Hey! Today the lovely Em has written a brilliant guest post for us inspired by a topic that we’ve been discussing a lot as a group – the stigma around periods and how boys often just don’t get it. As a scout myself for several years, I really enjoyed Em’s post and hope you enjoy it too! – An Overthinking Teenager
Hello! I’m Em from Adventure’s of a Lost Teen and the lovely Feminista’s are kindly allowing me to guest post on their awesome blog!
Today I’d like to talk about the epic war between Scouting and periods.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll give you a brief bit of background information: for the past 8 years I have been a member of the Scout Association and have loved every second of the adventure. However, as well as being a Scout, I am also a teenage girl. So, as you will know, I am also subjected to rather unwanted and inconvenient visit from good ol’ Aunty Flow once a month which, when you are an adventure-addict like me and absolutely love being outdoors and taking part in the adventurous activities that Scouting has to offer, can be very irritating.
So, as you can imagine, there are a lot of instances where I have to miss out on doing the thing I love most (aside from blogging of course) because of being a teenage girl and all of the joys that brings with it.
The great thing about Scouts is that we take every opportunity to be outdoors and enjoying the beauty of the world around us, so many of our activities are planned to incorporate and harness the great outdoors and all that it offers. This could be as simple as going out to the local woods or beach (as my Explorer Scout group often does) to do activities such as fire lighting, cooking and shelter building to name a few. The first thing that crosses my mind when I think about these types of activities is: no toilets. Generally, to get the best experience of being outdoors, you have to go quite far away from civilisation (and therefore toilets) which is something we do quite a lot in Scouting. The fact is, if I am on my period, I simply cannot be away from toilets for a whole two hours (which is how long my Scout meetings last for) – I mean, anything could happen in those two hours and without access to toilets it could get very messy to say the least! So, sadly, most outdoor activities where I don’t have access to toilets are a definite no-no whilst I am on my period.
Next up: physical activities. So that means any type of sport that involves lots of movement, especially hiking as this is a key part of Scouting and in my Explorer Scout group, it is guaranteed that there will be at least 5 or 6 hikes per year, sometimes more. As my fellow females will know, doing physical activities whilst on your period isn’t exactly the best idea as it usually results in pain and high amounts of stress due to worrying about the state and quality of your sanitary products. The thing about Scouting, however, is that you’re expected to jump right into every activity and put in all of your effort. Unfortunately, due to 75% of Scouts (and leaders) in the UK being male, saying ‘I need to take a break’ or ‘I can’t do this right now’ earns you nothing but a few odd looks and sometimes even accusations of you being a ‘wimp’ and ‘giving up too easily’. Alright, the motto of Scouting is to ‘be prepared’ so perhaps us girls should just struggle through our periods and get on with it, however – and every girl will understand this – sometimes we have ‘code red emergencies’ where we need to be excused to run to the nearest toilet as quickly as possible, which, in my experience of Scouting, isn’t something that is easy to do as generally men do not understand this. Although doing physical activities would generally not be a good idea during my period, I did once decide to go mountain biking with Explorer Scouts during that time of the month, purely because I was fed up at having to miss out on things just because my period decided to show up at the worst possible time. Let’s just say…I’m never doing that again! The mountain biking was fun, yes, but it was soooo uncomfortable and there was no time for us to stop and have a break, let alone any toilets nearby! Therefore this is an experience I would definitely not like to repeat, so unfortunately strenuous physical activities such as this will have to be avoided whilst on my period in the future.
Along similar lines to physical activities, the next candidate for ‘Scouting’s No.1 anti-period-friendly activity’, is watersports. Living on the coast, my Scout group has always had considerable access to beaches and rivers – and just water in general – which has always been taken advantage of when planning our meetings. As you will know, periods and water generally do not mix which means that during my period, I can’t comfortably take part in activities such as canoeing, surfing, kayaking, raft building – you get the point. These are the types of ‘more adventurous’ activities that we do in Scouts and are often the ‘treats’ we are given at the end of each term. Also, as per tradition, we hold an annual water fight on our last meeting before summer which often ends up with Scouts being dunked headfirst into barrels full of icy water which, as you can imagine, is unpleasant at the best of times, let alone when you are on your period. So, for me, all of these events have to be missed during my period as I am certainly not comfortable with going in water at that time of the month.
Finally (as this post is getting rather long now) we have Scout camps. Scout camps are notorious for their rigorous itinerary, packed full of adventure with hardly any time for breaks, their culmination of outdoor, physical and water activities – which, if you have read the rest of this post, you’ll know can be a nightmare whilst on your period – and their poor toilet facilities (which usually consists of nothing more than a dozen portiloos which are not exactly practical for a girl on her period and tend to get blocked up after the first day at camp, which is rather grim). So, as you can imagine, Scout camps certainly aren’t the best place to be whilst on your period – they are a culmination of the three other problematic instances within Scouting for girls on their periods but even worse as they lack the promise of a nice warm shower and comfy bed that evenings outdoors or doing physical activities can at least offer.
Throughout my Scouting journey, I have been on countless Scout camps, but have luckily (or rather not so luckily) had to experience the struggles of being on my period at a camp only once. And guess what? My activity schedule for said camp included both a kayaking trek along a river (water – ugh) and a days hiking through the countryside (countryside = NO TOILETS). Fortunately, as my mum is a Scout leader and was also on the camp, she was able to cut a few strings and swap my rota around a bit with another Scout who sadly had to go home. Therefore I ended up doing shooting and backwards cooking instead of kayaking – which meant I had a full day of shooting and cooking as I was supposed to be doing that in the morning anyway, so by the end of the day, I was practically an expert shooter (not really, I can’t shoot to save my life plus I managed to shoot myself twice as the pellet ricocheted off of the target and hit me…oops) – and snowboarding instead of hiking (which I guess was slightly better as at least I would be near toilet facilities). In the end, everything worked out fine, although I am definitely not signing up for any more camps in the near future unless I am certain they won’t coincide with my period.
So, those were a few of the battles I have had to face when my desire to be a Scout clashing with my uninvited monthly guest. But don’t think that just because you are female and have periods, you can’t be adventurous and have lots of fun within or outside of Scouting – there are so many more amazing things I have experienced and participated in within Scouting than I have missed out on because of my period! And you don’t even have to miss out on these activities I have mentioned above if you don’t want to – it’s all about what you are and aren’t comfortable doing during that time of the month and for me, I am not comfortable doing these activities, but you might be! Having periods is definitely not a reason to be put off of joining Scouts because we need to show our periods – and ourselves for that matter – that we can achieve anything we want to – whether that be an adventure within Scouting or outside of. And what about those times when your period prevents you from doing adventurous activities? Well, my fellow females, the next time you are able to spend time outdoors, exploring and having fun, you put 100% effort into it, have tonnes of fun and make as many memories as possible so that even just the thought of all of the adventures you have participated in will be enough to keep your adventure-addiction at bay (for now) whilst mother nature is having it’s own way.
Thank you for reading this, I hope you have learnt a bit more about the struggles of being a female Scout now but also why our periods don’t always have to stop us from doing what we love. I strongly believe that more girls should get involved in the Scouting movement as currently we only make up 25% of Scouts in the UK alone. Scouting has helped me develop as an individual so much and taught me countless life skills as well as given me amazing memories to cherish forever. If you want to read more about being a girl in Scouting, I have written about “Scouting for girls, Scouting for all’ on my own blog.