The Secret Everybody Knows

Saturday November 18, 2017
Farah Desouky


Secrecy, shame and anxiety are among many feelings and behavioral patterns that accompany every woman during her period. The average female endures about 450 periods in her lifetime, which roughly calculate to about 2250 days, or 6 years.  This biological process is among other aspects in a woman’s life, like hair removal and sexual needs and desires, which aren’t socially acceptable to address publicly, not just in Egypt but worldwide.


Women everywhere try to keep their periods a secret. To find more about the effect of periods on women, Clue, a period, fertility and cycle app, conducted a survey in 2015, in collaboration with the International Women’s Health Coalition. More than 90,000 women worldwide participated in the survey. I have to admit I wasn’t shocked by the results. In fact, I totally understand how the stigma is affecting women’s lives. The survey found 5000 synonyms for the word ‘period’ used worldwide, some were actually pretty funny like Crimson Tide and Girl Flue.

Many women find the word “Period” uncomfortable and go out of their way to call “it” something else. According to the survey, eighty six percent of women were comfortable to talk about their “Flue” to other women, but only thirty four percent were comfortable talking about it to men. So, the problem is not talking about it, but to whom. The disgusted faces and awkward responses women receive from men discourages them from discussing it with them. To save myself from the “not all men” debate, yes some men are okay with it, some men even handle it well, but according to the statistics most men don’t, period.


On October 17th 2017, the first commercial to show a blood stain on a sanitary pad aired in Britain. Finally, someone thought to get rid of the extremely – bizarre – unrealisticly- blue liquid. To say it caused shock and contoversey is an understatement. People were deeply divided over the commercial. While some loved its ingenuity, others dreaded it.  Body Form’s revolutionary commercil ended with the statement “Periods are normal, showing them should be too.”

This is definitely a step that should have been taken a long time ago, but better late than never!  “We believe that like any other taboo, the more people see it, the more normal the subject becomes,” said Body Form’s Marketing Manager. On the other hand, it’s ironic how all sanitary pads commercials in Egypt don’t even dare mention the word period, as if it were a shameful dirty word, or even profanity. Seriously? We hear worse than that in the streets of our beloved Cairo!!!


This issue might be trivialized by many – probably males, unable to recognize their privileges, on the account that “we have bigger issues to care about,” or because “this isn’t something THAT important.” But for me and for every female this is a major issue. Worrying about someone “finding out,” dreading to leave the house, and feeling embarrassed if someone sees our tampons or pads are not issues we have to keep up with.

We can change that by talking openly about our periods. It’s not a taboo, and it’s neither shameful nor disgusting. It is a natural, normal body process for every woman. The anxiety a woman feels trying to hide the secret everybody knows needs to stop.

Lastly, dear men, periods aren’t hiding anymore!

22553524_1649451798419032_847313305_oFarah Desouky is a 17 years old student. The 12th grader studies at Maadi Narmar School in Cairo. A feminist at heart, Farah combines her passion in writing and women’s issues to advocate for her cause.

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One comment

  1. Well done by publicity about this subject. My experience in Egypt……Nor men , nor women know to much about their own body in average. It have to be educated on schools…then we can have a normal talk also about women -period and other sexual changes in the body when you go to be “off-childhood” That not only count for girls but for boys also…my opinion.


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