The internet has been overflowing with a trending phenomenon known as free bleeding. For those who may not be aware of the free bleeding movement, it’s the practice of a very select group of women, who choose not to wear a tampon or pad during menstruation and instead let the bleeding go naturally, even in public.
The trend is empowering women everywhere. There are thousands of women on social media who are taking pictures of themselves bleeding all over their clothes in bed and out in public.
The free bleeding practice initially began as a protest of taxes on tampons and similar feminine hygiene products in the U.S. As it turns out, there are only a very few states in America where there’s no tax on such products. Three states to be exact, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Women are paying unfair and unnecessary taxes on tampons and the free bleeding movement is a sign of protest and an attempt to change state policy. They are “luxury items” and women with low incomes struggle to afford them. Feminine hygiene products are also inaccessible for those who are in prison. And according to a recent report by the Los Angeles Times, they are one of the most-requested donation items at homeless shelters.
What’s more, the concern is also environmental. Reports say that women in the US alone throw away nearly seven pounds of feminine hygiene products every year. There’s a need for more sustainable products and speaking freely about menstruation experiences is one way to raise awareness.
Women’s opinions on the matter are divided. Some are comparing free bleeding with breastfeeding in public. According to them, the practice is completely sanitary and is a natural bodily function. While some women feel more comfortable bleeding in a pad, a tampon, or a menstrual cup, others prefer bleeding on their clothing or skin. There are women who don’t free bleed all the time, but only avoid using menstrual products at night or in the shower. They describe the experience as “liberating, empowering, free, passionate, rocking, incredible,” but not unhygienic.
The other half thinks that although both phenomena are natural parts of female life, one provides nourishment to infants and the other is highly unsanitary. According to their beliefs, a woman should deal with her period as sanitary as possible. In their words: “there’s nothing empowering about openly bleeding all over yourself, regardless of gender.”
Medical professionals say there are no medical reasons not to practice free bleeding. The issues are more of a practical nature. Blood stains come into contact with clothes and furniture and can leave stains that are hard to clean. What’s more, once it’s exposed to air, blood can develop a bad smell. For this reason, frequent changes of clothes would be necessary.
Instead of viewing it as unsanitary, supporters of the free bleeding movement advocate for viewing the trend as a call to action to openly discussing menstruation, challenging stigma, and considering the environmental impact of menstrual products.
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Different cultures view menstruation in different ways. Some cultures view a menstruating woman as something sacred and powerful. Other, as something unsanitary and embarrassing. There are cultures that consider women's blood to be sacred, having the power to scare away hailstorms, whirlwinds, and lightning. There are also cultures that consider menstrual blood to be especially dangerous to men's power.
Countries such as Nepal view menstruation as something “unclean” and villages send menstruating women to sleep in menstrual huts during their cycle. There are parts in India where women are forbidden to cook because their period can pollute food.
In other parts of the worlds, menstruation is a reason to celebrate. Ghanaian women rest under decorative, ceremonial umbrellas as they start their periods. Families treat the menstruating women as royalty, offering them gifts and paying them homage.
A part of the free bleeding movement is free bleeding yoga. Women around the globe are practicing it to honor all of the women who have their periods and those that can’t.
Women practicing free bleeding yoga are not ashamed of their periods and don’t think other women should be either. They perform a series of yoga moves while “free bleeding”, through their yoga pants. In their words, “It’s messy, it’s painful, it’s terrible and it’s beautiful.” It’s also a way to fight the uncomfortable menstrual cramps.
Free bleeding yoga is an attempt to raise awareness about female menstruation. It’s a movement to educate children that menstruation can be both an inconvenience and a gift, but never something to be ashamed of. It empowers women not to be afraid to talk about tampons or pads or skip events out of fear of bleeding through their clothes.
In its most basic form, free bleeding yoga is an attempt to encourage women to stop feeling ashamed about the very thing that gives this species continuity.
In response to the free bleeding movement, many companies have launched their free bleeding products.
One such product is the free bleeding panties. They are a reusable, machine washable underwear that can hold up to two tampons of menstrual tissue.
Another alternative to tampons and pads are the menstrual cups. These small and flexible cups can be inserted in the vagina and collect menstrual tissue. The cup is made of medical grade silicone.
These products aim to support women in their free bleeding movement and make the experience less uncomfortable and messy.