It’s a small enough thing. Just a little red droplet. But that little droplet is about to make a big difference to girls everywhere. The period emoji is finally a reality!
When the topic of stigmas around menstruation comes up, it is easy to think of the girls who are forced to sleep in huts, banned from places of worship, or publicly embarrassed in school. But the truth is that shame around periods exists in a variety of other ways, too.
As a 20-something college student from the Seattle area, I never thought that conversations about menstrual health and attitudes towards menstruation related to me. While I have always been an avid supporter of such movements, it was always because I wanted to speak up for others — not because I felt like it affected me.
I’ve had every advantage and privilege when it comes to menstrual health. I have good healthcare, a doctor I trust and can reach any time, I have older sisters I can look up to (who even gave me period panties for my birthday). I have finances to purchase pads and tampons and a partner who isn’t afraid to talk to me about menstruation.
So after becoming a volunteer with Days for Girls, I figured that I should have no problem talking about periods. It turns out that I was wrong.
Recently, I had one of those embarrassing period moments every girl fears. I got caught by surprise during a class and ended up with blood stain on my shorts. So I went home, skipping one of my classes and needed to email my professor to explain my absence. It should have been no big deal — a period is a perfectly reasonable excuse.
I typed out the email, then backspaced until all it said was “Dear Professor.” Then I typed: “I am feeling ill today and won’t be able to attend class.” Then I backspaced that, too, and stared at the blinking cursor. I shouldn’t need to lie: I should just be able to say it. Why was I so embarrassed about sharing that I had my period? Finally, I mustered enough courage to write what really happened and send it before I could change my mind.
My professor excused my absence for the day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard it was to write that one simple email. If my professor had been a man, I would never have considered telling him that I missed class because of my period. Even if there was a chance that I would lose points for an unexcused absence, I would never have had the nerve to talk about my period.
The truth is that even with a great support system and all the advantages in the world, it can still be really hard to talk about menstruation, and even a little embarrassing. That’s why the period emoji is so important!
This new period emoji can help make talking about menstruation easier, fun, funny, and a little less awkward. Texting about periods may be easier than talking face to face with people — and any way to start a conversation about menstruation is a good way!
A lot of people took to social media to complain about the emoji’s ambiguity, to argue that this was “not the period emoji we need” since it isn’t overtly related to menstruation (like a pad or tampon would be). It would be awesome to see these period product emojis, but the droplet is a great place to start.
For people who are embarrassed about periods, an emoji can make them more likely to use the emoji and try talking about their period. (A la what the eggplant emoji did for people sending dirty messages.)
At Days for Girls, we believe that everyone should be able to talk about menstruation openly, but not everyone is there yet. Having this small step could open the door to get girls talking and encourages them to grow their confidence. And we’re all about empowering girls and building confidence.
We all could use a little more period talk — and this droplet is a step in the right direction. I know that it will show up in my frequently used emojis, and I hope it helps all of us build confidence talking about menstruation. Periods are normal, so why shouldn’t talking about them be normal, too?