We are a country full of ironies. While we unfailingly worship the goddesses for nine days every year during navratri, we shun women and their bodies forcing them to hide and feel ashamed of their existence. Menstruation is a normal biological function that is definitely messy and painful but not at all shameful. Period shaming is widespread and in a country like India where being a woman is a dangerous disadvantage because of traditional misogyny and patriarchal structures ruling the roost, being on your period spells trouble.
In the recent past we have seen women shunning the shame associated with periods. Let that be Kiran Gandhi who decided to let her menstrual blood flow at a marathon in full public view to the debate that raged and raved about why menstruating women were not allowed to enter temples. The launch of online movements like “Happy to Bleed” period shaming has been dealt with an iron hand by women who refuse to be cowed down by it.
I started menstruating when I was 10, and it came as an unexpected surprise for me. My mom thought that she still had all the time in the world to tell me about the mystery of menstruation, because girls in her younger days hit puberty when they were 15 or 16. I wailed and whined because I felt that I might be suffering from a dangerous incurable disease and I may die soon. Until mom spotted the stain on my skirt and immediately rushed for a pad and fresh clothes. I suffered from heavy bleeding and excruciating pain due to which my girl friends in class always kept a watch on me. I remember the times when I was reprimanded for soiling my skirt by my friends and female teachers. During winters I was usually asked by my best friend in school to tie a cardigan around my waist to hide a period stain, if she saw any. They were irked by the careless attitude that I had towards my period cycle. More than showing empathy for the pain I suffered from, the blood spilling on my skirt made them go bonkers.
Alas! It took us another decade for people like me to come out in the open and tell the world that menstruation was an important biological process that shouldn’t be kept under wraps. And if men don’t have to hide their facial hair and could walk around sporting beards why can’t a menstrual mishap be treated like an episode of spilling coffee on our clothes.
Here are the five reasons why menstruation is not shameful.
1) If men grow beards and sport them as a style statement, what is the need to be ashamed of menstruation because at the end of the day, both happen due to the onset of puberty. Why are androgenic hair acceptable but menstrual blood a shameful secret?
2)Menstruation is an indicator of your health. It is also a sure-shot sign of not being pregnant, until you don’t decide to take the plunge.
3)Voices for menstruation will give women the confidence to be proud of their bodies. Women’s bodies are definitely more than just sex objects, they are breathing masses of flesh and bones deserving to live fearlessly like the male human bodies.
4) Periods are a matter of shame that force young girls to stay away from schools during that time of the month especially in south east Asia and Africa.Keeping adolescent girls away from education because of a biological process as normal as eating, drinking or sleeping has a negative impact on country’s economy. With a one percent increase in proportion of women with secondary education, a country’s per capita income shows a growth rate of 0.3 percent.
5) A large number of women in developing countries like Nepal and South Africa do not have access to sanitary products. Breaking the menstrual stigma will allow more women to inform themselves about their bodies and the importance of proper menstrual hygiene and their reproductive health.
It is unfair that in many countries like the UK, women have to pay an extra tax for pads and tampons, since they are considered less necessary and more polluting than products like sunscreen or nicotine patches.
When a man is an equal participant in the process of reproduction, then why should he shy away from knowing and embracing a biological process that is an inherent identity of womanhood and their ability to procreate. Men should support women and do their bit in breaking the stigma around menstruation.
It’s high time that we raise our voices against the double standards that exist around menstruation. It’s unnecessary and harming half of the population around the world economically, biologically and emotionally that deserves to live without an age-old stigma around a natural process and have better resources to a healthy fulfilling life.