Periods have always been a part of a woman’s life. Yet we don’t see a lot of media representation of that perfectly normal human experience. Even now, in 2022, we can count only a handful of movies and TV series that show menstruation in a positive manner, and not as something to ridicule women about, as something disgusting.
The reason for such resentment is easily found. Most directors and producers in the film industry are men, so it’s understandable that they either don’t want to talk about the topic of menstruation or, due to their own ignorance, find it dirty and inappropriate.
Such a one-sided point of view can affect young women’s minds and make them believe that their own bodies are indeed something to be ashamed of. For them to not feel that way, we need to educate them not only in our households and schools, but also through the silver screens. Let’s talk about some of our favourite depictions of periods in today’s media that show menstruation as a normal part of our lives.
The Runaways (2010, Movie)
The Runaways was one of the first movies I remember watching where periods were shown in a more or less positive way. As something normal, a part of our day-to-day. It’s a biographical picture about an American rock band, starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart, and believe it or not, it starts with a period scene, in which Dakota’s character finds herself in a pretty relatable situation. Her periods have unexpectedly (as they always do) begun, and there are no pads on sight. So, she and her sister go to the toilet at some petrol station and make her a towel from toilet paper. Who hasn’t done that? It also serves as a reminder that not everyone has a stock of pads and other medical necessities on hand due to poverty, culture, or prejudice.
20th Century Woman (2016, Movie)
20th Century Woman is part of our list due to one of the most forthright and straightforward conversations about menstruation that I have seen in any movie ever, despite it not being set in our modern era. I would go as far as to say that it is one of the best moments of the film. The main heroine, Abbie, who is played by actress and director Greta Gerwig urges young Jamie to not be afraid and weirded out by the topic of menstruation and even presses him to speak the word "menstruation" aloud. What follows is a very earnest moment that many women will find heartwarming as everyone at the table joins in the sentiment.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018, Movie)
It’s only logical that a movie that is made for women and by women, with such amazing leads as Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, would bring up the topic of periods. The moment itself is quite subtle and even tasteful; a pop of colour on an unblemished cloth that is followed by the bathing scene. Director Josie Rourke said that she wanted to depict such a moment exactly because she hadn’t seen a lot of period scenes in period movies and wanted to show that even a monarch is still a woman.
Padman (2018, Movie)
Padman is a Bollywood film based on the real-life story of an Indian entrepreneur, Arunachalam, and shows a reality quite different to what European countries are used to. It’s not even about the stigma that surrounds everything period related, but more about how hard it is to find in India the products that we deem essential and take for granted. After realizing what hardships his wife needs to endure just to stock up on pads, Arunachalam invents a machine that can make them at a much lower cost. And in the meantime, he learns a lot about the stigmas that surround the topic.
I May Destroy You (2020, TV Series)
And finally, our last period moment comes not from a movie but from a TV show, and quite recent at that. I May Destroy You is a highly acclaimed British television series created by Michaela Coel (she is also the main star of the show). It tells the story of a young Millennial novelist named Arabella who became famous after publishing her first novel and now struggles to finish her second. In one of the episodes, when she and the drug dealer, Biagio, with whom she has a casual sexual relationship, are about to hook up, Arabella notifies the man that she is on her period. He takes it in stride and is ready to continue without any disgust or prejudice. He asks her questions and she gives him authentic answers. Simple, but at the same time very relatable and moving in how nonchalantly the show presents the topic that many prefer to avoid.