Inclusive Lexicon

The mission of Monthly Dignity is to address the causes and consequences of menstrual precarity and to work towards menstrual equity in Montreal. We envision a world where menstruation is no longer a barrier to social, educational, and professional fulfillment. Our work involves alleviating menstrual precarity by providing free menstrual products to community organizations serving individuals living in precarious situations and reducing the stigma surrounding menstruation through education.

Terms related to menstruation

Menstrual calendar

The menstrual calendar is a tool for tracking menstrual cycles, making predictions for future ones, and analyzing recurring or new symptoms.

It is possible to keep a menstrual calendar in a journal or using a mobile application!

Menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps are pains related to the menstrual cycle and are caused by the uterine muscles contracting. They occur in the lower abdomen and/or back a few days before, during, or after menstruation. They are necessary for the expulsion of menstrual flow, but depending on the individual, they can be more or less intense.

Menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle is defined as the time between the first day of menstruation (the first day of blood flow) and the day before the next bleeding begins. With an average duration of 28 days, the menstrual cycle consists of 4 phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, and finally, the luteal phase.


The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus and is shed during menstruation; it constitutes a portion of menstrual blood.


Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects individuals with a uterus. It is characterized by the presence of tissue like the uterine lining outside the uterus, leading to significant pain during menstruation, sexual intercourse, and/or urination/defecation. Additionally, endometriosis can cause other symptoms such as bloating, nausea, intense fatigue, and fainting. It can also have an impact on mental health (depression) and the ability to conceive.

Menstrual flow

Menstrual flow refers to the quantity (or volume) of menstrual blood during a cycle. Most of the time, the volume remains similar between different cycles. Typically, the body expels between 5ml and 80ml of menstrual blood. Two situations may occur regarding menstrual flow: when it is unusually heavy and/or prolonged, it is
referred to as menorrhagia. Conversely, the absence of periods is called amenorrhea. In some situations, this is normal (such as during pregnancy), but in other cases, it may signal a health disorder.


The menarche is the term given to the first menstruation. 

The first menstruation typically occurs at around the age of 12.5 years old on average.


Menstruation, also known as “periods” is the process during which the uterus sheds a mixture of blood, vaginal secretions, and cells from the endometrium. It is the first phase of the menstrual cycle.


Menopause is the cessation of menstrual cycles in menstruating individuals. It is triggered by the cessation of ovarian function and a decrease in estrogen hormone production. Consequently, it is no longer possible to conceive a baby because ovulation stops. Menopause can also be accompanied by physical effects such as hot flashes or irritability.

Menopause typically occurs around the age of 50. On average, an individual menstruates about 480 times in their lifetime, which is equivalent to approximately 5 years!


The ovaries (usually two) are located on each side of the uterus at the end of the uterine tubes, deeply embedded in the pelvis. They are part of the reproductive system and are roughly the size and shape of an almond.


Ovulation is one of the phases of the menstrual cycle. During this phase, eggs are released. The hormone luteinizing hormone triggers the start of the egg’s journey, passing through one of the uterine tubes to reach the uterus.


Discharge encompasses all non-menstrual fluids that exit the vagina. Cervical mucus makes up most of this discharge and changes in texture and color depending on the phases of the menstrual cycle.

Follicular phase

During this period, each developed follicle will contain an egg, but only one follicle will release the egg for fertilization. Additionally, during this phase, the uterus grows and thickens as the hormone estrogen increases.

Luteal phase

The egg released during the follicular phase travels to the uterus through one of the uterine tubes. Meanwhile, the uterus prepares to potentially support a pregnancy by releasing the hormone progesterone. If a sperm fertilizes the egg, an embryo forms, and a pregnancy begins. Otherwise, hormone levels will decrease, and menstruation will commence again.

Menstrual blood

Menstrual blood differs from venous blood in its composition: it consists of residues from the endometrium, water, red blood cells, and vaginal secretions. Its texture is thicker than venous blood, and its color varies depending on the stage of menstruation (more to less red). The first study testing menstrual products with blood was only published in 2023! Until now, products were tested with water or saline solution.

Menstrual health

Menstrual health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, extending far beyond the absence of illness or limitations due to menstrual cycles.

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS)

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but serious infection. It is a set of symptoms that worsen rapidly (fever, dangerously low blood pressure, failure of multiple organs). This deterioration can lead to death. It does not only affect menstruating individuals; non-menstruating individuals or even children can develop toxic shock. In the case of menstruating individuals, TSS can be triggered by the overgrowth of bacteria that release toxins when an internal product is kept for too long.

