The Twitter hashtag #LiveTweetYourPeriod is honest and hilarious. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr via Creative Commons
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Why I’ll be livetweeting my next period

The only way we can break the stigma around periods is if we all talk about it.

When was the last time you watched a movie and heard a woman complain about her period staining her sheets? Or a bathroom scene where she folds a million pieces of tissue paper because her period has come unexpectedly? Or perhaps when a woman expresses frustration that her period has ruined her new underwear? Never, is probably your answer to most of these questions. Because of course, women are made to feel ashamed about anything to do with their bodies, even something as normal and natural as periods. Talking about periods in public remains a no-no and as much as I would like this to change, I’m guilty too. I talk about periods in whispers, discreetly pass a pad to a friend in need and mouthing “I’m on my period” when I feel that sudden rush of blood and think “shit, it’s come early. I hope it doesn’t ruin my clothes”.

Judy Blume’s timeless classic Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret was what saved me during my early teenage years and puberty. My mum never spoke to me about periods (or sex – but that’s a completely different conversation). When I was eleven, she handed me a Bible that was supposed to tell me everything I needed to know. I learnt fuck all about periods from the Bible but at least I had Blume to guide me and answer some of my questions.

We don’t talk about periods. Or perhaps we do, but it’s always in a hushed whisper, as if talking about your period is a crime. At school, we were taught very little about menstruation. We had a very strict nurse who came into my primary school in Nigeria and she told us to carry around a “period purse” with sanitary towels in preparation for the day that we would become women. I took my purse with me everywhere I went for almost three years, but of course, as things work out, I didn’t have it on the day I started my period. And once I’d got my period, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame. I went to the pharmacy on my own and I was confused – why were there so many options? I felt like everybody was judging me, like people knew and were thinking “She’s just got her period”. In the end, I bought pads similar to the ones I’d seen in my parents’ bedroom. It was a big mistake; I might as well have folded a t-shirt and put it in my pants. Until I found the courage to ask my mum, I thought if I stayed in the shower for long enough, my period would go away (and even though I’d prayed for my period to come for years, all I wanted now was for it to go away).

The Twitter hashtag #LiveTweetYourPeriod is honest and hilarious. Again, social media has given women the medium to talk about subjects that we consider to be “taboo” in our society and I love it. Rest assured, I’ll be live tweeting my next period, because the only way we can break the stigma around periods is if we all talk about it. For some girls in other parts of the world, the stigma around periods can mean they can’t go to school and their lives are put in danger.

As Gloria Steinem said, “if men could menstruate…clearly menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event. Men would brag about how long and how much”. So ladies, let’s talk about our periods. Let’s boast about them. Let’s start a revolution so it becomes the norm to tell your boss that you might be a few minutes late for the next meeting because you need to do a quick tampon change. Let’s introduce a proper system of menstruation education in schools for boys and girls. It’s pathetic that in 2015 we are still having this conversation around periods. Let’s do away with the secrecy and have some openness, please.

PS To all the producers of adverts pad and tampons etc: my period is not blue – it’s red.

June Eric-Udorie is a 17-year-old writer whose writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan and the New Statesman among others.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.