By MARY SHEDDEN | The Tampa Tribune
Published: October 28, 2010
Twenty-first century “tween” girls are encouraged to be independent, inquisitive, empowered. They have information on every current and formerly taboo topic at the tips of their fingers.
And yet, just like their mothers and their mothers’ mothers, most girls are mortified when it’s time to talk about menstruation.
“The majority of them, they’re really uncomfortable, because it’s really personal,” says Stacey Jenkins, who talks about body image and development with sixth-grade girls at a Centre for Girls outreach program in Tampa.
Menstruation is mentioned, albeit briefly, as part of a weeklong human development program offered to Hillsborough County public school fifth-graders. It’s discussed in a growing number of age-targeted books, and on TV shows such as Nickelodeon’s teen soap opera “Degrassi.” If you Google it, you’ll turn up dozens of articles, images and videos on the subject.
But all that information doesn’t take away the awkward, even shameful feelings girls still can have about their period. The 11- and 12-year-old girls in Jenkins’ after-school program, for example, see the monthly shedding of unfertilized eggs from the uterine lining as a nuisance. When asked, only two of 16 girls said a monthly period is a sign your body is functioning properly. “They just look at it as gross, that they’re bleeding,” Jenkins says of the process that usually starts between the ages of 10 and 15.
Nearly all the girls confessed they have avoided asking their mom the hows and whys of what’s coming their way, or how to properly use feminine hygiene products. Instead, they’re likely to get the lowdown from older sisters, friends and advertisements. Others would rather not discuss it at all. The word “vagina” elicits more giggles than questions.