Menstruation is something that historically and presently has been shrouded in secrecy, shame, and taboos. We’ve been taught that our periods are a source of embarrassment and something to be endured secretly. This directly contributes to our lack of understanding about our own bodies and ability to best care for our cycles. Many menstrual related conditions like endometriosis, PMDD, PCOS are at an all time high because of this harmful social conditioning.
What Is Free Bleeding?
The menstrual freedom and liberation movement, and free bleeding challenges these harmful perceptions and advocates for more open conversation about menstruation. The free bleeding movement embodies the message: taking on systems of oppression and injustice that hinder menstruators in hope of achieving a better world. It aspires to the abolition of any social, political, economic system or situational barrier that prevents a person from experiencing their period in an empowered and dignified way.
The term and movement of Menstrual freedom beautifully encompasses free bleeding as the act of shedding the confines of traditional period products and allowing one's natural flow to be free. Instead, a free bleeder chooses to let their menstrual blood flow freely and naturally, often relying on alternative products like menstrual cups or period-proof underwear to manage the flow.
The philosophy behind this is the idea that menstruation is a natural bodily function and should not be treated as something shameful or hidden in any way. At the end of the day, free bleeding is a political choice that every person with a period can choose to make for their individual, communal, or collective liberation.
What Is The History of Free Bleeding?
The idea of menstrual freedom and free bleeding are not entirely new. Historically, individuals used various methods to manage their periods, such as cloth pads or nothing at all. This was due to the fact that in many ancestral communities, period blood was considered beautiful, powerful, and even magical in some cases.
Modern menstrual products, like disposable pads and tampons, only became prevalent in the mid-20th century. The rise of these products inadvertently reinforced the notion that periods should be discreetly managed and hidden from public view and is something that is unclean or impure.
This view has been reinforced by the fact that most disposable period products are dangerous and filled with harmful chemical ingredients like PFAS, and can cause life threatening conditions such as Toxic Shock Syndrome.
How Does Free Bleeding Challenge Stigmas?
Free Bleeding challenges period stigma because it helps people with periods reclaim autonomy over their bodies. It does this by promoting choice and giving options surrounding blood management. It says, you don’t have to use pads or tampons and offers other options including using nothing at all.
It also challenges stigmas by normalizing menstruation as a natural part of life rather than something shameful and disgusting. It creates a culture where you might see blood either in private or public more than you otherwise would in the hopes that as a collective we would start to understand that as being acceptable and even potentially beautiful.
What Are the Benefits of Free Bleeding?
Environmental - One of the significant reasons driving interest in menstrual freedom is the environmental impact of disposable menstrual products. Traditional pads and tampons contribute to vast amounts of non-biodegradable period product waste that ends up in landfills and oceans. By embracing free bleeding switching to reusable menstrual products, individuals can significantly reduce their environmental footprint and promote sustainability. It allows people with periods to align themselves with eco-conscious values, reducing their environmental footprint and embracing a more sustainable lifestyle.
Health and Wellness - People have experienced reduced menstrual cramping and tend to feel less discomfort. Many people with periods report experiencing less painful and lighter flows when switching to free bleeding. This can be due to a myriad of reasons including lower addition of chemicals and decreased impact on pelvic muscles.
Period Poverty - Free bleeding is a powerful way of protesting against the cost of menstrual products and the millions of people across the world still don’t have access to them. Opting to use reusable period products or no period products also will save the individual money in the long run.
What Are the Cons of Free Bleeding?
As with any emerging movement, free bleeding has encountered its fair share of controversies and criticisms. Critics argue that menstrual freedom can be messy and unsanitary, leading to discomfort and potential hygiene issues. There is also concern over the potential social awkwardness that may arise in public spaces if menstruation is fully visible.
Addressing these concerns, proponents of menstrual freedom emphasize that the movement does not advocate recklessness or disregard for personal hygiene. They encourage individuals to make informed choices based on their comfort levels and to find practical ways to manage their periods. Additionally, menstrual freedom is not about forcing everyone to embrace it but rather fostering an environment where menstruation is openly discussed without shame or judgment.
Does Using Period Underwear Still Constitute as Free Bleeding?
Some definitions of free bleeding are defined as menstruating without using tampons, pads, or other menstrual products to absorb or collect your flow. However, because free bleeding is as much a political movement as it is a real life practice, using period underwear would constitute as free bleeding. Period underwear for free bleeding offer a natural, sustainable, safe blood collection method. The microfibers in the underwear catch and absorb your period blood to keep you feeling dry and prevent any leaks but doesn’t interfere with the bleeding process in any way.
According to an article written by Healthline, while period-proof underwear are technically menstrual products "the personal freedom they provide has solidified their place in the free-bleeding category."
What Is The Conclusion?
The menstrual freedom movement seeks to revolutionize the way society views menstruation. By advocating for openness, acceptance, and sustainability, free bleeding challenges age-old taboos that have concealed and stifled conversations about periods for far too long.
While it may not be for everyone, the movement's underlying message is essential for creating a more inclusive and understanding world. It asks us to reflect on and challenge what we think about blood and bodies and encourages us to create a new story. It’s an exciting and beautiful time to be working together to build a society where periods are celebrated, not hidden and shifting to a new paradigm.
Domunique Lashay (she/her) is a menstrual health advocate, content creator and writer. Follow her on TikTok: @domuniquelashay
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