Prudish about periods: New survey reveals nation’s awkwardness around periods as WaterAid launches #NoShame campaign

Posted by
Christine LaRocque
26 May 2017
Canada, Girls and women

Over two-thirds of women feel uncomfortable openly carrying their sanitary products to the washroom in public, and around half wouldn’t feel confident telling their dad about period pain, according to new research released by WaterAid Canada.

The international charity asked over 1,000 adults aged 18 and over from across Canada about their attitudes towards menstruation and the results show that, even today when so many other taboos have been broken, the majority of women feel uncomfortable being open about their period. Based on the results, the charity produced an undercover film capturing the public’s awkward reactions to people talking about periods.

WaterAid launched the results of the survey in advance of Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28th saying there should be #noshame in periods and to confront taboos around periods, highlighting that one in three women worldwide (that is 1 billion women) do not have access to a clean, private toilet during their period.

The survey shows that hiding tampons up your sleeve or taking your whole bag into the toilet at work is probably common for Canadians as 69 per cent of women say they would feel uncomfortable carrying sanitary products openly to the toilet. And while younger generations may have shed other hang-ups of their parents, they are still as coy about toting tampons or towels with 66 per cent of 18 – 24 year olds saying they would feel uncomfortable compared with 72 per cent of 45 – 54 year olds.

Over half of women (53 per cent) would feel uncomfortable talking to their dad about period pain, and 58 per cent wouldn’t feel comfortable confiding in them about pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). The younger generation is slighter less embarrassed about confiding in their fathers, with 45 per cent of 18 – 24 year-olds saying they would feel uncomfortable talking with them about period pain compared with 61 per cent of 45 – 54 year-olds.

The thought of telling a male boss is even more daunting, with 66 per cent of women feeling uncomfortable with the thought of telling a male boss about period pain, while 68 per cent wouldn’t feel confident to tell them about PMS. Sadly, just under one in ten (9 per cent) of women would even feel uncomfortable telling their doctor about period pain.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) of women have felt embarrassed buying sanitary products. Younger women tend to find it worse, with 30 per cent of 18-24 year-olds saying they have been embarrassed compared to 23 per cent of women aged 45 to 54.

Men are maybe not as abashed about periods as one would imagine. The survey found that 63 per cent of men would feel comfortable buying sanitary products for a partner or female family member, but only 52 per cent would feel asking questions about them. Only 21 per cent of men would feel uncomfortable seeing a female friend or colleague carrying a sanitary product to the toilet in a public place.

“How can periods still be a taboo subject in this day and age, when every day, 800 million women around the world have their period?   Why should women and girls’ opportunities be compromised because they have their period and don’t have a safe toilet to use?

Unless we can all talk about periods openly, the superstitions and taboos that impact women around the world will remain unchallenged.  It’s time to create a world in which every woman and girl can manage her period privately, safely, and with dignity. We need to ensure that every women and girl has access to water, safe toilets and decent hygiene by 2030,” said Nicole Nurtubise, CEO of WaterAid Canada.


Watch the film >