Can you recall any instances when you asked for sanitary napkins and they weren’t delivered to you in black carry bags? Yeah, me neither. I wonder how hard it must be for shopkeepers to even touch those entirely clean packages, right? Pads? Cover them. Stains? Clean them. Pickles? Don’t touch them. Periods? Don’t even mention them. This is what an average Indian girl is taught as soon as she bleeds for the first time.
Our school conducted a workshop in order to spread awareness about periods when we were 12. All the girls were asked not to mention it to the boys and quietly hide the sanitary napkins that were distributed as a part of it. That was the first experience I had when I had to hide something that should’ve been in the open a long time ago. And, to all sexes. It has been a series of such events since then.
Menstruating in India isn’t only about the blood, the pain and the mood swings that accompany it. It’s about being conscious when you talk about it. If at all, you’re allowed to. Blanketing our periods with phrases like ‘stomach ache’ and ‘weakness’ isn’t something we do for ourselves. It is done to keep the non-menstruators away from the discomfort they feel by listening to things like these. There exist exceptions, of course. But the point of this article is not to appreciate the bare minimum. It is to simply instigate the realisation that even after centuries of women hurting in silence, we have to ask and fight for it.
A world where the presence of menstruation is acknowledged is a far-fetched dream in itself. Ignorance isn’t always bliss and obedience isn’t always the right way to go. This ">embarrassment or shyness that we feel is a consequence of years and years of repeated restrictions that have been put on us.
Menstruators, as a community have to overcome a lot of barriers. Some physical and some emotional. While the physical ones are on us to go through, all we seek is some emotional validation that these barriers exist, at least. The latter automatically makes the earlier a little easier.
We’re all familiar with the conventional solutions to such problems: Education and Awareness. These steps, without a doubt, should continue till and even after these issues cease to exist. But I think it’s time for us to be bold as well. We’ve seen how such efforts play out. They’re more like a background activity still waiting for something to steal the spotlight in the front. Actions that make statements. Attitudes that radiate no fear of judgement of any sort. These are the things that people notice and talk about. And isn’t that what we all really want? To slip into everyday conversations and feel normal?
Menstruation is natural: Talk about it openly, freely
To be able to carry sanitary napkins and tampons freely, to be able to go to religious places without feeling guilty about it, to eat pickles, that too inside the kitchen and for once, break all other taboos and announce that we’re on our period, isn’t that what we all really want?
Menstruation is natural. We never chose to go through it in the first place and we shouldn’t feel anything but proud that we’re dealing with it. There is nothing wrong with bleeding 5 days a month and there is nothing impure about us during those days as well. The people who think so, are wrong. Not the ones going through it.
It’s hard to unlearn years of mannerisms and habits that we’ve picked up with each cycle but it isn’t impossible. If we want everyone to see it as something normal, we need to feel that way about it too. We need to feel okay with talking about it to all sexes and all age groups. Let’s make this easier for us. Let’s start deriving fun out of those disgusted faces that are made as soon as we mention our period. Let’s irk these orthodox mindsets and walk with confidence wherever we go.
Owning up to our cycles, considering them as valid excuses and not feeling hesitant to talk about them is what needs to be done. Enough of asking other people to help us bring this change. If we can handle cramps, nausea and mood swings WHILE constantly bleeding, we can take on this battle ourselves too, fellow menstruators!
Views expressed are the author's own.
Mitanshi Sareen is a Media Major Student.
Suggested Reading: Kerala University Grants “Menstruation Benefits” For Female Students