Put A Cup In It

The Importance of Inclusive Language In The Period Space

Traditionally, conversations about the menstrual cycle and period products have been geared around female presenting, cis women and filed under “women’s health.” But cis-gendered women — a term that describes women whose gender identity matches their assigned sex — aren’t the only people who menstruate, and they aren’t the only people who need menstrual health care.

As society’s recognition of the gender spectrum and sexuality expands, traditional views of women as the only individuals who menstruate, and the stereotype that menstruation is a women’s-only issue, is both outdated and harmful.

What Is Inclusive Language?

Inclusive language means using language that focuses on the person and avoids stereotypes, biases, and slang that reinforces the exclusion or discrimination of people based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disabilities.

Examples Of General Gender Inclusive Language:

  • Folks or folx instead of “ladies and gentlemen”
  • Siblings instead of “brothers” or “sisters”
  • Partner instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
  • Spouse instead of “husband” or “wife”
  • Child instead of “son” or “daughter”
  • Kids instead of “boys” and “girls”
  • Niblings instead of “nieces” or “nephews”

Why Inclusivity In Period Language Is Important

We as a human population are exploding with diversity, and seeing things in black and white is old news. Not everyone who identifies as a woman menstruates, and not everyone who has a menstrual period and associated PMS symptoms identifies as a woman.

When it comes to gender-inclusive language in the period space, sex and sexuality, and reproductive health, removing gendered language from our vocabularies respects the lived experiences of all individuals who need access to care in these spaces.

Not All Who Menstruate Are Women

Exclusively referring to women and girls in conversations about those who experience menstruation, and using gendered language, excludes the spectrum of individuals who menstruate and whose identities don’t fall within the binary of male and female. This includes non-binary people, intersex people, gender fluid people, and trans people to name a few.

Not All Women Menstruate

Referring to menstruation as an experience of womanhood also excludes those who identify as women and don’t have a menstrual period, whatever the reason may be. This can include menopausers, trans women, or folks who have had a hysterectomy and no longer have menstrual periods.

Operating under the assumption that all women menstruate can be equally as harmful as ignoring the fact that not all who menstruate are women. Menstruation doesn’t define anyone’s femininity, and assuming that all women menstruate isolates those who don’t, but still identify as a woman.

When we default to calling period care products like pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and period underwear “feminine products,” it also reinforces the limiting, and often hurtful, stereotype that periods are inherently feminine and one must experience such things to be whole.

How Can We Be More Inclusive With Language?

A simple shift in the words we choose to use in conversation can go a long way in creating safer, more inclusive communities, and embrace the diverse identities of the people we interact with every day.

Gender-inclusive language avoids the use of male and female pronouns. One example of this is public places removing the binary assignments of men’s vs. women’s restrooms, and referring to them simply as a “restroom” instead. Other examples include referring to restaurant staff as “servers” instead of “waitress” or “waiter,” using “flight attendant” instead of “stewardess” or “steward,” and referring to items as “manufactured” instead of “man-made.”

Examples Of Gender Inclusive Language In The Period Space

  • People who menstruate, menstruators, or people who have periods  instead of “women” or “girls”
  • Period or menstrual products instead of “feminine hygiene products”
    • Menstrual pads or period pads instead of “feminine pads”
    • Intimate wash instead of “feminine wash”, etc.
  • Menstrual, sexual, or reproductive health instead of “women’s health” or “feminine hygiene”
    • On that note, I’ve been on team #menstrualhealth for at least a decade and would love if we would just let the stigma loaded term “feminine hygiene” die already
  • Anatomical words instead of euphemisms like “lady parts”
  • Restroom or bathroom instead of “ladies room”

 

You can practice using gender neutral language in everyday conversations. Switch out “she” and “he” for “they” or “them” wherever possible. Be mindful not to make the assumption that everyone identifies the way they present. Practice getting comfortable asking people what their preferred pronouns are, and sharing yours if it’s important to you. As long as you’re trying, it’s ok if you make a mistake! Simply correct yourself and continue to be mindful going forward.

Mainstream media coverage is slowly beginning to catch up with the movement for inclusivity, with some brands, like Period Aisle and Lunette, who have long been advertising their products using more inclusive narratives and highlighting trans and nonbinary people in their campaigns. This is definitely helping to normalize inclusivity, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

In a world where violence against transgender individuals is an all-too-sobering reality, making simple changes in our everyday language by refusing to use terminology that excludes any human being is a basic step each of us can take to make the world just a little bit brighter, safer, and more welcoming for everyone.

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