VISITS from “Aunt Flow” during “that time of month” are officially over — along with all the other euphemisms that people use to secretly talk about their menstrual cycle.
The long-awaited period “drop of blood” emoji is finally available on iPhone keyboards in “a real breakthrough” in fighting the stigma around menstruation — and advocates say it’s about time we got this bloody conversation started.
As a part of Apple’s iOS 13.2 update, the tech giant released a set of 350 brand-new emojis including mixed-race couples, gender-neutral individuals, people with disabilities and more in a push to be more inclusive.
Plan International UK, a charity that advocates for girl’s rights, started a campaign in 2017 to include menstruation in the emoji lexicon to help girls, women and other menstruators “talk more freely about their periods,” Plan International UK’s Chief Executive, Rose Caldwell, says in a statement.
Plan International UK’s 2017 online petition garnered nearly 55,000 signatures, with a majority of supporters voting for the underwear symbol with blood-drops, NPR reported. However, the Unicode Consortium, the organization that decides what symbols become emojis, rejected the initial design. They later approved a proposed “drop of blood” symbol earlier this year to represent menstruation, blood donations and medicine.
While the inclusion of a menstruation symbol is a huge step towards “menstrual equity,” or equal access to medically necessary period products, Caldwell and other period advocates say that the fight is far from over.
“This is only one part of the solution,” writes Caldwell. “Period poverty will not stop until we fix the toxic trio of affordability of products, lack of education and period shame.”
In the U.S. alone, one in five girls are absent from school because they can’t afford period products, according to a survey by Always — but, that number doubles abroad. UNESCO estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle.
One reason for the high costs of period products like tampons and sanitary pads stems from how they’re sold. In 2014, 40 states in the U.S. had a sales tax on period products, considering them a “luxury” item instead of an “essential good.”
Beyond that, homeless and incarcerated menstruators often have extremely limited access to these medically necessary items. Period advocate Nadya Okamoto’s activism began after she witnessed homeless menstruators resorting to anything from toilet paper, socks, brown paper bags, cardboard, cotton balls and more to take care of their menstrual cycle. Since then, the 21-year-old has been on a mission to end what she calls “period poverty.