It’s a truth universally acknowledged that periods are the absolute worst. For anyone whose ever had a period, you know the drill. The anticipation as the date of your period approaches, the bloating and menstrual cramps, the fear that you might accidentally bleed through your tampon or pad, and the age-old yet always horrifying internal question, which pops up every time you leave the house in the days around the start of your period: Is that discharge or did I just get my period?
But while actually having a period can sometimes be a pain, the fact of the matter is that periods are natural; and annoying as they are—people who have them shouldn’t feel shamed. But unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma and misinformation. According to the 2020 Tampax Period Education Survey, when it comes to the reproductive system—there’s a serious knowledge gap. Per the study, in the United States, 41% of women aren’t 100% confident they know how to correctly insert a tampon, 62% of women polled can’t locate a vagina on a diagram (!!!) and 7% of adults think that a tampon can take a woman’s virginity. This misinformation really comes down to a lack of sexual and reproductive education in schools. And before we start thinking that Canada is any better…we’re not. Provinces like Ontario have long been embroiled in battles over the sex education curriculum in schools, with advocates for sex ed arguing for the inclusion of topics like consent, online safety and gender identity and expression. While a summer 2018 decision by the provincial government ensured these additions remained, there’s still *a long* way to go when it comes to teaching young people about sex and their bodies.
Amy Schumer is ready to change that. On July 8, the comedian was announced as the newest ambassador for Tampax, partnering with the tampon brand to help people understand more about their periods and their bodies, and to break down stigma around menstruation.
View this post on Instagram
I am proud to be partnering with @Tampax! When Tampax told me that there were many women who know so little about their bodies I wanted to do something about it right away. Please check out this video I did a couple months back. Go to @Tampax IG page to watch the full video #TimeToTampax
While doing press for Tampax in early July, Schumer chatted with FLARE about the initiative, her worst period story, why there’s still so much stigma around periods (hint: the patriarchy), and why day two of your period is scientifically the worst day ever. (FYI, it’s because it’s the heaviest day of your flow.)
Just like you, Schumer also has a period “horror story”
It’s pretty much a rite of passage to have an embarrassing—or at least memorable—story about your period. Maybe it’s a recollection about when you accidentally bled onto your seat in history class; maybe it’s the time you sat with a friend as they tried to coach you through the washroom stall on how to insert your tampon; or perhaps it’s when you first got your period during summer sleep-away softball camp and legitimately thought you were dying. Regardless, many people who have periods have these stories—and that includes celebs. “Oh my God, I have many,” Schumer says. But when it comes to the actor’s “horror story,” it isn’t one particular scenario that stands out, but rather her mom’s general mentality around tampons. “I had to beg my mom to get [tampons], because she was such a pad advocate.” Like a lot of people in older generations, Schumer says, her mom just didn’t tell her there was an alternative. “So I had a cool older sister—like a friend’s older sister—who told me: ‘you need to be wearing Tampax,'” Schumer recalls. “And I was like, ‘Um, what? Mom, there’s another option?’ But I think with all the myths [around tampons], she was scared of them for some reason and didn’t understand that they’re healthy and they’re easier and you can go swimming.”
Read this next: Trolls and All, Chrissy Teigen Still Loves Twitter
We’re still not talking enough about periods
While Schumer’s mom and older generations’ fear and possible misinformation around tampons and periods seems like something that should be dated, unfortunately many people are still trying to dispel stigma around menstruating today. For one specific reason. “I think because we are still in such a patriarchal society and it’s been white men at the helm of everything for so long,” Schumer says of why there’s still so much stigma around periods. According to Schumer, Tampax was the first brand to say the word period on television, back in the 1980s. “And I think that’s not a coincidence,” she says. “Now that more women are in more positions of power, we’re learning the truth [about periods and our bodies].
“And that’s why I wanted to partner with Tampax, to help women take the shame out of the most natural, awful thing that happens to us. We should be allowed to talk about it and complain about it.”
And, Schumer says, we should have more medical information and studies about women’s bodies. Speaking to her own experience with endometriosis (Schumer was diagnosed with the disorder after the birth of her son Gene in May 2019), she says she wishes there had been more information available to her growing up. “I don’t think I ever heard about endometriosis until I was 35,” she says. “I wish I’d known, when I was in the nurse’s office once a month, vomiting from the pain starting in like sixth grade, [that that’s what that was].”
Read this next: Here’s How Kaia Gerber Is Keeping It Together During Quarantine
For her part, in addition to spreading more awareness about menstruation and reproductive health via the initiative, Schumer’s also going to target period stigma at home, by talking honestly with her son “at probably too early of an age,” about the ways women’s bodies are shamed and taxed—in line with how her own mom talked with her. “My mom was really vocal about her periods and would openly complain about it,” she says. “So I will definitely be sharing that with him, probably a couple of years too early. I’m going to raise him to be a good little feminist.”
Her relationship with her own period has evolved
Like many people, Schumer has had a changing and nuanced relationship with her period. (Raise your hand if you can actually remember being a tiny tween who *wanted* their first period to come!) For Schumer, her relationship to her period has evolved as she’s gotten older—and gotten more info. “Up until I was 30, it’s just been a really brutal thing that I’ve had to—like so many women—just power through and not mention and not complain about,” she says. “But now that I know [that] I’m on the spectrum of women that have a harder time and are actually debilitated by it, I’m glad that I know that so that I can forgive myself and be able to take care of myself more.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s entirely off the hook. Like many people who have periods, Schumer often just has to, as she says, “suck it up,” and go about her day, kicking ass and taking names—and sometimes, filming sex scenes or wet T-shirt contests. “When I shot I Feel Pretty, the day I shot the bikini contest, it was my second day of my period,” the actor recalls. “You know, the day where you just want to put a bag over your head; and you still just have to work. But I’ll tell you that that full day on set, I was complaining and telling everybody that I had my period.”
Read this next: How Lili Reinhart Is Making the Most of Summer
But she’s also hopeful
For all the misinformation that still surrounds periods and reproductive health, Schumer is optimistic about the future of period stigma—because she already sees it evolving. “I’m really hopeful about this younger generation,” she says. “They’re ready for action, they’re ready to protest; and I’m so hopeful about them not being ashamed of the things that we felt like you were supposed to be [ashamed of].
“So we’re just moving in the right direction; and I really want to do my part in that.”