There was a "shocking" comment that repeatedly came up from young girls who participated in a menstruation study.
Many girls, central Victorian menstrual educator Jane Bennett said, felt it would be helpful to have silent pad wrappers so other girls in public toilet blocks would not know they had their period and use that information to tease or bully them.
"That was shocking to me, and of course disturbing, deeply disturbing, that we aren't doing enough to really normalise, to really dignify, to help girls feel strong and proud of their bodies and what their bodies are doing in a healthy way," Ms Bennett said.
"And to really appreciate that without the menstrual cycle, none of us would be here."
Ms Bennett and feminist writer Karen Pickering are the co-authors of a new book called About Bloody Time: The menstrual revolution we have to have, published by the Victorian Women's Trust.
The book examines the taboo that continues to surround menstruation and how breaking down that stigma can lead to greater gender equity.
"What's a revolution? It's a radical change, and we do believe we need a radical change," Ms Bennett said.
"It's part of an overall gender equity agenda. For women to be fully present in all arenas in life, all forums, they need to feel comfortable in their body, and to do that this is one really important aspect that is so often ignored and I feel is often the elephant in the room."
The book was written after years of research, including the study of almost 3500 women and girls from Australia and abroad.
Forty-two per cent of women had mostly negative sentiments about their periods, a trend that was most pronounced among teenagers - girls aged 12 to 18 reported they either disliked everything about their period, or it was almost entirely bad.
Some survey participants spoke of the embarrassment that came with their periods, especially in school settings - even in all-girls schools.
Ms Bennett said the societal stigma attached to menstruation sometimes came from culture or religion, or was the result of family attitudes.
This negativity did harm to those who had period, she said.
"Now of course this is not everyone and it's not everywhere, but a surprising number of girls and women don't feel supported, don't feel able to get the help they need, or feel really uncomfortable or unable to be honest about it at work or at school," she said.
"I think that's really crippling our capacity to be fully engaged, wherever we are, wherever we're involved."
Ms Bennett said it also had health implications.
If women and girls felt uncomfortable, she said, they were less likely to seek help from medical professionals.
One respondent to the survey said her period pain was enough to distract her from her school work, but she was "too shy" to discuss it with her GP or mother.
"It's an important aspect of having a female body and we need to be supported in that, rather than feel we've got to be secret and hidden and ashamed of it," Ms Bennett said.
She said there was also an issue with women and girls not having enough information or knowledge.
Without information on what was normal, she said, they did not know whether what they were experiencing required attention.
The research behind the book uncovered there was a knowledge gap especially when girls first got their period.
It found almost one in 10 women and girls did not know what was happening when they first menstruated, and 55 per cent did not feel prepared.
"We feel that all of these inadequacies in how we manage it and how we support menstruating people, is because we're not yet - as a society and as individuals - fully comfortable, fully feeling that this is normal, this is healthy, offering dignity to people who menstruate, so that they can be well-supported," Ms Bennett said.
The stigma surrounding menstruation has existed for millennia and across most societies.
While most people no longer thought a menstruating woman would blunt knives or kill crops, Ms Bennett said, the taboo had evolved to a point where now menstruation was often viewed as something that should be done away with through pharmaceutical means, even when a woman had no health problems associated with it.
The book also addresses menopause, for which almost half of respondents who had experienced it felt prepared.
Ms Bennett said menopause was part of the same continuum and many women felt a stigma around being menopausal.
"What we saw was the issues that were present at the beginning and through a woman's menstruating life were really there in a somewhat changing form at the end of periods as well," she said.
"That is stigma, lack of information, feeling uncomfortable, not being able to talk about, feeling isolated."
The book came about after Ms Bennett and a group of other menstrual educators approached the Victorian Women's Trust in 2012 with the idea of a research project that focused on the experiences of menstruation - not through a medical lens, but women's feelings towards it and what they wanted to change.
The book was the culmination of this project, and was supported by a crowdfunding campaign that saw the initial $15,000 goal reached in six days.
Now more than $31,000 has been raised.
"Menstruation and menopause is an intrinsic part of our health and wellbeing, however the way periods are shrouded in secrecy and shame is anything but healthy," Victorian Women's Trust executive director Mary Crooks said.
"This has enormous implications for women and girls. If women are to achieve full gender equality, dismantling this taboo is one of the last frontiers to be addressed."
About Bloody Time launch events will be held in Castlemaine on Wednesday, June 12 and in Bendigo on Thursday, June 13.
For more information or to book, visit the Victorian Women's Trust website.
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