- Ariel Swopes
Black Women Can't Afford To Be Silent About Our Periods Anymore.
I was eleven when I got my first period, and I cried uncontrollably. I had no idea why my vagina was coated with and dripping blood. Did I do something wrong? Did someone do something to me while I was sleeping? So many questions flooded my mind as I screamed for my mom. When she rushed in and saw the blood trickling down my inner thighs she smiled and said “You got your period.” Those four words changed my life forever.
My mom shared a few things with me about my period such as how to use and dispose a pad. She also explained to me that I would get my period every month from now on so I should keep a calendar for tracking. I was never told that I couldn't talk about my period out loud, but it was safe to assume that I shouldn't. I never heard anyone in my family or my friends talk about their period, so I kept quiet about mine too.
I took extreme precautions to keep my period a secret from the world, even my siblings. I folded my pads and hid them in my shoes to walk to the restroom. I wore only dark clothing during my period to make sure if I did have a leak no one would notice. Sometimes it was difficult to keep quiet about my period because of how excruciating my cramps were. I thought about complaining to a doctor but because I'm a Black woman, I felt it was my duty to just keep it pushing and deal with it like any other Black woman I know would.
Every month I kept blaming my call offs and excuses to go home from work on food poisoning. This was becoming draining on both ends of the spectrum. My period pain interrupted my daily activities. I would spend the first two days dealing with extreme aches from everywhere, and vomiting. I wouldn't eat or drink either because swallowing anything just triggered me to vomit more. I had to just deal with this pain because I couldn't announce to the world that I was on my period. Being silent about pain is how most women of color handle their torment. Period, fibroid pain impact women of color more severely than white women yet we take more time to get help. We dismiss our health because we are too busy taking care of everything else. But that's us we are natural caregivers to all but self. I was exhausted from being ashamed of my period. This is when I knew it was time to stop being a victim to period oppression. It was time to accept that having a period is normal and will be apart of my life for the next couple of decades.
Some women of color may choose not to speak about their period pain because of previous experiences, and some just may not know how to prioritize their health. But being silent about period pain is not healthy. Being silent is too expensive because it causes more damage. Period talk is taboo, this I know but I’m using my voice to end that taboo by reshaping the discussion. I created a blog to start shedding the stigma and inspiring other women to celebrate their period. Periods are natural and the conversation about them should be too.
I believe it was important for me, a Black woman, to be apart of shedding the stigma, because I wanted to create a space for other Black women to be period proud too. Periods are part of women’s lives, and should be celebrated instead of put on mute or shamed. I'm always amazed at what my body can do, think about it I can bleed for several days without dying. I have the power to stop and begin life.
When my period arrives every month, I use that time to connect with my body by listening to it. Listen to your body it will let you know when something is wrong. Speaking out about my period has been a liberating and comforting feeling because I know that I am not alone. You too may just find liberation in talking about yours if you give it a try.