Book Reviews / British / feminism / nonfiction / The Latest

Shark Week: Let’s talk about bleeding with Emma Barnett’s new book, “Period”


Book cover of Period: It’s About Bloody Time by Emma Barnett

When I talk to fellow humans about the female reproductive system, I am always shocked at the misinformation or blatant ignorance people have. Whether you experience periods or not, the chances are that you know someone who does. And to not know how that system works does a disservice to those who experience periods. Emma Barnett’s book Period: It’s About Bloody Time is about dismantling the myths around periods as well as shed some light on one of the world’s biggest medical taboos, the female reproductive system.

I have already talked about period books on my blog before with Abby Norman’s memoir Ask Me About My Uterus. Her memoir talks about her experiences with reproductive health issues like endometriosis but also talks about the misinformation about periods that hinder and cripple people from seeking out the right help and support.

I loved Barnett’s book as much as I enjoyed Norman’s memoir. We need to have more conversations about periods and what it means for the people who have them. So today, I want to highlight some of the key points that Barnett brings up in her book. I hope that none of this is new for my readers, but if it is, I hope that you feel a little bit more curious about learning about periods.

Women aren’t the only ones with periods

This is sadly, perhaps one of the most controversial topics surrounding periods; the idea that non-women can experience periods. If you are not aware of some of the discussions surrounding LGBTQIA topics, then it might come as a surprise to learn that many trans men experience periods. The reason why this is so important to talk about is that there is not enough awareness about this, and therefore not enough infrastructure to help trans men with periods. The first and maybe the easiest way to make this a little easier for trans men would be to offer sanitary disposal units in men’s bathrooms (or also, just make gender-neutral bathrooms a thing already). The second way to help is to open up the conversation beyond talking just about cis women who bleed. Using this inclusive language hopefully makes it easier for the needs of trans men to be heard in public discourses about periods. And this brings me to my next point

Not all women have periods

If you are a cis woman, it is expected that you will have a period. However, there are many many reasons why women do not have periods. Some are born without parts of their reproductive system or all of their reproductive system. Other women have separate health problems that impact their cycles, resulting in fewer periods per year, or no periods altogether. The last group of women who don’t have periods, the category I fall into, stop them through the use of medications for various reasons. I will never forget the day when a fellow cis woman found out I didn’t have a period and asked if I was a ‘real’ woman. If I didn’t laugh, I would have cried.

You don’t have to have periods if you don’t want to, especially if they are impacting your health. Talk with an open-minded medical practitioner who can give you the advice and help you need.

Period poverty is real

There are people around the world, including young people, who are home-bound when they have a period because they don’t have access to sanitary items. Barnett talks about women using clumps of toilet paper, old socks, or rags in their underwear to try to stop the blood from soaking through their clothes. This is horrific and only perpetuates the shame around periods further.

Period poverty is part of a bigger discussion of how one’s socio-economic status can impact access to schooling, work opportunities, independence, health, and wellbeing. If you are curious about ways you can help fight against period poverty in Australia, why not check out Share the Dignity to help fight against period poverty in Australia.

“Anything you can do, I can do bleeding:” Period taboos

The myths and lies around periods are various and never-ending. It seems that each country around the world has its own myths and legends about the riding the red wave. Barnett does an amazing job of discussing these misconceptions and also highlighting how they are harmful to everyone who experiences periods. Some of the juicy red truth bombs she drops are:

  • tampons will not break your hymen
  • periods do not make you dirty
  • period sex is okay and completely safe. If you’re into that, AND
  • you don’t have to have a period if you don’t want to

These are just a few of the things that Barnett addresses in her book, and I can only recommend this book with all my heart to every person who has ever bled through their pants, bought chocolate for someone bleeding, or loved someone marked by the red curse.

What period stigmas do you wish would die already? As always, share the reading love.

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