Every day more women are opting for free bleeding as a way of experiencing their periods in a more open way.
In recent times we’ve seen new alternatives and menstrual products for our periods to be more comfortable. Although no one has been able to pull down tampons and pads, every day people with vaginas are giving these new options a chance. There’s been a whole movement encouraging to embrace menstruation as a natural and empowering process to shatter all those taboos and misunderstandings surrounding it. One of these positions that are increasing among population is free bleeding, and the idea, as the name suggests, is to let your blood flow naturally without any product to stop it in order to experience menstruation in its most natural way possible.
Now, I must admit that no matter how open I want to be regarding the subject, this doesn’t sound appealing at all. Perhaps I am too biased by society’s stand on the matter, but for me, it’s really hard to think about menstruation as something to embrace and love. I get that it’s a natural process and that it represents how great our bodies are. Yet I can’t help but feel uncomfortable with all the symptoms that come with it, and that sensation of dripping blood doesn’t make it any better. I could tolerate menstrual cramps, but the discomfort is something I really loathe. So, for me, just letting the flow go down just like that doesn’t sound like something I would really jump to. Still, I was curious to know why so many women are praising it and opting for this method.
Free bleeding has very old origins but one of the most recent moments this has happened publicly was when musician Kiran Gandhi opted for it while running the London marathon in 2015. Her reasons sounded very valid if you ask me. Her period began the day of the marathon and she had to decide whether doing it with a tampon throughout the whole competition or not. She obviously opted for the latter, and the photos went all over the internet with very divided opinions accompanied by lots of shaming for Gandhi. Now, we all know that for some reason menstruation has historically and culturally been accompanied with a lot of shame. We have cases in some countries where women have to be secluded during this time of the month. But what’s interesting is that what started as an anti-feminist measure ended up in a trend that feminists are actually embracing.
Turns out that around the time Kiram Gandhi went free bleeding for the London marathon, a website called 4chan released a whole campaign called “Operation Freebleeding” that was promoted as a feminist movement against patriarchy’s period-shaming. It turns out that it was meant to be a hoax that used fake Twitter accounts and photoshopped pictures to turn people against feminism, betting on society’s contempt towards blood and menstruation in general. Despite the site being flagged for a series of anti-feminist hoaxes before, this one reached a whole new level. Although their plan worked at some degree, the joke was on them because it actually made women interested in this method, not only to experience menstruation in a different level, but also as a way to normalize it by making society accustomed to seeing it and thus accepting the fact that women do bleed monthly and that it isn’t something to be shocked and revulsed by.
With this I do agree, since menstruation is as natural as eating, peeing, or basically any bodily process, and for some reason, it’s unbelievable that girls are still taught to be ashamed of it and forced to make these monthly experiences as secret as possible. I still remember how my grandfather’s wife told me, when I had my first period, that the trick was not letting people notice you were going through it because that was like exposing yourself. So, for that matter, yes, I do think we’re at a moment in the history of humanity when all these outdated conceptions about women and their physiology have to be shattered, and we definitely should start teaching girls and women in general that there’s nothing shameful about our periods. But, I’m still not that sure this is the only way to do so.
Besides the social and political take of the movement or method, I really had a lot of interest to know if there was an actual physiological or health benefit to going free bleeding. I read a woman’s full experience with this, and what really caught my attention, was the fact that she felt that free bleeding actually helped her reduce menstrual cramps and that she strongly believed that it allowed all the flood to get out of her system, something that other methods don’t really achieve. Now, this makes me think that perhaps by blocking the flow of blood we are leaving inside our system residues that could damage our overall health, or at least the region, so I really had to do more research on the matter. It turns out that, other than the risk of getting toxic shock syndrome with badly used tampons, or infections from not having a hygienic habit with pads, there isn’t a real risk of using any of these blocking methods.
So, is there a real benefit from going free bleeding other than changing society’s perceptions of menstruation? Well, not really. It only encourages women to be more hygienic and instead of changing their pads or preferred methods every now and then, they have to clean themselves if they want to be more comfortable, but other than that, there’s no difference. At the end of the day, free bleeding is a movement that’s encouraging women to feel more comfortable with menstruation and be more open to experience it without all that shameful load out there. But I do believe that this method is not the only way of achieving that. It’s a matter of education and being free to choose what works the best for each of us.
Here are other facts about your period you should know:
Images by @zinteta