Name-Calling: Other Names We Call Our Period & Why

Name-Calling: Other Names We Call Our Period & Why

Anyone remember the hushed voices of high school days, privately asking a friend for a spare tampon? “Aunt Flo came early,” you’d whisper. And all your girlfriends understood.


But the whispering didn’t stop in high school. Even in our 20s and 30s, a lot of us still talk about “that time of the month” quietly, hidden behind our hands.


“Our monthly friend has come for a visit,” we say, sighing heavily, rolling our eyes, cramming chocolate in our mouth. Our girlfriends all nod. They still understand.


A Period By ANY Other Name
We’ve accomplished a lot as women. But we still have trouble talking about our periods. Even the word “period” is a mellowed out version of the word menstruation – a physical process that’s anything but mellow.


In fact, we’ve come up with thousands of other names for our period. The women’s health app Clue teamed up with the International Women’s Health Coalition to survey 90,000 women about their periods.


Here are the top English names they found for menstruation:

  • Crimson Wave
  • Mother Nature
  • Lady Time
  • On the Rag
  • Shark Week
  • Red Tide
  • Code Red
  • Monthly Friend
  • Bloody Mary
  • Having the Painters In


And most simply, Blob.


The Issue of Blood
We prefer to call our monthly friend (more like frenemy, right?) by nicer, more guarded names. So what’s at the root of this name game?


In a word, it’s fear. For years women have experienced embarrassment, shame, and fear about their periods. Fear of being seen as less than. Fear of being too much. Fear of being considered dirty. Fear of being.


Will the Real Period Please Stand Up
But what are we really afraid of?


Ida Tin, the founder of Clue, says, “For you to understand your body and take care of your body you have to first not be ashamed of this part of your life. Without cycles there would be no humans on this planet, it’s that fundamental.”


Yes! Periods are a natural, basic part of life and nothing to fear (except maybe those cramps).


We can take a lesson from Harry Potter here. Dumbledore encourages Harry to use Voldemort’s real name instead of He Who Must Not Be Named: “Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”


What You Can Do
We can remove the fear surrounding periods by calling them by their real name.


Some celebrities have started doing this already, but here are a couple other ways to take away fear’s power over our periods:

  1. Fight the fear – When feelings of embarrassment pop up about your period, tell yourself that what you’re going through is normal, natural, and good. For some more practical tips, read our other blog post about period bias.
  2. Educate others – If we don’t whisper about our periods, other people will catch on, especially our friends and women who are younger than us.


Sure, we’ll still commiserate about our periods. Just not in those hushed voices we used in high school.


But sometimes we just don’t want to be serious. So go ahead and tell us, what’s your favorite name for our special friend?

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