College campaign aims to end period shame

2021-01-07 12:03:29

[Photo by Liang Luwen/For China Daily] Movement hopes to remove stigma and provoke discussion. Yang Wanli reports. Unlike most Chinese men, who consider menstruation a taboo or even "dirty" topic, 30-year-old Yang Pai describes it as an "awesome thing" that triggers feelings of respect and amazement in him. He recalled the first time he saw period pain cause his mother to faint. He was 6 years old. "I was shocked by its power. What was this terrible thing that could even beat my mother?" he said. Unlike many 1950s-born Chinese parents, who seldom discussed sexual matters with their children, Yang's mother gave him a brief explanation of menstruation, saying it is an event that arrives at a certain age and signals physical maturity. "Without it, she would not have got pregnant and I would never have come into the world. That's what she told me. Since then, my impression of menstruation has been that it's awesome," Yang said. By the end of last month, the "sanitary napkin mutual help box" campaign-a widespread handout of free sanitary products designed to end so-called period shaming-had been embraced by students at nearly 400 colleges nationwide. Yang, who works as a gender diversity advocate, is a fervent supporter. The campaign was initiated by Xu Luming, a sophomore at East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai. She was inspired by a WeChat message posted by Liang Yu, founder of the Wuxi Lingshan Charity Foundation, an NGO that gained attention after mobilizing deliveries of sanitary napkins to hospitals in Wuhan, Hubei province, during the city's COVID-19 outbreak. The post described the use of mutual aid boxes and raised the idea of a campaign aimed at tackling "period poverty"-a phrase used to describe the financial problems facing many women from low-income backgrounds who cannot afford sanitary products-and bringing it to the forefront of the national dialogue. Many colleges have joined the campaign by placing boxes containing free sanitary napkins outside female washrooms on campus. There is no attempt to hide the boxes, and usually an accompanying notice reads: "For emergency use. Take one and replace it with a fresh towel to maintain the supply." At Southwest University of Political Science and Law, in Chongqing, notices promote the campaign in Mandarin and English. "The aim is to eradicate period shame," Xu said.