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Kate Weston: Why I wanted to include period positivity in a murder mystery novel

Kate Weston: Why I wanted to include period positivity in a murder mystery novel

It’s always baffled me that people are completely fine with blood in a murder mystery novel but so much as mentioning periods – let alone actual period blood – makes people embarrassed, uncomfortable and sometimes even outraged. Such is the taboo, that period product brands still used blue liquid to demonstrate period blood until Always became the first mass-market brand to use red in 2011. And more recently, the ‘Periodsomnia’ advert by Bodyform became the most complained about commercial in 2022 due to its inclusion of red period blood.

Why is it that people can watch horror movies and read bloody thrillers without issue (Carrie for example definitely features more blood than I lose in a period monthly even if it doesn’t always feel like that) and yet, when presented with a natural bloody bodily function, they get ‘grossed out’?

In 2020 when I wrote my first comedy book for teens in which menstrual cups featured heavily, a man on Twitter called me and two of Waterstones finest Booksellers “Utterly disgusting” for the menstrual cup bunting that was used to promote the book. They weren’t even actual menstrual cups. He was annoyed with us about some cardboard cut outs in the shape of menstrual cups, stuck to a piece of string.  And when I visited schools to discuss period positivity I was told by a teacher that it was an “embarrassing” topic. Is it simply that the blood comes from a vagina? Because there are babies born from vaginas and I haven’t seen anyone find those babies taboo or embarrassing lately.

But we do actually need to talk about periods more because the statistics are quite dire. While 1 in 10 menstruators in this country suffer from Endometriosis – a condition which causes chronic pain and often results in the need for surgery – it is still taking an average of 10 years for sufferers to be diagnosed in the UK. 5-8% of menstruators in the UK suffer from PMDD, a serious and chronic condition, the symptoms of which include: mood swings, anxiety, depression, and suicidal feelings yet it’s still not as widely known about as it should be. With so much that could go wrong and so many things to learn about menstruation, isn’t it time we started talking more about it? Not least so we know how to help and support those who are suffering.

Spurred on by my desire for people to be able to talk about their periods without someone calling them disgusting and my confusion about why blood’s ok on the back of a shovel but not in your knickers, I wrote Murder on A School Night. A YA comedy murder mystery in which the murders are all either committed with or involving menstrual products. For the two teen detectives in the novel trying to solve the crimes with their knowledge of all things menstruation, period positivity is their superpower, and something that hopefully other people will learn a bit more about too. Whilst it’s not just talking about periods that’s going to improve menstrual healthcare, education and discussion feel like a good place to start.

Kate Weston’s Murder on a School Night is out on 6 July, published by Electric Monkey

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