The recently announced period emoji may not have solved all our problems but it has at least started a much-needed conversation around the subject, even if it is about the efficacy of the emoji. Unlike the blue liquid in advertisements, the period emoji is a big drop of blood, which will be added to our phones by coding consortium Unicode in 2019.
The symbol came into place after extensive hard work by Plan International UK, after the girls’ rights charity found in a 2017 poll that half of women aged 18-34 believed an emoji could make the conversation around periods easier. And that’s because we still feel uncomfortable talking about periods with our parents, partners or even children. Not to mention how sometimes girls have been taught to bury the fact that they are menstruating as a shameful secret.
Children have access to smartphones from a very young age now. This means there are chances they might come across the period emoji, once introduced, and may also use it, perhaps, without even knowing what it stands for. Or is it that the emoji, as found in the poll, will finally encourage parents to openly talk about periods with their children?
“There is a very deep-rooted taboo and misinformation around menstruation. Parents need to be sensitised to talk about periods. And for those who are already sensitised, the emoji will be such a great way to talk about period. Period emoji, perhaps, can enable the conversation between the parent and the child, if not at the first go then at least by the second or third time,” said Aditi Gupta, Managing Partner, Menstrupedia, a platform which promotes awareness about periods.
Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri, mother to a seven-year-old girl, however, does not wish to rely on an emoji to initiate a conversation. “As a parent, an emoji is not the way for me to start a conversation about periods with my daughter. By the time she’s of the age where she has limited access to her own mobile phone and therefore, Whatsapp, I would like to believe I’d have had the periods conversation with her anyway,” she said.
Debating whether a drop of blood can effectively represent periods, Lakshmi added, “I think the emoji is ridiculous and is not something that would serve the exclusive purpose of describing periods. It could just be used as blood too. Like whoever thought the humble eggplant emoji will one day also be symbolic of a well-endowed man!”
The choice of the symbol for periods had actually become the bone of contention. In fact, Plan International UK reportedly first submitted a bid for a “period pants” emoji, which was eventually rejected by authorities.
That said, the blood-drop emoji is surely a step in favour of normalising the talk around periods. “It can bring in a positive change and we should be hopeful,” Gupta said, adding that an emoji will only make it easier for parents to approach the topic on a lighter note.
So, when should parents ideally begin the conversation around periods with their child? “There isn’t really a right age. The first time a child asks these questions is the right age. That said, moderation of information to make it appropriate for the age is also essential. Parents can build on the information as the child grows. It never really helps to tell the child, ‘You will know one day’. That strategy does not work,” expressed Gupta.
“My daughter Anika and I talk a lot and over the years we’ve built the relationship to the point that she knows if she asks me a question, I’ll give her a proper answer. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll tell her I have to check back and let her know. If I know the answer and I think it’s too early for her, I find a way to make it age-appropriate and then tell her that when she’s so-and-so age, she’ll understand it better. So she trusts that I won’t evade and she can instantly recognise if I do. So ignoring a question is definitely not an option with her because she’ll see right through it,” added Javeri.