Menstruation by Many Names without Shame

Menstruation is an important part of womanhood. But throughout history, menstruation has been heavily stigmatized. In a recent research poll launched by THINX, 58% of the 1,500 women who participated admitted to feeling embarrassed just for having their period. Furthermore, 42% of women reported that they had directly experienced period-shaming. As a result of these societal pressures, women have found ways to covertly refer to menstruation with clever euphemisms. To be clear, there's nothing wrong with giving your period a nickname. Playing with the language around menstruation can be fun and endearing. However, as we use these witty codes, we need to be intentional in destigmatizing menstruation with overt language as well. We don’t use euphemisms to reinforce notions of menstruation being shameful or a social taboo; rather, if anything, by normalizing discussions about periods in all forms, we are reclaiming menstruation as an intrinsic and even positive part of our female experience. Our intentional use of language will revolutionize and rejuvenate productive conversation around menstrual equity. So, without further ado, here are some of the inventive period euphemisms I’ve heard over the years. I hope they’ll provide an approachable way to spark some much needed dialogue: 

Leak week (6/10) 

I don’t hear this one that often, but it has a nice ring to it. It rhymes, which is always a plus. However, I wonder if the word “leak” truly does justice to referencing the shedding of an endometrium lining. It seems a bit passive. 

End of Sentence (8/10)

I like this one because it has a fun and witty wordplay element to it. But, though I hate to be that person, a sentence can also end with a question mark and exclamation point, not just a period. Then again, question marks and exclamation points can definitely characterize menstruation too. 

Code Red (7/10) 

To me, this screams (or maybe whispers?) espionage. And sometimes, discreetly handling my period does feel like a secret mission. I just might have to add this to my own repertoire. 

Mother Nature’s Gift (8/10)

I appreciate the positive reframing. Though menstruation doesn’t exactly feel like a gift, the fact that it happens is ultimately a positive thing. This nickname helps remind me of that. 

Rusty Pipes (3/10)  

I’m not the biggest fan of this one. Though I know this is a color reference more than anything, your pipes on your period are far from rusty. It also has a vague negative connotation of preventable mismanagement, which goes against menstruation being natural and healthy. 

Girl Flu (4/10)

I used to hear this one all the time, but I have a feeling its popularity will plummet now because of the coronavirus. In fact, I think a lot of famous expressions that invoke illness imagery (i.e. “This video went viral,” “The beat was contagious/infectious,” “That’s sick, ” etc.) will be out of style for a while. Then again, phrases like that probably died in the early 2000’s anyway. 

Monthly Subscription (9/10)

If I can use one phrase to refer to my period and my loyal binge-watching of Netflix and Disney+, then I’m here for it. Honestly, I endure my physical monthly subscription by binging my digital ones. Otherwise, I’d go crazy. 

Old Faithful (7/10)

For some context, Old Faithful is the name of a very famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park. As a crowd favorite, it’s known for its frequent and predictable eruptions. And though menstruation is also relatively predictable, there are a lot of factors contributing to it being less reliable. 

Painting the Town Red (8/10)

I really like this one because it also has a fun wordplay element to it. The expression “painting the town red” usually means to go out into a city and have a great time. Even if that’s one of the last things I’d want to do on days with my worst period symptoms, the more positive associations, the better. 

Shark Week (6/10)

As another pop culture reference, Shark Week is a well-known annual TV event segment on the Discovery network that’s been a recurring tradition for the past 30 years. The program focuses on the biology of sharks and highlights the bloody carnage of sharks hunting for their prey. It’s used as a menstruation euphemism because of the blood. My feelings are mixed on this one. I neither like it nor dislike it entirely. It’s a solid meh. 

That Time of the Month (10/10) 

This is the one that I hear the most often by far and I love it. If any of these euphemisms point to female solidarity, it’s this one. When you think about it, without the context of a shared experience, the phrase is really vague. There are lots of times throughout the month. But knowing that so much can be conveyed and understood with something so simple is really encouraging. 

Aunt Flo/Ruby/Scarlett (10/10)

I personally use this euphemism the most often. I find it endearing to personify my period as a well-meaning but irritating relative that I have to love and accept. Let’s just say I’m always relieved when Aunt Flo’s visit is over. 

Crimson Tide (6/10) 

Again, I know this is mostly a color description, but at first glance, the phrase looks more like a sports reference than a period euphemism. After doing some research, my first instinct turned out to be right! Crimson Tide is the nickname for the University of Alabama sports fanbase, especially in football. It’s also the title of an American submarine film made in 1995. So, make of that what you will. 

It’s Flooding Down South (8/10) 

I haven’t heard this one a lot, but every time I do, I heartily laugh out loud. I challenge you to try and say it with a straight face. I simply cannot do it. 

Red Moon (7/10) 

As someone who is partial to the color red, I like this one, but I understand why it isn’t that popular. It isn’t exactly catchy and sounds like the title of a paranormal young adult novel, which has its pros and cons. 

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I'm always shocked by the all vibrantly creative ways that people use phrases to refer to menstruation. The language we use has a lot more leverage than we often realize. Our collective work to destigmatize menstruation doesn’t have to feel serious in order to make serious change. We can have fun and be witty along the way. Here are some women-run resources about menstrual equity that are also strengthening healthy dialogue: 

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