Early 90’s icon Cher Horowitz in the cult classic coming of age movie Clueless famously quotes: “I was surfing the Crimson Wave” as a way to excuse her tardiness to class.
Code names for periods are not a new thing, they’ve been around for decades. In today’s age with so much #periodpositivity flooding our social media feeds, especially due to more environmentally friendly options for periods such as Lunette, it begs the question — do we even need to use code names to talk about periods anymore?
Let’s take a quick dive into history and see what names people who menstruate have used as code names for their period in the past.
Periods were heavily stigmatised in the 50’s and many people who menstruated suffered in silence, not wanting to bring attention to themselves. The usual code name used was ‘it’s that time again’ – if you said that, anyone knew exactly what you were referring too.
Periods were still not spoken about often in the 60’s, but when they were, phrases such as ‘monthly friend’, ‘time of the month’ or ‘being on the rag’ were used. But generally, periods were still not spoken about much at all – even amongst friend groups.
1970’s & 80’s
Feminism helped to bring about a period revolution which included the first ever advertisement for period products appearing on TV and the saturation of period products appearing in shops. Prior to now people used actual cotton rags when on their periods. Some of the code names used for periods in this era included ‘aunty flow is visiting’, ‘code red’, ‘riding the cotton pony’ and ‘on the rag’.
Periods became practical and discussed more often — even in popular culture such as Friends, Clueless and countless other pop culture shows. Tampons had risen in popularity and there was a surge in empowerment for those who menstruate. Code words were still used for periods, such as my favourite ‘surfing the crimson wave’, and there were numerous code words for tampons too such as ‘blood plugs’ and ‘bullets’.
There’s been a rise in people using environmentally friendly products such as reusable cloth pads, such as hannahpad, menstrual cups such as Lunette and period panties such as modibodi. Due to this, some code names used include ‘rags’ (because of the switch back to cloth), ‘shark week’, ‘girl flu’, or the ingenious ‘get my cup on’.
Code words are not used as much these days, we just call it like it is, even around people who don’t menstruate. Just saying “I’m on my period” is normal and so is talking about what products you use. Periods are usually not a taboo subject anymore (thank gosh) and you should feel comfortable talking about it as it’s a natural thing.
I used the term ‘people who menstruate’ through this article as I feel it’s important to highlight that women are not the only people who menstruate. Trans men and non-binary folk also menstruate. I feel as if we have moved past periods needing to be connotated exclusively with being a woman.