Talking about the period – Taipei Times

The newly opened Red House Period Museum aims to get people talking about the menstrual cycle and the stigma surrounding it

  • By Han Cheung / Staff Reporter

Women in Taiwan often say “my aunt is visiting” (大姨媽來了) or “my ‘this’ is here” (那個來) when their menstrual cycle arrives – but there is no euphemism for the describe at the Red House Period Museum (小紅厝月經博物館), which opened on Thursday.

“Due to a lack of understanding, fear of blood and various taboos, the period has historically and globally been something that cannot be discussed publicly,” reads an exhibit on the stigma of the period at the museum. “Or, it’s replaced by all sorts of indirection.”

The museum estimates that there are more than 30 such terms in Taiwan to describe this time of the month, related phenomena, and items such as menstrual pads. Taiwan is not alone: ​​there are more than 5,000 terms used around the world to avoid saying the real word.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

Located on a shopping street in Taipei’s Datong (大同) district, frequented by older people, the museum stands out for its bright red facade, especially the statue of a smiling anthropomorphic drop of blood sitting on a bench. Once inside, visitors encounter a large, bright red tree and a wall of vaginas.

Anatomy lessons, art exhibits, personal stories and period-related products, the museum took three years to build by With Red (小紅帽), a non-profit organization dedicated to ending poverty , inequality and stigmatization of menstruation. In addition to the museum, the organization has an ongoing exhibit at the Taiwan Women’s Center (國家婦女館) with period-related stories they have collected from four generations of Taiwanese women.

“Rules are the elephant in the room,” founder Vivi Lin (林薇) says in a video at the museum. “It’s obviously there, but we don’t see it. But when we create a physical space in this city…it’s immediately noticeable, people can’t ignore it anymore.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

The first part, which explains how the uterus and the menstrual cycle work, leans towards the cute side with displays that look like they came from children’s sex education textbooks. The processing works in this case because it makes it easy for viewers to enter, and despite the light tone, the anatomical information is detailed and clear.

PERIOD INSPIRED ART

The other side of the wall is dedicated to period art. Interestingly, the inaugural exhibition, Flow (身體伏流), includes pieces by male artists. This makes sense because much of the stigma is caused by traditional patriarchal attitudes. Many men are ashamed to buy menstrual hygiene products for their loved ones or think that their female colleagues who are absent due to menstrual discomfort are lazy.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

Of note is the mini gift shop with stickers, earrings, shirts, trinkets, and even mooncup-shaped sanitary napkins and tea bags, all created by With Red. What better way to eliminate the stigma than to make the period fashionable?

Covered from floor to ceiling in elegant bright red paint, the second floor deals with more serious issues through personal testimonies.

Some are quite revealing. A woman recounts how her mother forbade her to touch houseplants during her period because she believed it would kill them. Another tells the story of a teacher who stuck her hand in a student’s underwear after she asked for time off due to her period. The teacher wanted proof that the student was “bleeding”. After this policy caused a stir, the school required each student to submit their menstrual cycle to the male swimming teacher, who ignored the fact that periods could be irregular.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

POVERTY PERIOD

Menstrual poverty is also a subtopic, a topic that people rarely talk about. About 9% of women in Taiwan find it difficult to buy sanitary products. Several artworks with personal stories illustrate the hardships they endure – skipping meals to save money or sitting on the toilet to let the blood flow to conserve towels.

This exhibit continues the work With Red has been doing over the past few years and is sure to raise awareness and spark discussion about menstruation. It would be great if the displays and stories could be translated into English, however, something the staff say they plan to do in the future.

MUSEUM NOTES

WHAT: The Red House Period Museum (小紅厝月經博物館)

WHERE: 40, Lane 335, Chongqing N Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市重慶北路三段335巷40號)

HOURS: Tuesday to Friday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission fee

ON THE NET: bit.ly/3Oz6rXL

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