Here’s What Happens When Kids Learn About Menstruation

Everyone pees. Everyone poops. And women have periods.

The movie Period. End of Sentence. won an Oscar on Sunday night. The film was created by Oakwood High School (California) students. They also founded a nonprofit organization called The Pad Project which targets the stigma of menstruation. The movie begins in a rural village outside of Delhi, India. So deep is the shame in rural India over menstruation, 1 girl out of every 4 quits school when she starts her period.

As a Dadblogger, many of my colleagues are active in the movement to normalize menstruation within our society. We all pee. We all poop. And women have periods.

It’s been a long battle.

I was an at-home dad in 1992. You remember, back before it was cool. My son was born in December and financially, at-home dadness made sense. More importantly, it made emotional sense for me. I had to be with that kid. As an at-home Dad, I did the shopping. I was quickly dumbfounded at the variety of menstruation products. I knew there was variety, but such variety? Oy vey.

I figured it out. I asked Andi to save the carton of her preferred brand, I tore off the end tab, and bought what she needed. Just like toothpaste and soap and deodorant.

Easy? You would think, but no.

Going through the check-out, in an era when self-scan was a rarity, I learned to negotiate the fire swamps of cashier attitude. Wearing an infant while pushing a cart, it should have been apparent that I was a caretaking grocery shopping parent, but no.

From the women:

“Oh, honey. Are you sure this is what your wife wants?”

“Yes, I have the end tab right here.”

“Well, aren’t you clever…”

“Aren’t you the nice husband, picking up your wife’s goods.”

“Well, I do this pretty much every month so, um, no big deal.”

From the guys:

“Hey, wife on the rag, eh? Good luck with that.”

“I have this kid here ‘cos it happens every month, so yeah, I’m okay with it.”

“Whatcha gonna do with those?”

“Did you sleep through 8th grade sex ed?”

“Well, I know who’s not gonna be gettin’ any tonight!”

“My wife and I have been together for six years. I think I’ll manage.”

“Ain’t this embarrassing?”

“Aren’t you embarrassed for asking such a dumbass question?”

It all reminded me of the old joke from my childhood.

Young teenaged boy says, “I’m gonna get me some of them Modesses.”

“What for? Them are for girls on the rag.”

“Yeah, but check it out — says I can swim and run and even ride a horse.”


Everyone pees. Everyone poops. And women have periods.

For me, a guy born in 1958, I’d never given periods much thought growing up. I have a sister, a mom; it was just a thing that women had to manage. Periods became normal for me in the middle 1980s. I was in my 20s, and traveling the country as an itinerant semi-pro bicycle racer. I was affiliated with the Fuji bike brand, and the women of the Fuji team became my good friends. They were tough, funny, disciplined, bright; awesome and powerful women. They were my friends, and they had periods. Tampons, for them, were just another part of the cycling kit. Periods did not stop these women from crushing it in races. For them, periods were an “OK, period time. Manage it. Keep on training. Keep on racing.”

That’s how we raised our son. You’ll have wet dreams. All guys do. Here’s what happens. Here’s what it means. Moving on. Women have periods. Here’s what happens. Here’s what it means. Moving on.

Everyone pees. Everyone poops. And women have periods.

At 26, my son is now the sort of man you would want your daughter to date.

I work to normalize periods even today in my classroom. I teach a variety of high school sciences. A few weeks back, we were talking about meiosis; the formation of egg and sperm. I mentioned that while men form millions of sperm, they are merely DNA delivery systems. On the other hand, ova are highly complex, so energy consuming that for every egg that develops during oogenesis, there are also three non-functional polar bodies which are discarded. And where does a non-fertilized ovum go? It’s discarded, along with the slightly bloody endometrial lining during menstruation.

Ovum, sperm, oogenesis, endometrium – all exacting scientific terms, met with nods of understanding and immediate note-taking by my students.

Menstruation – another exacting scientific term — met with blushes, giggles, and I believe I heard one young woman whisper to her seatmate, “He said menstruation.”

I made certain to use the word “menstruation” about 42 times in the next 20 minutes. By the end of class, no more giggles, no more blushing 17-year-old guys, no more whispering girls.

Seeing that Period won reminded me of a great moment in my classroom in 2012 in another school district.

I taught zoology, a mostly senior elective. It was spring term and I’d had almost all of the students in prior classes. The atmosphere? Collegial. I structured the course as much as possible as the college courses my students would have in three months. I was in charge, but the kids were 100% responsible for their learning. Most of the students were science oriented; aimed at medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary sciences. The kids were close friends; they’d known each other since grade school in our small, rural school district.

My students did not have to ask to use the restroom. “Gimme a heads-up that you’re leaving” was all I asked. Eighteen-year-old men and women do not need my permission to pee.

Alice waved at me at she was walking out the door. I nodded. Two minutes later, Alice was in the doorway.

“Dammit,” she announced to no one in particular, “My period started early. Anyone got an extra tampon I can bum? No, not you, Steve Johnson. Very funny.”

Lisa grabbed a tampon from her book bag, handed it to Alice, and Alice returned to the restroom for a few minutes.

Class went on.

As it should.

David L. Stanley is a teacher, author, voice-over actor, and speaker. His work has appeared in national magazines on topics from professional bicycle racing to men, depression, and suicide. His book, Melanoma, It Started with a Freckle was hailed by Prof. Tom Foster of How to Read Novels Like a Professor as “harrowing, insightful, technical, and hilarious.” He is at work on his next book, tentatively titled The Working Man’s MBA. He is the narrator of 26 audiobooks on subjects ranging from Alzheimer’s, bicycle racing, the NBA, to mountaineering.On Twitter, he tweets early and often as @DStan58. You can learn more about melanoma and skin cancers on his Facebook page @MelanomaBook. His personal blog is Rants & Mutters: Rants, raves, and the occasional well-thought out posting. 

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