Periods are a bloody mess, both literally and figuratively.
After all, part of the body is actually shedding itself. It's uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and often annoying. But for women, it's just life; billions of us deal with it on the regular.
And yet, discussing menstruation is still often considered taboo, impolite, or just plain gross. And this lack of open, honest conversation can cost people with periods a lot of money every single day.
In most states, pads, tampons, and cups are taxed like luxuries and not necessities. Eyebrow-raising myths, jokes, and stereotypes about pre-menstrual syndrome and menstruation continue to circulate. The big brands don't even show or mention period blood in commercials for products used to catch and absorb period blood. The shame associated with menstruation is, well, shameful.
That's why Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann decided to spread some period-positivity with their weekly webcomic.
Williams, 24, and Schneemann, 35, met in art school and quickly became friends. Both have had a few frustrating and stressful experiences related to women's health issues. While the women knew they weren't the only ones, they also knew so something needed to be done.
"As we talked about it, we realized that we both felt that more information needs to be available and that periods are something that needs to be talked about more openly to de-stigmatize the whole conversation around women’s reproductive health," Schneemann writes in an e-mail interview.
The duo started publishing "The Mean Magenta" online in the summer of 2016. It's a heartfelt, funny, and delightfully honest portrayal of modern menstruation that features four characters, each with their own period ups and downs. Schneemann and Williams didn't schedule an official launch or lavish marketing blitz, so their fanbase has grown organically. Why does it work? Because, finally, there's a digital space to laugh, joke, and commiserate about having a period.
"What has been really cool has been seeing people warm up to it all. I have loved discussing our comic in person with people and almost always the first reaction is confusion or disgust but once I finish explaining, or they follow along online for a few weeks, they are also excited by 'The Mean Magenta' in the end," Williams writes in an e-mail interview. "That’s the point, right? Discussing periods openly makes the unknown more normalized."
There's a comic for every menstruation moment. Here are six of my favorites.
1. You never forget your first period, even if you'd prefer not to.
2. Before long, you prepare for each one like you're packing for a camping trip. ("Better safe than sorry.")
3. Which often leads to a little something accidentally tumbling out of your purse. It happens.
4. Periods are often uncomfortable. But most days, you just have to grin and bear it.
5. Even when you can stretch out, it doesn't mean you can find relief.
6. But no matter your experience, just remember you're not alone.
Whether or not you menstruate, you can do your part to be period-positive.
Don't shut down or shy away from conversations about periods. This comic shows that we need period-positive people now more than ever.
"Period positive people come in all shapes and sizes with all different temperaments. Take care of yourself, speak out in the way you can, and do not compare yourself to others in your learning process," Lily writes. "Someone may be out there spreading period positivity by shouting from the rooftops, others may be getting legislation passed, or making art with their blood. However, it is OK if your form of period positivity is discussing menstruation for the first time with a friend, or wearing a uterus pin in public. Period positive warriors come from all walks of life and every single one is important."
Looking for other ways to help? Buy a box of pads or tampons to donate to a local homeless shelter. Talk to your elected officials about lifting the "tampon tax" and keeping birth control free and readily available. (It can do wonders for people with painful or inconsistent periods.) Or just be a friendly ear, a safe person to have open, honest conversations with.
"I think Lily and I both hope that our comic helps people to feel a little less alone," Schneemann writes. "We’re all in this together."