‘Women’ and ‘girls’ left out of NHS-backed periods guidance website

·2 min read
Bloody Brilliant - Bloody Brilliant
Bloody Brilliant - Bloody Brilliant

NHS-backed period guidance has adopted gender-neutral language in advice aimed at “people who bleed”.

The website Bloody Brilliant was created on behalf of NHS Wales and the Welsh Government to offer advice to “people who menstruate”, according to ministerial documents which state that menstruation is “not just a ‘women’s issue”.

The government-sanctioned site offers free period guidance to demographics given the general-neural labels of “young people who bleed” and “everyone who bleeds”.

The NHS-backed advice, which urges people to drop “awkward euphemism” in favour of “straight-talking”, also refers to the need for period support for “half the population”.

The perceived sidelining of gendered terms such as “women” and “girls” – although these words do appear on the site – has been criticised by campaigners concerned that gender-neutral language can be misleading when it comes to advice on menstruation.

Woman’s Place UK, a campaign group, said: “Women and girls experience menstruation and it’s absurd to write us out of information on the subject, even if a tiny minority of women and girls do not identify as such.

“We need clear language to ensure that everyone can access the services and support they need.”

Gendered terms omitted

A section of the website titled Period 101 explains the menstrual cycle without once mentioning women or girls, or even terms such as “female”.

Almost 20 pages of advice on period products, clothing, hormonal changes, diet and pain management similarly omit the terms “women” and “girls”.

Visitors to the website are told with regards to periods that: “Anyone with a uterus (female reproductive system) will likely have them.”

Elsewhere, the website does state that those who have periods may include “sisters” and “mothers”.

The advice criticised for omitting gendered terms was drawn up by medical experts, each of whom has cited their interest in “women’s health”.

‘Periods are not just a women’s issue’

The advice was commissioned by NHS Wales and Welsh Government, and it is one of the projects named in the devolved administration’s 2021 Period Dignity Strategic Action Plan.

A foreword to this plan penned by Jane Hutt, the Welsh social justice minister, stated: “Periods are not just a ‘women’s issue’. They are not dirty and they are definitely not something to be ashamed of.”

The plan added that the expected benefits of the Bloody Brilliant projects will be: “Those who menstruate will be able to find local providers of free period products, local to them, using the site.”

The use of gender-neutral terms for what have long been considered women’s issues has been a source of controversy for the NHS, which has issued guidance on “chestfeeding” for trans and non-binrary people, as opposed to the traditional term “breastfeeding”.