From “riding the cotton pony” to a “visit from Aunt Flo,” a huge variety of different euphemisms have been constructed to call periods by any other name possible.
Australian social entrepreneur, Roz Campbell, found all this evasive language to be rather confounding, which is what led her to launch a new Melbourne based art exhibition, Shark Week.
Based at Melbourne’s Enough Space gallery, Shark Week features the works of 33 different Australian and international artists.
The idea was inspired by one of the most bizarre menstrual metaphors that Roz had ever heard: “I’m having my garage painted.”
Roz tells SBS that she found herself thinking, “That’s ridiculous. How does that even relate?”
If the concept of the exhibition sounds kind of funny, then it’s meant to be. Roz says that she wanted it be light hearted and for people to have a laugh.
Through laughter Roz says, “I wanted to get people thinking about just why [this language] is so ridiculous.”
“I wanted to find out what would happen if you interpreted [these euphemisms] literally... and that idea turned into the exhibition.”
Roz for one is certainly not shy about speaking openly about menstruation – in fact she founded the brand Tsuno, which ethically manufactures environmentally friendly sanitary pads and donates 50 per cent of all profits to the International Women’s Development Agency.
The brand evolved from a fundraising challenge she created in 2013 called Do it in a Dress.
“The idea came about a few years ago when I was studying industrial design at university,” Roz explains. "This field is all about solving problems.”
“That’s when I learnt about the girls in Sierra Leone.”
The charity, One Girl, had visited her class at RMIT and that’s where she found out that due to no effective and hygienic way to manage their periods, many girls in the developing nation were forced to miss school for up to a week per month – leading to educational inequality and reduced opportunities for women.
It’s something Roz describes as her “lightning bolt moment.”
She says, “I wanted to do more than just donate.”
“That’s when I realised that there was actually a huge gap in the market for environmentally friendly pads.”
So how SHOULD we be talking about periods and menstruation?
Roz says, “ultimately [periods are] a sign of good health and fertility and they shouldn’t be seen as such a bad thing.”
“It’s not like you should throw a party and celebrate every time you get a period! But it shouldn’t be so shameful.”
Roz recounted her own memories as a young girl, “I hid pads up my sleeve when I had to go to the bathroom -because it was so shameful.”
One of the artists involved in the exhibition was reportedly so embarrassed when caught holding a pad that she lied and said it was a biscuit in a package!
For the girls of Sierra Leone though, Roz says that the shame is to such a point that they are unable to attend school, which is why she says it’s time for a shift in the shaming-language we use about periods.
Shark Week runs from the 15th- 31st of January at Enough Space Gallery Melbourne. Details here.