We are raising Voldemort
A world where we understand each other through “It’s that day for me” or “Do you have that?” If you were born with XX chromosomes, you would have once hidden a sanitary pad in the sleeves of your shirt at least once in your life, or handed a sanitary pad at lightning speed to your friend who asked, “Do you have that?” I realized it wasn’t just Hong Gil-dong who couldn’t call his father “father” (A figure who led the Korean peasant movement in the 16th century. He couldn’t call his father “father” as a child of a concubine, due to the social atmosphere at the time when the caste system existed.), and that my sisters also have a scary Voldemort who must not be named: it’s menstruation. Menstruation have always been considered a taboo word. The commonly used words like “that day, magic, Mother Nature” are metaphorical expressions from the fact that menstruation can’t be called menstruation.
What’s surprising is that 78% of women in Korea as well as around the world express menstruation in other words. According to a total of 90,000 surveys n 190 countries conducted by the American women’s health management app “Clue” and International Women’s Health Association (IWHC), there are a total of 5,000 expressions used around the world to replace menstruation. Some of the expressions are “Strawberry Week” in Germany, “the British Army has landed” in France, “the Tomato soup is overcooked” in Italy, and in the U.S., they use the word “period,” due to the period of the menstrual cycle.
In a society where pregnancy and childbirth are packaged solely as “blessing and mystical,” why aren’t menstruation and its process, which are essential prerequisites, mentioned publicly and always hushed?
“Are you on your period?”
“No, I’m menstruating!”
The commonly used Korean word for menstruation, “sang-li” is derived from “physiological phenomenon” that conjures up excretion, giving it a dirty, impure, and unsanitary image. In fact, in June 2016, a male member of the National Assembly who attended a Gwangju Gwangsan District Council’s general meeting raised the issue that the word “sang-li pad” was uncomfortable to hear. The meeting was even a space for debating sanitary pad support for low-income people as the story of a teenager who used insoles instead of sanitary pads was told. As a result, more people use the word “wol-gyung,” which refers to a phenomenon that occurs every month, rather than treating it equally as excrement and blood. But both “sang-li” and “wol-gyung” have a common characteristic that they’re roundabout expressions on bleeding due to the elimination of endometrium. Instead of these expressions, there has been a movement to replace them with “jeong-hyeol,” which intuitively means “clean blood.”
Of course, one may wonder if it’s necessary to do this. But we shouldn’t have anyone feeling uncomfortable about a word that refers to something that about half of the Earth experiences for half of their life. In the words of the late Hwang Hyun-san, a linguist and literary critic, “The thought expressed in any language changes what that thought is and the quality of the language, and eventually changes the world in which the language is used as a daily language.”
“The thought expressed in any language changes what that thought is and the quality of the language, and eventually changes the world in which the language is used as a daily language.”
The words we use determine our consciousness, and furthermore, our society’s quality. Why don’t we use the word “jeong-hyeol” instead of “sang-li” and “wol-gyung,” with the hope that this word will be widely known, and women will no longer feel ashamed or hide what happens in their bodies?
Subscribe to LOV-LETTER
Please subscribe to Lovbod's newsletter
that tells body views and stories about the body.