules and must be hidden from view. Indeed the sight of period blood is deemed so distasteful by TV executives that advertisers are forced to use blue liquid to demonstrate the absorption of disposable pads. Can you imagine if Holby City make-up department used blue fake blood in their trauma scenes? I mean, we’d all have a laugh!

Period products are often displayed at the back of the chemist; hidden away to prevent offence to those who do not menstruate, or certainly don’t want to be reminded that they do. Add to that the ubiquitous use of the word ‘sanitary’ in relation to period products – suggesting that periods, and by association women, are ‘unsanitary’ when we bleed. We don’t refer to plasters and bandages as sanitary products and yet they do the same job – mob up blood.

A first bleed marks a transition from child to blossoming adult, and while this wonder of nature and potential for new life is mildly celebrated by her parents, it might be quickly followed by the caveat that her bleeding should never again be mentioned in company. It’s hardly surprising that women can’t embrace their periods if the first thing children experience when they start menstruating is embarrassment and disgust at themselves and their bodies. 

Discretion is the end result, but the problem is that periods themselves are far from discrete. Menstrual blood seeps through our clothes and painful stomach cramps are not easy to disguise, and should we fail in our mission to hide any trace of our period, we must carry the shame of disclosure throughout our school life and into adulthood. Period shaming is at its very core, misogynistic. It starts early and it’s time to end it for good.

Clever marketing has convinced us all that period blood is dirty in order to sell us something that will disguise it, hide it, contain it and sanitise it. This isn’t actually ‘clever’ at all; it is deceitful, dishonest and reinforces an historic and misogynistic narrative that continues to oppress us all.

It’s no wonder that disposable period pads have become so popular – because you can practically do the whole thing with your eyes closed and never once have to look at your own blood or acknowledge this biological miracle that is your period.

So reducing our reliance on single-use plastic is indeed a challenge when it comes to period products. While many alternative, reusable products exist on the market, the switch from the convenience of disposable pads has been slow, until now. Until Greta Thunberg, Chris Packham, The Blue Planet, and a little turtle with a straw up its nose, did we finally acknowledge the harm we are causing with single-use plastics. We’ve also realised that waiting for government to tackle this particular problem is pointless; there is no financial incentive for them to do the right thing, so it’s up to us. We have to change our behaviours, change our attitudes, take personal responsibility for the oceans and the creatures dependent on it; because ‘nothin changes if nobody changes’.*

But for some, the prospect of putting a blood-soaked period pad in a washing machine induces nausea and disgust, and yet chucking their son’s bloody jeans on a 40 degree wash is fine? Indeed a blood-smeared rugby shirt could symbolise a badge of honour if your team are the victors.

Let’s get this straight. Blood is amazing. It consists of four elements; an alkaline fluid called plasma which carries red cells (erythrocytes) that deliver oxygen from the lungs to the tissues, white cells (leucocytes) that protect against the invasion of bacteria, and platelets that stop you bleeding to death. Blood is blood, whether it comes out of a cut finger, a bloody nose or a vagina, it’s only blood – although at times, period blood may be a little gloopy.

The individual fabrics that we use in Ethixx washable period pads are guaranteed to wash for up to 300 times – but as components that make up one product, that is naturally reduced. But we are confident that they will last for three to four years, if cared for properly. Looking after them takes a bit of care and attention, but basically: you rinse them in cold water, pop them in a wash bag and chuck them in the washing machine with your undies. Reshape and hang them to dry (or pop them in a tumble dryer for a short time and then hang them to dry completely) before storing them flat until the next time you use them. Pretty easy really! And if you’re still upset by the sight of blood, you can probably still do the whole thing with your eyes closed.

Period blood is not dirtier than the stuff that oozes out of a nose after a collision with someone’s elbow during competitive sports, or your child’s knee after they have fallen from their bicycle. The only difference is that it has come from a vagina. It is not contaminated or toxic, and doesn’t need fragrances to cover up any unusual smell. Neither is it blue. It’s only blood.

  • Quote taken from Good Hemp Seed Milk.
  • Suggested reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant