I shot Sarah last week after she contacted me via Instagram. I knew she was going to fit into my latest photo project perfectly. In her message she wrote how she tries to talk frankly about her period – even with her older, male relatives. The 19-year-old comes from a similar social-cultural background like I do, her parents are originally from Bosnia-Hercegovina. So I know what it’s like for her to talk about a womans monthly bleeding. With eleven years she realized for the first time that women were being treated differently because of their period. „One time a friend of my mothers couldn’t go to church with us because she had her menstruation, so she waited in front of the church for the ceremony to finish“, Sarah remembers. „I was so angry and appalled.“ When Sarah was twelve years old she got her period and back then she had no idea what was to come. „I spent New Year’s Eve on the couch of a friend with tears in my eyes, because I was in so much pain.“ She could never have thought that she was going to feel so dirty. „I didn’t know that there was going to be so much blood and that I would have to throw away so many underpants and bed sheets.“

As many other young women Sarah’s been fighting against her self-image her whole life. During our photo shoot last week I asked her whether she felt comfortable and whether she liked the photos – she said yes every time and I was pretty impressed by her self confidence. Not because she didn’t look beautiful on the photos but because it is a big step to fight the common beauty standards. Sarah does this with only 19 years and I admire her for that. She wants to oppose social pressure women are suffering from and wants them to know that they are good just the way they are. Still, she is working every day on her self love. „A few years ago I thought that everything about my body was disgusting: The fat, the stretch marks, the cellulite“, Sarah says. „I spent my school break covered in a blanket. This kind of self hate went through the roof when I had my monthly periods.“ During that time of the month she didn’t look in the mirror at all – for years she was ashamed of herself like that. Until a friend of hers told her that she hadn’t had her menstruation for more than six months. „At this point I tried to eat less or skip a whole meal“, Sarah remembers. „Turns out my friend has had an eating disorder, which was why her period had stayed away.“ Realizing that Sarah started to feel differently about her body and her period. „I am really grateful for being a healthy young woman who bleeds every month.“

Sarah doesn’t really understand why menstruation is still such a taboo. To avoid stupid comments she talks about her bleeding in front of her male friends, so they know what’s going on with her every month. „They are sometimes ashamed of me being so frankly with this issue but it’s necessary. The moment they heard that my female friends and I sometimes black out because of the pain, they got really quiet.“ But in her opinion it’s not enough to talk to family and friends about all this, there needs to be more educational work at school. „If we were to talk more about a woman’s body and her monthly bleeding with children and adolescents, we could tackle the problem at the root and break this taboo finally.“

Merken