Swedish teens cause stir with menstruation photo

A Swedish pupil has told The Local she will continue to fight to break taboos after a period-themed yearbook photo was banned by her school.

Swedish teens cause stir with menstruation photo
Ida Pettersson and her classmates' menstruation-themed picture. Photo: Private

The pupils at the high school near Stockholm said that they initially came up with the idea of dressing up in fake blood, tampons, hygiene pads and chocolate as a “fun thing” to promote talking openly about menstruation.

But the stunt got viral traction when the principal banned the provocative theme from featuring in the year book after the photographer refused to take their picture.

“At first we just thought the picture would be a fun thing to do. We didn't think at all that it would be a big thing, because we don't think it is a big deal – it's just menstruation,” explained Ida Pettersson, 17, who was one of the pupils behind the idea.

The group photograph went viral in Sweden after feminist television personality Clara Henry – who has been campaigning to break taboos surrounding menstruation – shared it on Twitter. But while the youngsters' initiative was lauded by many, some social media users blasted the fake blood as “disgusting”.

“Unfortunately we have received a lot of hatred but much, much more love from people,” said Pettersson.

The school refused the picture on the grounds of its policy that all pictures in the yearbook should be “representative and easily accessible to any beholder”, a condition education bosses argued the pupils' initiative did not meet.

“I wholeheartedly support what they wanted to highlight. But we have a number of opportunities to raise this issue – the school catalogue is not the right forum,” the principal told the Aftonbladet tabloid after the picture went viral in Sweden.

READ ALSO: Cross-dressing teens cause stir in Sweden

Pettersson told The Local on Tuesday that she and her fellow pupils wanted to move on after the public debate and requested that the name of the school remained anonymous. But she added she was pleased that the issue had been raised.

“We really did not think it would become such a big thing, but it did and it is so cool that our story has been spread so much and that we have been able to take up the space we have. We have received so much positive feedback and we are so happy about that,” she said.

“The fight continues!” she added.

The menstruation row comes just weeks after a class in Ronneby in southern Sweden had their school photo banned after they set out to spark debate about gender stereotypes with a cross-dressing picture.


Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”