By MH Hub
On Friday 18. January, 2019, the MH Hub sent out a Menstrual Memo complete with victories from the world of menstrual health. On Twitter, the link to this memo was tweeted alongside an image of a uterus and the words ‘Why do women experience periods?’, with the word ‘women’ crossed out and ‘people’ replacing it. This image caused a strong reaction on Twitter, with many users responding with angry messages. The overall theme of the tweets mistakenly accused the MH Hub of erasing women, as “people do not have periods, only girls and women have periods,” said one respondent. We were asked to amend our material and memos to reflect this biological reality. We took down the tweet and tweeted an apology, however we stand firm on being inclusive when it comes to menstrual experiences.
We understand how crossing out the word “women” was seen as female erasure, and we take full responsibility for this action. We also do not want to minimize or mitigate the women or female experience of menstruation and how misogyny has affected how society views menstruation and menstrual health. We acknowledge that yes, female bodies (those with uteruses and ovaries) menstruate. However, our intention was to show that menstruation is a social issue that affects everyone, everywhere. Our intention with the image posted was to expand the conversation around menstruation to include individuals who may not identify with the biological binary that is often assumed when the issue of menstruation is discussed. We hope that this discussion will continue to grow as the public continues to explore the nuances of who menstruates and who is affected by the issue of menstrual health as a whole.
While the last years have seen new laws around the world that protect the rights of transgender people, powerful countries like the United States are pushing forward regressive legislation, including a transgender military ban, that strips open transgender people of the right to enter the military. This, on top of the #MeToo movement, has created a social media environment that is hyper-aware of the important role that gender plays in identity politics.
The taboo of menstruation on top of the taboo of transgender identity is certainly not easy to address, but necessarily nevertheless.
To that point, the MH Hub has released the following official statement addressing these matters:
- The MH Hub is first and foremost focused on breaking the taboo around the experience of menstruation for everyone, everywhere.
- Menstrual health is a social issue that affects everyone, not just the people who experience it. This is why it is important to draw men, boys, girls and older people into the conversation as well, even if their bodies do not personally experience menstruation.
- The MH Hub is a strong believer in the fact that biology has been a significant cause of women’s poverty and oppression. We do not erase women or take women away from the menstruation equation by referring to ‘people’ but rather add to the diversity of individuals who experience menstruation.
- Menstruation is a biological function that most women will experience in their lives, but not all women menstruate either. Many people that do not menstruate sit at the margins of society, whether they have medical disorders (early onset menopause), anemia, disabilities or are transgender.
- Lack of good menstrual health and hygiene is a human rights issue, not just a women’s issue. It may be women who experience menstruation, but being able to provide accurate information about their bodies, adequate and private sanitation & hygiene facilities as well as affordable access to safe products is a social responsibility of the human species as a whole.
Instead of posting the image we used, we should have posted this image instead.
Inclusivity is critical for the future of gender equity, and we stand by our efforts to be inclusive without losing sight of our main goal: to make menstruation matter!