Giulia Romanó created ‘Leaky Week’ as her final project in a Bachelor of Communication Design at AUT to encourage positive discussion and views around women menstruating. The powerful series of illustrations was born from Romanó’s frustration at the “shame factor” surrounding the discussion of periods. I caught up with her to talk about her work, and the connect between art and menstruation.
J: Where did the idea for the Leaky Week illustrations come from?
G: I was raised by two pretty liberal biologists who weren’t afraid to talk openly about sexual health. As soon as I started high school, I realised this wasn’t the same for my friends’ families, and periods were generally considered a taboo subject. Some of my friends told stories of hiding their periods from their families for months, and I’d even heard of a girl that didn’t know what her period was and thought she was dying. I couldn’t understand why [our society] was letting all these young girls down. Through my work, I want women to be proud of their bodies in every way possible.
Do you think using art as a medium makes it easier for young women to “connect” to their periods and/or feel less ashamed of the stigma attached to menstruation?
Yeah, it sure can. It might not be accessible to everyone, but it can definitely help some, especially in the age of Instagram. I have easy access to many artists with subject matter similar to mine, so I definitely don’t feel alone in what I’m creating. I feel hopeful that it can contribute to change.
In your opinion, why is it so important to create positive discussion and views around menstruation?
Half of the world's population is born biologically female; Half of the world's population experiences menstruation. That makes it important. Also, not only are periods beautiful and perfectly normal, they’re also a basic indicator of our health, so we need to talk about them.
Also, despite the fact that homeless women suffer indignities every month, and students are even skipping school due to lack of access to female sanitary products, tampons and pads are still taxed on the basis that they are a luxury items. Men’s razors, on the other hand, are considered basic health items and are therefore not subject to tax.
What do you think we as young women can do to make our society more aware of the need for increased access to female sanitary items?
I think it’s hugely irresponsible and immature for this topic to be continuously neglected by policy makers on the basis that it is “uncomfortable” to talk about. It comes as no surprise, considering most of these people are men and are not representing women’s issues. It’s one of many topics our government is aware of but leaves on the back burner. I guess you can talk to policy makers? Communicate your views through social media? But really just talk. Talk about it with the men in your life, and the women. Don’t let them shame you. Get really detailed about it, show them photos (haha), but really—tell them why it matters.
What did you set out to achieve with Leaky Week?
Periods are a very banal but important part of my life, and I wanted be able to talk about it—I want that for all ovary owners! I don’t expect to solve the global lack of access to sanitary items or change the dirty period stigma single handedly. At the very least, I just want to be able to talk about this thing that happens to me every month and affects the kind of week I’ve had. Also, sex during periods isn’t bad or gross. It won’t make you sick, guys, but it will make you feel amazing and maybe even ease those cramps.
Do you have any other similar projects in the works?
I’m planning to revisit Leaky Week and tease out the topic to include more than just menstruation. It may just become a platform for my work in general, which won’t deviate too far from Leaky Week’s message. At this stage in my life, I think much of my work will be centred around the reclamation of what it means to be “girly”. So lots of pink, glitter, and all things fluffy. Being girly is not synonymous with fragile, weak or dumb. Anything men can do you can do bleeding, and wearing fluffy pink slippers.