After our previous conversations with girls and teachers, we found out that most of the individuals resorted to using words like “down”, “girl’s problem”, “monthlies“, etc. to convey that they are menstruating. These words are referred to as EUPHEMISMS.
These euphemisms are the very reason why periods are still talked about in whispers as they reinforce the taboo that Menstruation is something to be shy or ashamed of and kept hidden from others.
What are Euphemisms?
Euphemism is an indirect word or expression, which is used as a substitute for another word which may be perceived as offensive or suggestive of something unpleasant.
In Language, Menstrual Euphemisms are words which are used as a substitute for the word “Menstruation” in order to avoid the shame, embarrassment and mockery that is associated with the taboo ridden nature of menstruation in our society. A fact little known is that the term “Period” itself is a euphemism. “Menstruation” is the correct scientific term used to explain the process of discharge of blood through the vagina. However, it is important to note that over the period of time, the word “Period” has become synonymous with menstruation given the epistemological similarities and the meaning of the two terms. This means that periods has become a neutral term, having no particular negative or positive connotation attached to it and is therefore widely accepted as an apt substitute for the technical term menstruation. It can be said that “Period” has ceased to exist as a euphemism.
Euphemisms in Advertisements
Euphemisms are not just a part of language but have also managed to find its way in advertisements about menstrual products. These expressions are used so commonly on a large scale that people fail to notice it and be conscious about the secretive nature and the motive behind using such words and depictions. Below are just three examples of how euphemisms have been used in the promotion of menstrual products.
“The blue coloured period blood”
Notice how all these advertisements of menstrual products, particularly those promoting menstrual pads, while explaining the absorptive capacity of a pad, show the colour blue instead of red. This is reflective of the kind of attitude, stereotypes and taboos that exist in our society pertaining to menstrual blood. It is no secret that the red coloured menstrual blood is seen as something dirt, filthy or impure.
“Absence of the ‘P’ Word”
Even while talking about menstruation, individuals in the advertisements use statements like “Un dino me” (In those days) or other euphemisms which can be called covert terms, instead of using statements like “during menstruation” or “during periods”. This suggests the kind of secret and covered dialogue that exists around menstruation so much so that even that advertisements about menstruation shy away from using the correct term while depicting it. Also take note of the fact that the term “period” itself has become euphemised despite it originally being a euphemism, given that now it has been accepted as a synonym for menstruation. This speaks volumes about how the secrecy revolving around menstruation is promoted and is also representative of the harsh reality of the wide scale use of such euphemisms in our society.
“The task of wearing white”
A lot of story lines revolve around the inability of a woman to wear white during menstruation due to the fear of stains that will attract embarrassment and cruel comments in a public space. This of course is automatically solved by using a pad. [Note: any coloured clothing can get stained even after using pads]
Such depiction in multimedia has become a major contributory factor in re-establishing the already existing taboos and the hidden nature of dialogue that exists around menstruation in our society. We remain ignorant or in most cases, unaware of the implications of using such euphemisms repeatedly. On a psychological level, such hidden and censored expression of menstruation gets embedded in our psyche and we perceive it to be normal.
At some point of time, most of us have succumbed to the practice of using Euphemisms. Sometimes, not being consciously aware of the same and other times, not finding the need to question it.
The process of normalising menstruation starts by DROPPING EUPHEMISMS.
If you are menstruating say that you are on menstruation.
If you are menstruating, wear whatever colour you want to.
Wear your stains with Pride.
Make the drops of blood on a pad red and not blue.
Wear your menstrual blood as a symbol of valour just like you wear the blood after a fight.