In India, it is considered taboo to even bring up the subject of menstruation or sanitary pads. Even retailers sell sanitary pads wrapped in newspapers or black plastic bags. Though everyone is aware of sanitary pads, menstruation cups, and other feminine hygiene products, people still pretend to be naive about periods and stigmatise periods and period-related products.
Since menstruation occurs every month, women need feminine hygiene products and other supplies frequently. Because they are more readily available and more convenient to use than menstrual cups or tampons, the majority of women choose sanitary pads. For as long as I remember, I have seen women buying pads from local shops wrapped in newspapers, provided with all Z+ security. But then I couldn’t figure out why pads were folded in the paper.
Sanitary pads wrapped in newspaper
As I grew up, I could connect the dots. I too have bought pads in a similar fashion. When I understood what goes behind, I asked the seller ever to wrap my pads. Nothing is wrong with buying sanitary napkins without their paper cloth security. Everyone knows women bleed, why we bleed is also very much in the public domain. We bleed, so we can carry babies and as we have the ability to carry babies within us, human life grows. Why periods are humiliated and narrated as a sheer embarrassment? This hide and seek is so not required.
The female menstrual cycle is stigmatised, considered impure, and unclean even talking about has been taboo. Several religions mandate that a menstruating woman should follow certain rituals that are often discriminating. For instance, can’t touch anyone, use separate utilities, don’t see pickles, or visit temples. Awareness campaigns are run to eradicate misconceptions concerning periods. Periods have claimed to prevail as long as life existed on earth, yet these prejudices remain. The newspaper around pads just depicts prejudices that society carries. From shopkeepers to every bystander doesn’t want to look over it, but they do know beneath the black plastic is a so-called girl product.
This is the condition in urban areas. Think of what goes in rural areas, most women are so ashamed that they don’t even buy pads, from a male pharmacist. Pads hanging in shops, and peeping out of glass window is very much okay, but women buying and carrying around is not okay. Where does it come from? It could be all the taboos and fears created under the pretext of religion, that people disgrace periods and the products.
In my personal experience, from buying pads to disposing of them, everything feels like a war. Most Indian families share bathrooms at home. Taking a pad and going to the bathroom is also a tussle. Fold the pad, to fit it in your fist and then rush to the bathroom. We generally hide it in our side pockets of college bags and purses, concealing it from the male gaze like it’s some untouchable object. The last tough part is of disposal of used pads. In my case, I used to carry it to college, properly folded in the newspaper and disposed it in the college dustbin.
Menstruation and menstrual hygiene demand a great deal of societal awareness. Ignoring it, refusing to accept it, or adopting a certain mindset is not the answer. The ideas we hold now are nothing more than misunderstandings that some ancient predecessors made. Pickles don’t go bad, as has been scientifically demonstrated. It is really a meaningless myth, nothing more. Holding onto ancient beliefs has resulted in women being uncomfortable to talk about their menstrual troubles.
A mindset that is passed down from generation to generation is not a solution. Purchasing a pad is not a bad thing. Similar to the others, it is just a regular product. Girls, please stop accepting wrapped pads from retailers and celebrate menstruation.
Suggested Reading- Dear Hina Khan, Periods Are More Than Just ‘Special Days’