*Note: terms rela­ted to gen­der iden­ti­ties are exp­lai­ned in the info box.*

Why gender-inclusive language is so important when talking about menstruation

Espe­cially mar­ke­ting messages and pro­ducts are stron­gly desi­gned to sup­po­sed gen­der-spe­ci­fic cha­rac­te­ris­tics, as is the case with mens­trual pro­ducts as well. Mens­trua­tion is still far too often asso­cia­ted only with girls and women. Now you may still think, yes, that’s how it is! But not all women mens­truate and not all who iden­tify them­sel­ves as women mens­truate.  Say what? Even trans-, non-binary or gen­der-neu­tral people can bleed mon­thly. The pre­sen­ta­tion of mens­trua­tion as an expe­ri­ence shared exclu­si­vely by women is the­re­fore not com­ple­tely right. Cis-sexist assump­ti­ons about peri­ods and bodies can exclude and discri­mi­nate against cer­tain indi­vi­du­als. The­re­fore, we use the term ‘mens­trua­ting people’ or ‘mens­trua­tors’ and try not to speak of women or girls. This is our attempt to start inclu­ding all people who have mens­trual expe­ri­en­ces lin­gu­is­ti­cally. Because lan­guage matters.

Not all women menstruate

Ano­t­her important aspect in this con­text is that not all cis-women mens­truate. This can have dif­fe­rent rea­sons, such as meno­pause, stress or hys­terec­tomy (sur­gi­cal remo­val of the ute­rus). Some cis-women may have never had their mens­trua­tion due to health con­di­ti­ons. Howe­ver, the lack of mens­trua­tion does not make them less of a woman than those who bleed mon­thly. It is important for state­ments that define mens­trua­tion as a pure source of femi­nin­ity to pay atten­tion to what the effects of such claims can have on people. Because with these messages the expe­ri­en­ces of indi­vi­dual people can be made invi­si­ble and the nor­ma­lity of the binary gen­der sys­tem will be fur­ther supported.

INFO-BOX: What gender identities are out there? And what do the terms mean?

Lan­guage can be com­pli­ca­ted and defi­ni­ti­ons can be con­to­ver­sial. There are still no expres­si­ons or terms with which all people feel 100 per­cent com­for­ta­ble. Howe­ver, one thing is cer­tain: people who do not feel that they are women or men essen­ti­ally ques­tion the idea that gen­der = geni­tals. For a bet­ter com­pre­hen­si­bi­lity of the text, here is our attempt to give a brief over­view of the various con­cepts around sex and gen­der identities:

  • Binary gen­der sys­tem: Assump­tion that there are only two sexes (male or female)
  • Cis-woman or Cis-man: People who iden­tify with the sex to which they were assi­gned at birth
  • Trans­gen­der: People who do not iden­tify with the sex to which they were assi­gned at birth
  • Non-binary: People whose gen­der iden­tity lies out­side the binary gen­der sys­tem and who iden­tify neit­her as a man nor as a woman (e.g. queer)
  • *: The use of the gen­der star is the attempt to include the diver­sity of gen­der iden­ti­ties in writing.

If you are inte­res­ted to learn more about the topic? Then maybe the Trans 101 glos­sary with fur­ther rea­ding recom­men­da­ti­ons could be a good recom­men­da­tion for you!

Menstruating people and the diversity of menstrual experiences

Vul­vani is for all people, all sexes, all gen­ders and all bodies. We want to create an inte­gra­tive and invi­t­ing space for all people, com­ple­tely inde­pen­dent of gen­der iden­ti­ties. We want to respect, appre­ciate and cele­brate the diver­sity of expe­ri­en­ces and iden­ti­ties. For even if the majo­rity of people who mens­truate iden­tify them­sel­ves as girls and women, they are not the only ones. It should be pos­si­ble for all people to talk about mens­trua­tion without being assi­gned to a par­ti­cu­lar gen­der or sex.

‚My body is not female. My mens­trua­tion is not female. It just is. My body just is. My body is its own thing. It does what it does, and that’s fine. Get­ting my period is pain­ful and bloody and messy and annoy­ing, but it doesn’t have to make me feel like less of a guy… Mens­trua­ting doesn’t have to be a girl thing.’
(Wiley Rea­ding)

Why inclusion is so important 

Inclu­sion and inte­gra­tion are often writ­ten off as beau­ti­ful ide­als or uto­pias. But when they are prac­ti­ced, they can make an important dif­fe­rence in the ever­y­day lives of real people. Inclu­sion is important for ever­yone, but above all for people who place them­sel­ves out­side the binary gen­der sys­tem. True inclu­sion is so much more than what we say. But what we say and above all how we say it is cru­cial. Who are we tal­king to? Who do we exclude? Because exclu­sion already begins with lan­guage and is often syn­ony­mous with exclu­sion in ever­y­day life. That is why we are loo­king for bet­ter solu­ti­ons and terms for all people. And we hope that with Vul­vani we can moti­vate and con­tri­bute to a more com­pre­hen­sive dia­lo­gue about mens­trua­tion for all people.

Are you a menstruating individual?

If you iden­tify yourself out­side the binary gen­der sys­tem, we are espe­cially happy to hear from you in order to make our lan­guage and dis­cus­sions more inclu­sive for all. Send us a mes­sage with your feed­back, ideas and tips – we are so exci­ted to hear from you!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-foun­der of Vul­vani. She loves rese­ar­ching, wri­ting and designing new arti­cles or inno­va­tive edu­ca­tio­nal con­cepts about mens­trua­tion all day long. When she is not tra­vel­ling the world, she enjoys spen­ding time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.