If men had periods

To mark Menstrual Hygiene Day, 28 May, we’re asking how different life would be if men had periods – and why it matters for girls and women around the world.


28 May 2015

Periods. There it is, right there on the screen!

How does it make you feel? Awkward? Embarrassed? Like you'd want to run from the room screaming if someone started talking about their monthly bleed?

Now imagine how you'd be feeling if men had periods instead of women. We think it would be pretty different – in six significant ways.

1. The monthly bleed would be a sign of manliness!

If men menstruated, periods wouldn't be awkward or embarrassing – they'd be equated with power and virility. Men would boast about theirs around the water cooler, and pat each other on the back for overcoming another gruelling, monthly battle against nature - just like this:

2. Coming on would be celebrated

Unlike women, menstruating men wouldn't be barred from places of worship. Instead, periods would be celebrated by religions around the world, with special ceremonies to mark a boy’s first period and welcome him into manhood, and prayers dedicated to relieving cramps.

3. Periods would be called… periods!

In Belgium, 'Mary is visiting'. In France, it's 'strawberry season'. In Finland, it's 'jam week', while in the UK, we get a visit from 'Aunt Flo' – all so we don’t have to use the word 'period'. But if men menstruated, the euphemisms would be out the door and a period would be, well, a period.

4. Sportsmen would take their periods seriously – very seriously

No patronising eye-rolls here. Instead, sportsmen and their periods would become nothing short of a science, with trainers getting teammates to live together to coordinate their cycles before a big match and bookies factoring monthly bleeds into their odds on players' performances. You can just imagine it, can't you…

5. Sanitary items would be a human right

Forget taxing sanitary products as luxury items. They’d be available on the NHS and included in international aid packages alongside food, water and medicine, because 'no man should have to suffer the indignity of being denied proper menstrual hygiene support'.

6. Tampon adverts would be turbo-charged

Say goodbye to strange blue liquids. Instead, men would be queuing up to try the latest, extra-strength, triple-moulded tampons, designed by top scientists and guaranteed to get you straight out of the starting blocks. Don't believe us? Let us help you picture it:

An end to stigma and taboo?

These might have made you smile – but the reality is that, around the world, millions of girls and women lack the clean, safe water and toilets they need to manage their periods. And it’s costing them their health, their education and their dignity.

A day for change: this is Menstrual Hygiene Day >

Menstruation matters: this is why

Having your period can be hard enough, let alone when you don't have access to safe, clean water and toilets. Three women explain the difficulties they face when they get their monthly bleed.

Lydia, 16, sitting outside her house with her brother and sister in Kampala, Uganda.

Lydia, 16, Uganda

In Uganda, Lydia's school toilets are shared between boys and girls. "Some toilets don't have doors, so people can see in or enter at any time," she explains. "They don't have water to flush or to wash with. So we don't go to school when we have our periods."

Indra, 25, stands in what remains of her kitchen in Paslan village, Gorkha, Nepal.

Indra, 25, Nepal

Indra's family home collapsed after two earthquakes struck Nepal earlier this year. "All the stuff I had for my periods was buried in the house," she tells us. "I asked the neighbours to borrow some cloth, and I had to use it for five days without any chance to wash it."

Kajal, 16, stands in front of a large open defacation area, Nihura Basti, Kanpur, India.

Kajal, 16, India

With no toilet at home, Kajal has to relieve herself out in the open. "How can you like it when there are lots of men around when you go to the toilet?" she says. "During my period it's difficult as I have to change my pad – I use any cloth and throw it away after in a bag."