Uterine tubes

Generally, there are two tubes positioned on each side of the uterus. They are part of the reproductive system and facilitate the transport of eggs from the ovary to the uterus during menstrual cycles.

The term ‘uterine tubes’ is preferred today when discussing anatomy. For historical context, Falloppio was an Italian physician from the 1500s and did not possess uterine tubes! That’s why today it is more favorable to refer to them as uterine tubes.


The uterus, often about the size of a fist and shaped like a pear, is located between the bladder and the rectum, just above the vagina. It plays an important role in menstruation and fertility. It is also where a baby develops during pregnancy.


The vagina is a muscular tube that connects the cervix to the outside of the body (vulva). It is through the vagina that menstrual blood exits, or that a baby comes out during childbirth. This organ also enables the insertion of, for example, a menstrual cup, a menstrual disc or a tampon.

Terms related to menstrual products

Menstrual cup

The menstrual cup is a reusable menstrual product. It is inserted into the vaginal opening and collects blood before it flows out of the person’s body. It is made of medical-grade silicone and comes in various sizes depending on the flow. When inserted correctly, it creates a seal that allows it to be worn for up to 12 hours at a time.

Menstrual disc

The menstrual disc is a variation of the menstrual cup. Therefore, it is a reusable menstrual product. It is inserted into the vaginal opening and collects blood before it flows out of the person’s body. It is made of medical-grade silicone.

According to calculations, the use of menstrual cups or menstrual discs would cost approximately 22 times less than the use of disposable menstrual products ($270 compared to $6,000 over a lifetime).

Menstrual products

Menstrual products are the range of items used to collect menstrual flow during periods.

Disposable menstrual products

Disposable menstrual products are items used to collect menstrual flow and are intended for single use, typically lasting several hours before being discarded. They include internal devices (such as tampons, with or without applicators) and external devices (such as pads).

On average, menstruating individuals in Canada spend $6,000 throughout their lifetime if they use disposable menstrual products.

Disposable menstrual pad

A pad is a disposable external device that attaches to underwear. Through absorption, it can collect menstrual blood but can also be used for urinary leaks, for example. There are different shapes and sizes of pads available, depending on the underwear and the flow of the menstruating individual.

Reusable menstrual pad

A reusable pad is an external device that attaches to an undergarment. By absorption, it can collect menstrual blood. It is therefore washable (cold water) and reusable once dry. There are different towel shapes, desifns and sizes, depending on the menstruating person’s undergarments and flow.

According to calculations, using reusable menstrual pads would cost around 15 times less than using disposable menstrual products ($400 versus $6,000 over a lifetime).

Reusable period underwear

Menstrual undergarments are external reusable menstrual products. The undergarment is cut from highly absorbent fabric to absorb menstrual blood directly, all day long. Menstrual underwear is washable (cold water) and can be reused once dry. They come in a multitude of shapes (panties, shorts, boxer shorts, etc.) and sizes, as well as ranges for all flows.


A tampon is an internal device that is inserted into the vagina. It is used to absorb menstrual blood during periods. Tampons come in different sizes (based on flow) and may come with or without an applicator.

Terms related to politics and advocacy

Menstrual leave

Menstrual leave refers to specific leave granted to menstruating individuals to allow them to take time off from work due to painful and/or debilitating periods. Menstrual leave is still relatively uncommon, but it can take various forms: several hours granted per month, several days per year, with or without medical certification. Menstrual leave is still being experimented with.

No such initiative has been decided by the Canadian or Quebec governments, but it’s worth noting that in other countries, menstrual leave has been enacted into law, as recently done in Spain.

Menstrual equity

Menstrual equity refers to free, safe, equal, and full access to menstrual products for all individuals who need them, regardless of location or age. This also includes access to education regarding sexual health and rights, hygiene facilities (such as clean water), and waste management.

Menstrual justice

The concept of menstrual justice was theorized and written about by Margaret E. Johnson, in opposition to menstrual injustice (the oppression of menstruating individuals – girls, women, trans men, non-binary people – solely because they menstruate). Thus, menstrual justice would involve combating these injustices, inequalities, and discriminations faced by menstruating individuals. For example, no longer excluding trans men and non-binary individuals from research, or working against violations of menstruating individuals’ constitutional rights.

