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.

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.