The other day, the internet, the font of most of the information I received, threw up an article on a woman who shared an image to Instagram of her face smeared with her own menstrual blood. Her stance, this was an effort to clear periods of the stigma that surrounds them, that makes them dirty or taboo.
Enough of this! Paintings with it, running a marathon with it, posing like you’re sleeping with it… it just never made sense the reason why. Just attention seeking to themselves. Not evento demystify menstruation. Just themselves.
— Sangita (@Sanginamby) March 1, 2019
Weird white feminism. What a weird way to normalise periods if that’s even what she was going for.
— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) February 28, 2019
Call me old but this brand of feminism, no thanks.
— Sandhya (@TheRestlessQuil) February 28, 2019
as The Youth™️, no thanks. we’re good.
— harnidh (@chiaseedpuddin) February 28, 2019
The image, shocking as it was, did elicit quite a few outraged squawks, mine adding to the chorus. Don’t get me wrong, I am a feminist. I embrace my periods. Back when I was nine and got my first period, my dad was the one who bought me my earliest packs of sanitary napkins with no hesitation at all. He was a feminist too, god bless his soul. I refuse to have my sanitary napkin packs wrapped in brown paper or newspaper and handed over to me surreptitiously like I’m smuggling out some contraband. My son knows to steer clear when I’m PMSing or risk getting his head bitten off. I’ve described to him, in gory detail, how the uterus cramps up and spits blood out once a month so I can celebrate, as the wise Erma Bombeck said all those years ago, yet another no-baby month. And as for sex during your period, well, whoever said one couldn’t is all I’m going to say on a public platform.
My son knows to steer clear when I’m PMSing or risk getting his head bitten off. I’ve described to him, in gory detail, how the uterus cramps up and spits blood out once a month.
The taboos around periods abound in our culture. I learnt of them much later, when I grew up. No entering the kitchen when you have your periods. No touching pickles. No entering temples. No watering the tulsi plant. I learnt of places where menstruating women are confined to a room and basically isolated for the duration of their periods, a practice that still continues in some parts of the country.
But smearing blood on one’s face to rid the taboo against menstruation, I don’t think that really works or is empowering in any way. For one, menstrual blood is bodily waste, like excretion, urination or secretion. You wouldn’t think of smearing yourself with any of these would you? This gets my cleanliness OCD on high alert and makes me physically draw back from that photograph.
Smearing blood on one’s face to rid the taboo against menstruation, I don’t think that really works or is empowering in any way.
How does smearing blood on oneself work, I wonder? I may understand normalising period stains, as has been done earlier by Instagram artists who have posed with these, marathon runners who have run without tampons so as to not impede their strides, and other such. The blood that comes out of the womb during one’s period, evocatively described by some as the uterus weeping for the baby it could not bear, is also an indication that one’s body is functioning normally, one is reproductive, that waste is being eliminated as it should be. Nothing more, nothing less. We don’t obsess about our sweat as much do we, never mind what the deodorant companies try to sell us. Nor do we obsess over our urine or excreta, unless of course, we are toddlers or over a certain age. Why then, this obsession over menstrual blood?
We don’t obsess about our sweat as much do we, never mind what the deodorant companies try to sell us. Nor do we obsess over our urine or excreta, unless of course, we are toddlers or over a certain age. Why then, this obsession over menstrual blood?
We’ve all had our fraught relationships with our periods. I’ve suffered from PCOD so terrible I’ve been through a couple of laparoscopic surgeries to remove cysts and fibroids, and been through painful, heavy periods that lasted for almost fifteen days. I know of folks who are so debilitated when they have their periods that they can’t function at all. It is not easy being a woman.
I am all for normalising periods, for making young girls aware that there is nothing gross or shameful about them. But let’s not glorify them. They’re just another bodily function, let’s treat them like that. Tell the young girls and women, there is nothing you can and cannot do on your period. Your period is beautiful, it is part and parcel of you being a woman and your uterus being in functioning order. And you don’t really need to smear blood all over yourself to say so.
Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.