Let your flow go

Graphic by Jenny Kwan

It seems that modern day menstruating feminists have an agenda: painting the town red

Graphic by Jenny Kwan

This week, IX Daily posted an exposé debunking the feminist concept of “free bleeding,” complete with pictures and tweets from angry women who are supposedly tired of hiding their monthly cycle from the public, primarily male, gaze.

“Free bleeding” implies that a woman abstains from using any kind of sanitary product during their period—no pads, tampons, or extra absorbent underwear. Menstrual blood, according to feminists, is meant to flow freely from the body and onto thighs, clothing or furniture.

Skeptical Internet audiences claimed that the concept was a hoax, only brought to light by a user from the website 4chan.org, attempting to give female activists a bad name. However, the concept is very real, and not entirely new.

Free bleeding has been subject to both controversy and intense discussion online since the early 2000s.The blog “Feministing” was among one of the first online forums to discuss the concept, which they claim is “more of a mindset than it is an action.”

In 2012, photographer Emma Arvida Bystrom published a series of photos on Vice.com entitled “There Will be Blood,” depicting women doing everyday, mundane things with menstrual blood fully visible, staining their clothes and freely running down their legs. The photos were meant to provoke thought and discussion about what is consistently considered to be “taboo.” This concept of menstrual activism, also known as menstrual anarchy or radical menstruation, aims to discuss and expose periods in a way that isn’t fetishized or highly stigmatized.

The feminist argument stands that throughout history, men have manipulated woman to be ashamed of their bodies and all of the natural, inherent, “empowering” feminine functions they perform. Today, the options and resources to “control” or “hide” menstruation are endless, and it is essentially the rejection of this control that inspires a woman to assert herself and experiment with her period.

More radical, outspoken women have taken to Twitter to express the belief that tampons are actually a patriarchal innovation imposed on women by societal norms, and using them is perpetuating a cycle of “oppression” and “self-rape.” The concept of allowing oneself to bleed freely, while daunting, is considered a means of social and sexual expression, a means to expose the concept of “period shaming,” normalize the sight of menstrual blood, while rejecting male control.

Activists consider it to also be an eco and wallet-friendly alternative to using tampons and pads. Others argue that free bleeding reduces a woman’s risk of suffering from side effects related to sanitary products, like toxic shock syndrome, a severe, potentially fatal blood infection that can be contracted by leaving a tampon in for too long.

To many woman, using sanitary products is a hygienic, considerate method to deal with the so-called “crimson wave.”

“[Time] has given us humans the advanced technological know-how to invent specific products to make our monthly easier to manage, in a more clean and discreet manner,” said columnist Adora Bull in a free bleeding rebuttal published through Modern Women Digest.

However, reactions from the public have been mixed. Female bloggers and their audience have either praised the concept, or denied its credibility and practicality.







  1. Jenny Kwan didn’t art that art! If you copy and paste the Mona Lisa it doesn’t mean you get credit for it. The stolen image robs this piece’s credibility as well.

  2. It seems the image we see here was taken from someone else’s artwork with some floating pads and tampons added. Did you give the artist credit as well as a check for using her artwork?

  3. Several of us are more than a little alarmed that the image we see here
    was taken from someone else’s artwork with some floating pads and tampons added. Did you give the artist credit
    as well as a check for using her artwork?

  4. Several of us are more than a little alarmed that the image we see here was taken from someone else’s artwork. Did you give the artist credit as well as a check for using her artwork?

  5. Free-bleeding isn’t a new concept, nor is it a feminist concept (I’m always sceptical of anyone who continually uses the word ‘feminist’ unnecessarily) – it should also be noted that free-bleeding can involve bleeding onto clothing, or it can include menstrual release aka Sherman Method where a woman holds her flow inside her body until she can release it in a toilet as she would urine.

    I don’t think anyone seriously considers internal menstrual products like tampons, sponges, menstrual cups or softcups to be ‘self-rape’ – although there is something to be said of the patriarchy of mainstream menstrual products which are made by male-dominated companies with poor track records when it comes to gender equality in the work place and a history of knowingly putting women’s health at risk. I’d also point out that commercial menstrual product companies commonly use menstrual taboos (the idea that menstruation, and in turn women’s bodies on the whole, are inconvenient, embarrassing, shameful, gross, smelly, dirty, etc.), something not done by ‘alternative’ menstrual product companies.

    For the record TSS is not from leaving tampons too long (most cases occur within just a few hours of use – and is typically associated with commercial tampons only, in other words tampons that are bleached white and fragranced to play to the above mentioned menstrual taboos). There are also additional risks of vaginal infections, increased cramps, increased flow, and dioxin exposure.

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