3 Questions

3 questions to Paula Kragten

Journalist Paula Kragten is founder of and driving force behind Period, the online magazine about the menstrual cycle. She is author of the book ‘Beautiful red is not ugly’ and co-host of the Bloody Sunday Afternoon on October 8, as part of the Sustainable Week Utrecht. Simavi asked her three questions. Bottom line: why is menstrual awareness important in the Netherlands?

1

Why is it important that people go to Bloody Sunday Afternoon?

“May I adjust this question a little bit? I think it’s very important that Bloody Sunday Afternoon is there. Opposite of what you might think, the Netherlands is running behind when it comes to menstrual awareness. May 2017 there was already a small-scale meeting in Utrecht around Menstrual Hygiene Day. And now there is this festival, as part of the Sustainable Week Utrecht. Two events in a half year time to raise awareness. This is evidence that the topic is gaining atttention. Things are finally changing! ”

In addition, I think Bloody Sunday Afternoon is especially a fun festival to go. Because you will be surprised by the scope of the topic. Of course, it’s about sustainability, about the thirteen thousand disposable products that an average women use in life that end up in the trash can, and about the impact on their own health and the environment. But it’s also about self-respect and emancipation. With a pinch of self-pity and humour. ”

After all, why is going through some serious menstrual complaints a good idea? Or why should you feel the same at the different phases of your cycle? A little more appreciation and attention to a completely natural phenomenon is something that the whole society can benefit from. It is bloody time for some period pride instead of period shame.”

2

How important is it to break taboos around menstruation (also in the Netherlands)?

“If you look back at history, you notice that menstruation has brought women little good. Apart from the physical inconvenience, the biological difference between men and women (the fact that you are able to give birth), means disdvantages. Both economic and social. I’m astonished that the idea menstruating woman evil continues to be widespread throughout the world. That millions of girls and women still have to keep up with the most idiotic regulations, losing opportunities and running additional health risks.

On the other hand, I find it so amazing that menstruation in Western countries is such a non-topic. Menstrual education in many places in the world, thanks to NGOs like Simavi, is a lot more intelligent than here. I see wonderful teaching material, where we can learn a lot from in the Netherlands. Here the topic is still too much being tip toed around, we need to be discrete about menstruation. “It’s part of life, but nobody needs to notice it.” Why? More than half of the world’s population is menstruating. Without menstruation you did not exist. With Period! I try to show the absurdity of menstrual shame by mixing independent information with a twist / humour.

The fact that menstruation is difficult to discuss in the Netherlands is often something that surprises many people. When I launched the Dutch edition of http://www.period.nl/ in April 2014, I did not quite think that there would be much need for explanation about the biological and practical side of the story. I wanted to talk about cultural history, but was shocked by the questions that came in. Like: Can you pee with a tampon? (You’re peeing through a completely different opening!) Do you need to have sex before you get your period the first time? (Huh?).”

3

Why do you think it's important that we all create more awareness around this topic?

“Personally, I have never found it complicated to discuss the topic into the most bloody details. But I turned out to be in a luxurious position. There are a lot of Dutch girls and women who do not dare to talk about menstruation with their parents, teachers, girlfriends or doctors. And they are taking unacceptable health hazards by unnecessarily stumbling with severe complaints. That is also the conviction of gynaecology professors and other medical experts I interviewed for my book.

There is still so much unknown. For example, does it matter at what time of the menstrual cycle you have a medical examination? What is the impact of menstrual absenteeism on the economy? What is actually a normal menstruation? We have no idea, because good research has never really been done. While we are menstruating ten times more than a few centuries ago, converted around 6.8 years in one lifetime. Obviously there is an overkill of information, but it is often completely unclear where this information comes from. By way of illustration: In the Netherlands, sponsored menstrual education in secondary schools is still perfectly normal. Menstrual education from a manufacturer’s. There is no other lesson topic imaginable where this would be acceptable. But with menstruation somehow it is.”

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