“Hey, do you have a pad?” I inquire in a hushed voice.

My friend whispers back a “yes” and slowly, discreetly reaches into her backpack to hand me a pad. I take it and tuck it into the shirt sleeve of my baggy sweater so that is cannot be seen. And as I walk down the hallway of my high school and replay the encounter in my mind, I feel a surge of annoyance. Why was I hiding it? Why was I trying to cover up the fact that it was “my time of the month?” Why was I trying to conceal the fact that I was human?

Girls, since youth, have been taught to be ashamed. Ashamed of being girls. Most of us hear “close your legs” or “cover yourself up” on the daily. Institutions have been established to exploit our bodies and then make us feel embarrassed to have one. It’s no secret that the female body exists—I mean, it’s objectification is prevalent. So then why do women all over the world continue to feel immense humiliation when it comes to discussing the menstrual cycle? Having a period is one of the most normal, natural functions in the world. It’s part of being human, whether you’re a cis woman or a trans man or non-binary or gender non-conforming. The number of times I’ve felt shameful when purchasing tampons or asking for a sanitary napkin or even opening a pad in the stall of a public bathroom is too many. Misogyny is so deeply rooted in the origins of our society that even though over half of the population menstruates, women still feel humiliated about it.

In some countries, the subject of the period is taboo. I’ve found myself locking my arms around my abdomen while a knife is being driven through my uterus and when someone asks me what’s wrong, I say I have a headache. Not only are pads and tampons ridiculously overpriced, but also, most (cis) men act utterly disgusted when it comes to the mere mention of a period. But of course, they’re the first to whip out the “are you PMSing?” whenever a woman is expressing emotion (not to say that there aren’t men who are fine with periods, of course).

But while blood waterfalling out of a vagina may seem a little gross in terms of general bodily fluids, there is no reason to shame someone for something they cannot control. Everyone is fine when the female body is being displayed for the pleasure of straight men, but when it comes to the reality of what goes on in the female body, people are repulsed. Going through the horrors of one’s uterus trying to self-destruct on a monthly basis is painful enough. We don’t need the added struggle of feeling obligated to conceal our periods. Because periods are not something wrong. 

We must not whisper about or apologize for the healthy, natural biology of our bodies. Nature is not a secret. It has been an awful trend in history that women are taught to hide their true bodies while distorted, objectified, even pornified images of the “perfect” body are portrayed to us on screen. It is no secret that women grow hair all over the place, or that we have stretch marks, or that we have belly rolls. And it is no secret that we have periods, either. A woman on her period is not dirty. There is no reason that we should feel ashamed about it. I, for one, am tired of society trying to control our bodies. It’s time we take back the wheel. When you’re on your period, own it! Grab your neon green pad (or tampon) and strut with it. You’re on your flow: you don’t need to hide it. Go with it. Go with the flow.