Women In Japan Are Being Told To Wear ‘Period Badges’ – Is That Really How We Fight Stigma?

Or is it actually the 2019 version of being sent to the shame tent?

Women In Japan Are Being Told To Wear 'Period Badges' - Is That Really How We Fight Stigma?

by Rebecca Reid |
Updated on

Women at a health store in Osaka, Japan, are being asked to wear badges to signify that they are on their periods, in an attempt to remove the stigma around menstruation.

We can all agree that trying to remove the hard parts of being on your period - pain, poverty, general stigma - is a noble aim. But eyebrows have been raised about whether or not this would do that, or whether it’s the 21st century equivalent of telling women to wait out their 'unclean time' in a tent.

The reactions to the idea haven't been overwhelmingly positive. 'Just no. We don’t need a sodding badge,' said Emma Barnett, author of of Period. 'Oh god WHY?' said Claire Cohen, Women's Editor for The Telegraph. 'We don't need marking out like special cases. Ghettoising.'

It’s certainly true that women do sometimes struggle to be honest about their periods. 13.8% of women have missed work or school because of it – but most felt unable to be honest about the reason. Of the women who have called in sick on their period, just less than 80% told their employer or school it was their period that was bothering them, more generally giving an excuse.

Generally speaking, women are expected to carry on with their daily lives as if nothing is happening (hence the expression, ‘anything you can do, I can do bleeding’) , even when they’re bleeding and often in pain. Periods, for a lot of us, don’t just mean a tampon and a bit of a tummy ache. They can include back pain, headaches, migraines, diarrhea, vomiting and exhaustion. And while your period shouldn’t cause you huge pain – and if it does you probably need to have a conversation with your GP – it’s incredibly common.

Putting on a badge during your period doesn't seem like the way to fix that (though if you want to, have at it). Not least because it would enable people who don’t understand menstruation to attribute any frustrations you express to the fact that you’re on your period.

When we talk about how to help women navigate the choppy waters of the crimson waves (sorry), we get stuck in a bit of a loop. We don’t want to further stigmatise periods by making them seem ‘other’, and things like badges, period leave and any other adjustments can often feel that way – as if we are being defined by our biology and treated differently because we bleed.

But if we refuse these measures, we end up without additional support during a time when many of us do actually really need it.

We don't need badges, or to be treated like delicate little flowers. But, where possible, we should be able to work from home when we're having a bad period. We should be able to have hot water bottles at our desks (or on the shop floor, or wherever we work), without feeling ashamed or embarrassed about what it signifies. Most importantly, we should be able to say ‘I’m not feeling well - I’m having a really rough period’ rather than having to cling to euphemisms about ‘tummy ache’ or ‘feeling a bit under the weather’.

If you want to work out on your period, here are some tips...


How to work out on your period

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