Discussion: Periods in books 

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. In Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas a character gets her period for the first time in a long time after being malnourished and I cheered when I read this part of the book because when are periods ever mentioned? Most people who are born with wombs and ovaries have periods and yet there’s scarce mention of them in novels. In young adult novels we often have girls going through the time in their lives when periods are an important thing; they’re not old enough that their bodies have settled yet and I know from my own experiences that causes upset in routines. Characters go on these huge quests in fantasy books, spanning months at a time being on the road away from home comforts, but the uncomfortable shock of an unexpected period is never encountered? Give me a break.

So while I thought of this I wondered why this was so. Why do people act as if periods don’t exist? Books aren’t the only thing that don’t mention periods either, they’re rare in tv and film. Periods are a huge taboo in the world, if you have your period you are expected to not mention it and if you do you have to have some sort of weird euphemism like “the painter’s are coming”, to hide your pads or tampons in some sort of discreet way, to be completely embarassed about having your period despite it being a completely natural thing. Periods are so important as well as they help you know when something isn’t right with your body. They aren’t just used for telling if you’re pregnant, if you’re going through periods of stress they fluctuate, if you’re not eating enough they stop, they’re the natural way of telling you something isn’t right. 

We have been taught that periods are a thing we should be ashamed of despite the fact that 50% of the population give or take are affected by them and is something we can’t control. This has clearly translated into book and other media. Authors don’t want to talk about periods, for fear that their readers will be squicked out, or even because it freaks them out themselves. I honestly just find the whole uncomfort surrounding periods absolutely ridiculous and I’m all for it being openly talked about and mentioned. If kids who experience periods were to read about them or watch people experiencing them on tv then they wouldn’t be so stressed out about them like I know I was at that age.

I tried to use non gendered terms in this post but if I missed anything let me know. 

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19 thoughts on “Discussion: Periods in books 

  1. You said everything so well ! I completely agree with you, we should not be ashamed of our peeriods and it should definitely be mentioned more. also if a character has her period in a novel it will make them so much realistic !!

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  2. Interestingly enough, I read an article very recently about the whole social “taboo” around periods. I can remember when I was at school, worrying myself to death in case my period came unexpectedly and went through the back of my school dress. I don’t think they need to be given undue emphasis but it would be nice if they could feature naturally in books, now and again.

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  3. That is one reason why I love Sarah J. Maas so much. Not only did she do it in EoS but along with ToG and I got so excited about that. it’s part of life and authors really should put it in their books more often

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  4. PREACH! I’m so glad you posted about this because I think it’s really important. I think more authors should consider this when writing female characters because it’s so important to break the taboo on talking about periods. Especially in middle grade and YA where girls need to know it’s normal and ok to talk about! Great post!!!

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  5. First of all, your care in not using gendered terms was noticed and deeply appreciated. ❤

    Second: HECK YES. This has been a constant source of aggravation for me, especially because even just a quick, casual reference to someone's period would be helpful in normalizing periods, and it probably wouldn't be difficult for the author to pull off.

    It seems like the only time a period is pretty certain to be mentioned is if the book involves a female protagonist hiding her sex–so of course she's going to be concerned about hiding all traces of her period. It'd be nice to see periods represented as something OTHER than a shameful or dangerous secret that must be hidden at all costs.

    Excellent post! =)

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  6. YES AT THIS ENTIRE POST 💯💯💯

    I read a self published dystopian at the start of the year and it wasn’t the greatest book, but it mentioned the MC having her period and I was like YES THANK YOU!!!!!!!! I don’t know why society has to shame them so much?? There is absolutely nothing wrong with having your period. No one should have to hide it. I feel like it could probably help so many younger people if they were represented more. I remember being so wtf and embarrassed when I got mine and no one should feel that way about something that’s completely natural.

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  7. Great post, I also really appreciate it when authors actually acknowledge the existence of periods! Though I should say, I notice many books also simply ignore the need to go to the bathroom (epic many-month quests or week-long imprisonments and the characters magically never seem to feel the need to ‘relieve themselves’) so there also seems to be a bit of a general prudish reluctance to mention anything “down there”.

    Btw, if you’ve never read ‘The Ill-Made Mute’ I can highly recommend it – the writing can be a bit wordy/flowery at times but it does some amazing things with gender/gender expectations and also doesn’t shy away from mentioning periods or how they reflect a character’s state of health.

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    1. Omg I’d never even thought about that and you’re right so many of them don’t acknowledge it. Again especially women characters, I’ve read a fair few books where guys have gone to piss against a wall or whatever but not women. Ohhh that sounds really good, thank you!

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  8. Pingback: December Wrap Up 
  9. Hi!
    I’ve recently started a blog and its going to be exploring a lot of different topics because its my primary outlet for thought and we (humans) are complicated creatures with many feelings and opinions, but some of the topics I would LOVE to explore with others is menstruation, feminism, sex health and consent. I think its insane that something that over half the world experiences first hand is still considered “taboo” and would like to start getting it into the spotlight. I only got started o this project a few days ago, and I’m not a pro with blogging or wordpress, so feel free to follow or comment or contact me with suggestions.
    The plan is to start with my own experiences, maybe throw in a few period promotional works, but eventually (when there is a certain level of interest), I would like to start sharing and reblogging other peoples stories and views, through a category called “My menstrual miracles”
    I can see how this would seem like a lot of self promotion, but I really would love to get some support and suggestions on how to break this stigma.
    https://beantheredonethat94.wordpress.com
    So check it out (or don’t)
    but keep being badasses, that are taking control of both their bodies and the internet! xxx
    Elizabeth Rose

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