The free bleeding movement encourages people who menstruate to refrain from using sanitary products of any description. So what’s meant to happen to the, erm, outpourings? You just let it flow. Because period shaming needs to end, or so the argument goes.

Free Bleeding as Activism

There is still stigma around menstruation. From the tampon tax, to people’s general disgust around this natural bodily function. To make a statement about this and attempt to help break down this stigma, musician and activist Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon in 2015 while free bleeding.  She did it to raise awareness around menstrual health and how it needs to be normalised. This is what brought this movement to the attention of the public, but reactions were mixed. She was called ‘disgusting’  and criticised for her decision.

VIDEO Series 1 of 3: #FreeBleeding #PeriodShaming IS NOT the newest form of #VirtueSignalling as early reported. I guess I'm gonna have to get a subscription to #Liberal Progressive #Millennial Nonsense Magazine … [My thoughts COMING SOON] … "Kiran Gandhi ran in the #LondonMarathon [2015] while on her #period without a #tampon to fight period-shaming. After realizing she was going to be on her period the day of her first #marathon, Kiran Gandhi had to make a choice: to be “a #CrazyChick who needs to just calm down and reach for an effing tampon,” or a “liberated boss madame who loved her own body, was running an effing marathon and was not in the mood for being oppressed that day.” … After running 26 miles while bleeding freely #FreeBlend to eliminate the stigma surrounding periods and to raise awareness for women all over the world who do not have access to feminine hygiene products, she definitely earned the status of a “liberated boss madame.”… Gandhi, a 26-year-old Harvard MBA student and former drummer for M.I.A., spent a year training for the #London Marathon, in which she was going to run for the #Breast #Cancer Care… On the day of the race, she was blindsided by her period, but didn’t let that stop her from crossing the finish line and instead decided to run while bleeding freely. What was originally about not wanting to be uncomfortable by running with a tampon turned into a powerful social experiment to end the stigma surrounding periods and to raise awarenesss for #women in the world who do not have access to basic sanitary products… “As I ran, I thought to myself about how women and men have both been effectively socialized to pretend periods don’t exist. By establishing a norm of period-shaming, [male-preferring] societies effectively prevent the ability to bond over an experience that 50% of us in the human population share monthly,” said Gandhi in her personal essay, Going With the Flow… “Because it is all kept quiet, women are socialized not to complain or talk about their own bodily functions, since no one can see it happening. And if you can’t see it, it’s probably ‘not a big deal’.” … (((#PreparednessAwareness)))

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It has been a year since I ran the London Marathon bleeding freely on my period. In that year, I have met with hundreds of organizations in the menstrual equity space, learned from today's leading scholars on gender equality and spoken to passionate crowds of people who share our vision that menstrual health should not be a burden but a normal part of every day life. Today, @Newsweek has made an epic choice to publish a brilliant article on period stigma as the cover story. The article highlights the fact that the "luxury" tax on tampons and pads is a discriminatory burden, that lack of innovation keeps us stuck with products that hurt the environment and that not being able to speak comfortably about our own bodies is an issue that continues to hold women, girls and anyone who menstruates back today. This is an issue here and worldwide. In bringing this issue to the mainstream and being a leader in combatting stigma, Newsweek has taken a winning step forward for all of us in keeping this conversation alive, and showing the world that we are on the brink of real change. To everyone whom I have worked with in the past year on this issue, I salute you!!!!

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Free Bleeding for the Body

Activism aside, many women are joining this free-flowing movement from a more holistic standpoint. They claim that this was the norm before the invention of sanitary products and can actually help to alleviate pain and discomfort, is better for the land fills and can promote body positivity.

But HOW do they do it?

There’s no denying that periods can be a messy business. So how do free bleeders do it? Most of them claim that wearing black underwear and pants during this time of the month does the trick, and others invest in underwear designed to absorb menstrual flow.

They claim that period blood is completely hygienic and that keeping a towel to sit on with you is a good way to avoid staining surfaces. In these early stages this movement doesn’t really cater well to heavy bleeders with nine-to-five jobs, however.

While the radical free-bleeding movement is popular with some, and unpopular with others, it is getting people talking, and conversation can lead to the breaking of the stigma. Would you try it?