Let's talk about menstruation. Yes, periods. That time of the month. Women's issues. Shark Week. We hear these words whispered from one person to the next, usually followed by giggles or blushing, because how embarrassing!
The lining of our uteruses shedding off? How dare we speak of such a shameful thing. *insert eye roll here*.
In all seriousness, I'm really passionate about menstruation. Growing up, I was lucky to have a family that never shamed me or were embarrassed by talking about my period. My brothers would always know when I was cramping (mostly because I was balled up, crying in my room); my father would hold my hand and do meditations with me when my cramps were unbearable and offer to go to the grocery store to buy me more pads and tampons; and my mother just had to give me looks that showed that she knew exactly how I was feeling.
Unfortunately, I realize that not all families are like this. Most people shudder away when periods are brought up; we hide tampons up our sleeves so no one knows we're about to use them, and some people will simply refuse to talk about the matter.
This negative connotation towards a natural bodily function is not only absurd, but dangerous.
So when I saw No Coast Paper's Co. "Code Red" series, a series of cards celebrating and recognizing periods, it immediately peaked my interest. And after talking to the founder of the company, Sara, I was beyond excited to sit down with her and have her share her story and her mission:
Sara Thompto started her stationary business, No Coast Paper Co., at an apple festival in Michigan and soon opened up an Etsy shop with postcards, greeting cards, and other paper goods.
The idea to start a Code Red greeting card series to celebrate menstruation arose after a conversation she had after an art show opening of her wife's work in New York. They went out with the director of the art gallery after the opening and in ten minutes, the conversation turned into one about puberty and periods.
"It was the most random conversation ever but it was hilarious and natural and I felt at ease," Sara said. "It got me thinking about how relatable things are like puberty and periods."
During the conversation, the gallery director talked about how her aunt gave her a greeting card when she started her period. It was just a congrats card, but her aunt wrote "Welcome to Womanhood" inside of it. This inspired Sara to create her first card in the Code Red series, "Welcome to the Period Club."
Sara made a key note that she made a card that said "Period Club" instead of "Womanhood" because the phrase didn't sit right with her.
"I think saying 'Welcome to Womanhood' isn't the best thing you can say to a pre-teen or teenage girl who just starts her period. It's kind of like you're saying that having a period is what being a woman is all about, " Sara said. "I mean, yes, having a period is something that happens to the majority of women but it's not the one defining thing. That conversation really got me thinking about how you can go about showing support and open the conversation to women at that age...If girls learn that it's an open topic from the beginning, it lessens the taboo of the subject."
As mentioned earlier, the taboo surrounding periods is ridiculous and dangerous. The shame brought onto someone for talking about periods not only causes people to think a natural bodily function is abnormal, but it also silences a conversation that needs to be had to help people know how to take care of their body.
"I think it's strange that when you bleed in any other way (like a paper cut or stubbing your toe) it's nothing to be embarrassed about and it's not seen as taboo," Sara said. "However, when there's blood coming out of a vagina, it's suddenly something to be embarrassed about. It's blood. It's more natural than blood coming out of any other area of the body. It's not something that should be an issue. There shouldn't be embarrassment about it or shame or made out to be disgusting. It is what it is: a completely natural cycle that happens to a major portion of the population."
As a result of her Code Red series, Sara hopes to open up this dialogue surrounding periods in our culture and around the world to provide support to women and girls who are afraid to discuss their bodies.
"Women need to look within themselves and realize just how badass they are and realize that just because they might have cramps or feel bloated, having a period doesn't take away from who they are," Sara said. "It's not something they need to be ashamed of or embarrassed about."
Later this year, Sara is quitting her day job to focus solely on No Coast Paper Co. and Code Red. Through open, healthy and (sometimes) humorous discussions, we can open up a new pathway for people to talk about their bodies that celebrate a natural occurrence in order to spread positivity and understanding.