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Stock Images of Women in Pain Are Making Period Shame Worse, Study Suggests

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US figure skating champ Mirai Nagasu competes during her period, Madame Gandhi has free bled during a marathon, future UK princess Meghan Markle has toured the world to take on period stigma, and 22 senators, 84 representatives, and 3 Supreme Court Justices who are women help run the US government.

So why do so many online images still depict menstruating women as weak, powerless, and crippled by cramps?

That question inspired Pink Parcel, a UK-based pad and tampon delivery service, to commission a study to explore the scope of this stigma. When the results came in, they realized  just how insidious such negative online content can be for girls and women and found that 40% of women say online representations contribute to period shame.

Take Action: #ItsBloodyTime to End the Taboo Around Menstruation

“It is little surprise period shame is so prevalent when demeaning images are continually perpetuated by the media and society,” a Pink Parcel spokeswoman Alicia Haynes told The Independent. “Our research has proven that this consistent stream of dramatized, unrealistic images is leaving those who experience periods feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and reluctant to talk about them.”

Pink Parcel’s study reviewed period-related imagery on 100 websites — including Google, Bing, and the UK’s National Health Service and found that a full 91% depicted women as helpless.

Indeed, a Google search of period-related images using the search terms “Period” and “Woman” reveals women curled up in the fetal position, anguished women with hot water bottles on their stomachs, and women doubled over in pain.

women stock images in pain.pngImage: Screenshot

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Though extreme period-related pain can be a serious problem, the stock images don’t accurately depict the experience of half the world’s population. Women manage to work, compete in sports, and live normal lives despite period pain and discomfort.

“There’s a whole spectrum of ways to experience periods, and while cramps and pain can often be involved, a period does not make a person any less strong, powerful or beautiful,” Haynes told the Independent

Global Citizen campaigns on ending gender discrimination and ensuring that every girl and woman has access to pads, tampons and other safe menstrual hygiene products. You can take action here.

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In response to the study’s results, The Debrief put together a handy slideshow of new period-related stock images that show what women on their periods really look like.

Their results include mundane and exciting daily tasks like “catching a train,” “rock climbing, and “listening to a man talk about something boring.”