#GirlTalk is SheThePeople’s advice column. Have a question? Send it to us girltalk@shethepeople.tv – It can be anonymous if you’d like it that way. Women from different walks of life share advice and their personal experience to help you overcome your inhibitions. Today’s question is answered by Vaishnavi Sharma who is a Delhi-based poet and a student in transition.

Dear Girl Talk

How can I make my mom understand that using tampons or menstrual cups is totally fine? She’s too shy to even talk about periods in front of my father.

Cup Girl

Dear Cup Girl

Menstruation is considered a taboo around the world which is why there is a humongous lack of conversation around menstrual hygiene and practices. We often find ourselves using phrases like “that time of the month” in order to feel less uncomfortable about the topic. But where does this discomfort sprout from?

The fact that patriarchy has existed for aeons is one of the main causes of silence around women’s health and related issues. The shyness comes from the fear of having to discuss female anatomy (another taboo) openly. Menstruation is a chapter that is skipped in schools, vaguely mentioned using phrases by the women in the family, considered a joke among “guy gangs”. 

Menstrual cup benefits – What works in favour of the cup?

The most common menstrual hygiene product in India is sanitary napkin. According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, 336 million menstruating women in India about 121 million (roughly 36 percent) women are using sanitary napkins, locally or commercially produced. The main reason for this is the lack of availability and accessibility.

But the reason in urban areas of our country has less to do with accessibility and more to do with the concept of virginity and the lack of discussion around sex. If you think about it, more often than not, when you’d take up the topic of menstruation for discussion you’ll also have to additionally explain the function of this phenomenon in the female body.

The direct correlation of menstruation with sex and reproductive necessities makes it a difficult topic for our parents’ generation to tackle with their children. This is because of the proportionality of sex with immorality. They were expected, by their parents, to have no opinion or questions about sexual activity and hence, all concepts relating to it were also declared unspeakable.

The societal construct of virginity of a woman being her “sanctity” is what drives the reluctance behind use of tampons and menstrual cups. The method of application of a sanitary napkin is fairly simple, and most importantly, external. Whereas, tampons and menstrual cups require the user to be aware of the functioning of their genitalia – a moral disaster.

Sanitary napkins are outdated means of menstrual hygiene, they are restrictive in nature and barely allow any flexibility to the user. In today’s age, where women juggle a ton of professional work and commitments, it is vital for us to have an alternative that allows us easier movement and less worry about our periods. Which exists in the form of tampons. But, both sanitary napkins and tampons produce menstrual waste that isn’t easy to recycle or decompose causing harm to the environment.

The best menstrual hygiene product out there is a menstrual cup. Unlike sanitary napkins and tampons, it does not require frequent purchasing. It is not even slightly restrictive, and since you don’t have to dispose of a menstrual cup for years, it lowers the menstrual waste by a considerable margin.

We are all of course, in extremely different socio-economic scenarios and hence, the solution for each of us will be unique. But of course, conversation is the key. In this age of digital revolution and the availability of educational resources online, we must try on our end to educate our parents regarding the harmful social constructs that root deeply in patriarchal perspectives and practices.

Speaking from experience, most of our parents only require a nudge in the correct direction through consistent communication and eye-opening facts regarding concepts they are unfamiliar with. The unconscious loop of passing on outdated societal constructs can be broken by initiating a conversation.

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