Menstrual poverty

Menstrual precarity is defined as a lack or absence of access to essential menstrual products, education on sexual health and rights, hygiene facilities (such as clean water), waste management, or a combination of these factors. This difficulty of access can be occasional, regular, or long-term due to financial constraints. It can be further exacerbated by other financial costs: the price of pain medications, the cost of new sheets or underwear if stained, or health consultations related to menstruation.

Pink Tax

The pink tax is an unofficial tax, it was first conceptualized in the United States. It is a gendered tax that applies to products intended mainly for “women”. Thus, for identical products, prices are different and therefore higher for products identified for “women”. In fact, it is so named because the only difference between the products (apart from the price. . .) is the colour usedby the marketing, often pink.

Tampon Tax

The tampon tax is an unofficial tax, which is part of the larger concept of the pink tax. It was conceptualized to criticize the fact that menstrual products are taxed when they are essential products for menstruating people.

It is good to know that in Quebec, these products are no longer taxable. As a result, there are no longer any QST and HST, as both governments have abolished their respective taxes.

Terms related to inclusion

Two Spirits (2S)

First, it is important to mention that gender binary is a concept that came straight from the colonizers. The terms “two-spirit persons” or “bispirituality” or “two-spirit persons” are to be used only for indigenous people. Thus, the term encompasses sexual and gender diversity specific to indigenous communities.

In some of the indigenous traditions, some people had the masculine and feminine spirit in their bodily envelope. This identity was recognized and valued, before colonization destroyed and erased these visions.


A cisgender person is a person whose current gender identity* corresponds to the sex assigned to them at birth.

Gender identity is fluid, can always be questioned over time and can vary.


Intersex people are people who were born with genitals or sexual characteristics that did not fit into medical binary. They are sometimes victims of human rights violations because medical teams decided to assign them a sex at birth and thus carried out operations, with or without the consent of the parents, but above all, without the consent of the child concerned.


A non-binary person is a person who may feel neither male nor female, a little of both, or a proper combination of the two.

Assigned woman at birth

This is the medical decision made when the child came into the world, so a person assigned woman at birth is a baby who was born with a vulva and a vagina.

Person who menstruates / menstruating people

A menstruating person is a person who has a menstrual cycle. This is not just for cisgender women. 

We mainly usethe term “person who menstruates/menstruating people” in our workshops and communications for two main reasons:

  • Not all women have their periods (e.g. because of health problems, because some contraceptive devices suppress menstruation for some time, because of menopause. . . ) ;
  • Not all menstruating people are women: menstruation can occur in trans men or in non-binary people.


Sometimes we will also use the expression “women, girls and menstruating people” to raise the profile of cisgender women in the fight against sexism and gender discrimination (but also because they are mostly menstruating people). Moreover, in this expression, it is important to include trans men and non-binary people under the umbrella of “menstrual people” because, regularly, they are a forgotten group in the struggle for menstrual equity. They may experience gender dysphoria at the time of menstruation because it refers to an identity that is not theirs.


A trans person is a person whose current gender identity does not correspond to their assigned sex at birth.

For example, a trans man is a person who was assigned girl at birth, based on their genitals, but who identifies as a man.

Terms related to precariousness

Low income

A person in a situation of low income is someone who cannot adequately meet all their needs (primary or secondary), and thus, has limited economic autonomy.


Intersectionality is a concept theorized by Kimberlé Crenshaw. It’s a term that describes how different systems of oppression intersect to create particular situations of discrimination. Among the systems of oppression, we can mention, for example, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and more.


It concerns groups or individuals in society who do not have full access to certain services, lack access to certain aids, or whose access to these aids/services is not of good quality, sustainable, and secure.


Marginalization is a social process by which a person or group finds itself excluded from the functioning of society. It can be characterized by rejection, discrimination or violence.

Assigned woman at birth

This is the medical decision made when the child came into the world, so a person assigned woman at birth is a baby who was born with a vulva and a vagina.

Individuals experiencing homelessness

People experiencing homelessness” refers to individuals who do not have a home. Beyond just a roof, it’s a place where one feels safe and at home. Therefore, this umbrella term can encompass individuals who are homeless, those in emergency shelters, those staying with others, and those facing housing insecurity (for example, those who must regularly change residences out of necessity).

Person with a disability, disabled person

A disabled person is someone with an impairment that brings difficulties and obstacles in carrying out their daily life. Many people now use the term ‘person with a disability’ to acknowledge that the disability is partly because society is not inclusive.

Person who is incarcerated

A person who is incarcerated is an individual in prison or in a correctional facility by judicial decision, thus being deprived of their liberty for a predetermined period.