In Summary
  • A pair of knickers with two drops of blood won the contest — while the British sanitary product maker Bodyform has also submitted six more "femojis" that deal with menstruation to Unicode, the California body which decides new pictograms.
  • The rise of menstrual consciousness has also caught social media platforms flatfooted.
  • Instagram faced a furious revolt when it removed two pictures posted by cult Canadian poet Rupi Kaur showing small patches of menstrual blood on her pants and sheets two years ago.

The time for being coy about the time of the month may be over.

Women are starting to speak up about their periods in a wave of "menstrual activism" which is being compared to the "women's liberation" movement of the 1960s.

From emojis to show they are menstruating to sharing pictures of blood-stained sheets and pants on social media, a taboo that still blights the lives of millions in the developing world is being challenged as never before.

With smartphone period tracker apps booming to help women recognise the various stages of their cycle, activists say they want to lift the embarrassment from "a subject that should not be hidden".

"We need to talk about this. We want to open a debate" about what is a normal bodily function, said Yvan Savy, of Plan International, which launched a competition earlier this year to find an emoji for a period.

A pair of knickers with two drops of blood won the contest — while the British sanitary product maker Bodyform has also submitted six more "femojis" that deal with menstruation to Unicode, the California body which decides new pictograms.

The rise of menstrual consciousness has also caught social media platforms flatfooted.

Instagram faced a furious revolt when it removed two pictures posted by cult Canadian poet Rupi Kaur showing small patches of menstrual blood on her pants and sheets two years ago.

Her 1.8 million followers applauded as Kaur railed at the hypocrisy of "a misogynist society" that sexualised women and would "have my body in underwear but (was) not OK with a small leak."

A COUNTER TO SHAMING

Images of the American musician Kiran Gandhi bleeding as she crossed the finishing line after she ran the London marathon without a tampon also went viral, with many hailing her decision a radical act to counter the "shaming".

While surveys show many women in the West are still uncomfortable discussing the subject, in India and large swathes of Africa prejudice and myths around menstruation, as well as a lack of girl-friendly toilet facilities keeps millions "away from school when they are having their periods", Savy said.

In Ethiopia, half of girls are forced to stay at home up to four days a month, while in Uganda girls lose a fifth of their schooling, according to Plan International.

In Bangladesh, the group said girls faced "widespread shame, silence and physical restrictions during menstruation."

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