Let’s be honest. When it comes to periods, Jamaican culture dictates that men should not be involved at all. So many little girls are taught from early that their period is private and that they must do everything to keep it a secret, especially from men – even their fathers. For many men, all they know about periods is that it is something their women have to deal with every month; it makes them miserable and can be very painful.
In a conversation streamed on The Gleaner’s Instagram page, dubbed ‘Men Talk Menstruation’, author, activist and HerFlow Foundation’s executive director Shelly-Ann Weeks was joined by financial adviser Marlon Campbell and guidance counsellor Joel Ricman to discuss periods, as a part of Period Awareness Month activities. The purpose of the discussion was to start a public conversation about menstruation that includes men.
Some women are still apprehensive when it comes to asking a man to purchase menstrual products because some men find it offensive. However, this should not be the case as menstrual products are essential items that women need to function each month.
“Just tell me what to buy. As a matter of fact, tek a pickcha,” stated Marlon when asked his thoughts on buying menstrual products. “I still get confused with the packaging and sometimes everything looks the same. I know I don’t want to buy the wrong one.”
“I actually went to buy products for a good friend of mine and I didn’t see the one she told me. So I just buy one of each and bring it for her.” Joel Rickman expressed his experience when trying to buy menstrual products.
It’s understandable that men find purchasing products confusing because the choices are vast and varied, so much so that even some women find it confusing as well. When asked what they would say to their own daughters about periods, the men had some very interesting comments.
“First of all, call it what it is,” Joel said, as he listed some of the popular nicknames that are typically used to replace the word ‘period’, like auntie from Red Hills, the thing, sickness, that time of the month, among others.
Marlon relished the bond that he anticipates having with his daughter so she will feel safe talking to him openly about her periods.
“I just want her to know that period is natural and she can always come to me for anything,” he said with a smile on his face.
WHAT IS PERIOD POVERTY?
Period poverty is the inability to afford menstrual products when needed. Joel Rickman was able to speak in detail about period poverty because, in his capacity as a guidance counsellor, he knows that there are girls that have difficulty accessing menstrual products monthly. He spoke about donations made to his school by HerFlow and the difference it made.
One of the most important points made from the conversation is the importance of normalising period conversations and ensuring that girls have full access to products as needed. This is one of the main things that HerFlow Foundation focuses on – ensuring that schools are supplied with free menstrual products for the girls who need it.