76% Of Students Learn More About The Biology Of Frogs Than The Human Female Body, According To Study
Throughout the pandemic, charities and organizations such as Plan UK, PERIOD and Thinx have highlighted how period poverty and access to essential period products has got worse. Period poverty is defined as having limited access to menstrual products due to financial hardship. It was already a fundamental issue and has been exacerbated by Covid-19. However, a recent study has found that a lack of open conversations in schools may be contributing to the stigma still attached to periods and the silence surrounding period poverty.
Thinx and PERIOD teamed up to create the State of the Period report. They asked students who menstruate, across the U.S. how accessible period products are, their experience of learning about period products and how Covid-19 has changed that. They found that a shocking 74% of students have questions about their periods. While 60% said they were prepared for their first period, 40% felt confused and unprepared.
Many students felt like periods were pushed off the syllabus in favor of other topics. 76% said they are taught more about the biology of frogs than the human female body in school.
Not talking about periods, explaining what they are or preparing people for what to expect only contributes to the culture of shame and silence surrounding menstruation. 42% of students said their health teacher appeared to be uncomfortable discussing menstruation and 76% of students said there is a negative association that periods are gross and unsanitary. 65% agreed that society teaches people to be ashamed of their periods.
“Access to period products and accurate information is vital for education, public health, racial and socioeconomic equity, and the empowerment of our future leaders,” said Maria Molland, CEO of Thinx, “Most students still feel they should be ashamed of their bodies and their periods, and they want to see additional advocacy around menstrual equity. It’s on educators and policymakers alike to step up and push for both better access and better education on periods and period products.”
Students specified that they felt particularly uncomfortable managing their period while they’re at school. 70% said the school environment makes them especially self-conscious of their periods and 83% said they hide their period products when they walk out of class to go to the bathroom. 65% do not want to be at school when they have their period.
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This aligns with research conducted by Plan UK. They found that 49% of students who menstruate had missed an entire day of school due to their period. One in seven students said they didn’t know what was happening when they started their period, and 26% didn’t know what to do. Almost 70% said they’re not allowed to go to the toilet during class time and that contributes to the shame and anxiety surrounding periods. It makes school a really difficult place to be while you’re on your period.
While many students have highlighted that period education is a massive gap in their schooling, it’s not to say that they’re not keen to open up conversations about menstruation. 77% of students told Thinx and PERIOD that they believe there needs to be more in-depth education about menstrual health. 73% agreed that education around menstrual health should be part of the core curriculum, just like math and 76% think that, along with reproductive health, schools should teach about policy around lack of access to period products in school.
The 2021 State of the Period reports highlights that many students still feel like there’s a silence and shame surrounding menstruation which makes dealing with their period at school quite difficult. However, the majority believe there needs to be open conversations about menstruation and period poverty.