Welcome to The V Spot! This is the brand spanking new part of the blog where I, Evie Plumb, will be delving into the world of sexual health and wellness. I'm the founder of Cliterally the Best and Here We Flo's Digital & Creative Strategist and, as you'll come to learn - having empowering conversations about sex and helping people love their bodies is my MO!
To kick things off I'm going to be unpacking something many people struggle with - gender-neutral language and the importance of using it in all the conversations surrounding leaks and bodily 'messes' - whether that's periods, pee or sex!
Why the language we use is important
The language we use is super important - whether it’s in general or when talking about our messiest moments.
If you think only women have periods and become upset when someone tells you other people do too - this article is for you. We're not here to shame you for not being up to date with the most recent discussions about gender vs sex, but as a feminist team and a women-led company, it's one of our values that we have to be proactive and educate each other on these topics. It's the only way we can ensure that we're genuinely inclusive and our community, products and marketing don't exclude anyone from important conversations about our reproductive health or sexual wellness.
Talking about periods, sex and our bodies is also essential in dismantling toxic views and stigmas surrounding things that almost all of us experience - regardless of gender.
So when using gendered language in these discussions, we alienate people out of the conversation - people who bring vital viewpoints to improving menstrual health, sexual wellness and so on.
What's the Difference Between Sex And Gender?
Let’s start with the basics.
Not many of us are taught the difference between sex and gender at school, but it is very important in understanding the importance of gender-neutral language.
Your sex is a label that you are given by a doctor based on the genitals you're born with, plus the chromosomes & hormones you have. There are also exceptions from the male-female sex binary, as some people’s anatomy & chromosomes do not fit the typical definitions of male or female (you can read about what being intersex means here), but the vast majority of people are either born with female genitals or with male genitals.
Sex is not to be confused with sexuality - your sexuality is who you are attracted to (and this can vary across genders and the sex binary).
Gender is a much deeper concept. It represents the societal expectations that are formed around our behaviours, characteristics and the way we present ourselves in the world.
Each culture has different expectations of how our genders should behave (or what gender roles they should represent). For example, 'boys shouldn't wear nail varnish and dresses' is a good example of a gender norm. It is also a good example of toxic masculinity, but that’s for another blog!
So, gender identity is how you feel inside and how you express your identity through clothing, behaviour and personal appearance. It's a feeling that begins very early on and it could change as you progress in time or it can stay with you throughout your entire life. To delve even deeper into this, the T and Q in LGBTQ+ refers to transgender people (whose gender identity is not the same as the sex assigned to them at birth) and queer people (whose gender identity represents those who don't identify with the sex binary and includes non-binary folk), while the + is used to cover anyone else who is not included in the acronym.
It’s easy to confuse sex and gender because society has traditionally blurred the lines between the two, so it’s important to remember that biological or assigned sex is about biology, anatomy and chromosomes. Gender, on the other hand, is the societal set of expectations, standards, and characteristics about how men and women (society has traditionally been binary) are supposed to act, and it is also how we choose to present ourselves to the world. You can read more about gender & sex here.
How Can People Who Are Not Women Menstruate?
The simple upshot is - gender has nothing to do with your body. Menstruation is a biological function, not a ‘female’ / 'women-only' thing.
Anyone with a typically functioning uterus, vagina, ovaries, etc. can menstruate, regardless of their gender identity. This includes trans men & non-binary folk. Trans women cannot bleed as they do not have uteruses.
"Not All Women Menstruate And Not All Who Menstruate Are Women"
This is in no way taking away the fact that cis-gendered women (women whose gender identity coincides with their sex) also menstruate. The point is that we should not exclude anyone who is menstruating from conversations that are relevant to them. No one, especially not us (a team of cis-gendered women) wants to deprive cis-gendered women from conversations about their bodies. All we are asking you to do is be considerate of the difference between sex and gender when having these conversations. It takes practice, and you may not get it right every time - but it's important to work on it and be open-minded.
Why Is This Important?
It is estimated that there is 600,0000 trans & non-binary folk in the UK alone and research has shown that invalidating or denying their gender identity leads to real mental and physical health issues that have long-lasting effects on their lives.
On top of this, when we gender health issues, it makes it difficult for trans and non-binary people to access essential healthcare services, as they have to deal with biases and prejudices on top of their health concerns.
It really is that simple: we cannot have comprehensive conversations about periods, bladder leaks or sex unless we include everybody who experiences them in those discussions.
Do you remember when people were bashed for wanting to change job titles like ‘postman’ or ‘fireman’, because, shocker, women can also do those jobs?
Well, now that this is a normal part of society, it might seem awkward for you to say “people who menstruate” or “people who period” but it’s really a tiny thing to change to help others feel seen and be included in a conversation that directly affects them!
We hope this helped you understand why we are using gender-neutral language when talking about our eco-friendly period care, bladder care, and pleasure products. And if you’re still struggling with these concepts, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can continue the conversation there!