When I was 10 years old, my best friend got her period. A few weeks later my class teacher spoke to us about puberty giving us a very basic introduction to menstruation and how periods work. A year later my mom sat me down and spoke to me about periods again, explaining to me that it was nothing to worry about, that all women go through it and that I could always ask her anything. She even taught me how to wear a pad in advance. A few weeks later she made me speak to my female pediatrician just to make sure I had no doubts and no worries at all. When I finally got my period in 7th grade, I knew exactly what was happening and felt no fear at all. In school, anytime I thought I had my period, all I had to do was ask, and any girl, irrespective of whether we were friends or not, would check for me. We used to ask for pads, like we were borrowing pencils. There was no hush-hush, no nervousness and no embarrassment. We had each others backs (quite literally). In 9th grade we got a talk from someone about women’s health and safety, and in 10th grade they taught us the reproductive system and gave us another sex ed talk.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized that things were the way they were for me, because I was PRIVILEGED. Because I was lucky enough to be born into a progressive family, and to have gone to a progressive school. All girls don’t have the same privilege.
And once you notice the stigma, there’s no going back
Think about this,
Why is my pad wrapped in plastic, then put in a packet, then wrapped in newspaper, then put in a brown paper bag,then put in a plastic bag and then given to me? Like it’s some top secret, extremely dangerous explosive. WHAT ARE WE HIDING THIS FOR?
Why do they show a blue liquid in all sanitary napkin advertisements, when BLOOD IS CLEARLY RED?
Why is the company called Whisper. Why on earth should I whisper about this?
How come no one wants to talk about this ever? It affects half the population for a week every month. It is very much a real thing. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
Here’s a fun social experiment- Bring up your period at a family gathering and you’ll notice people not being able to make eye contact with you. Your mom will probably nudge you aggressively and everyone will look nervous and start talking about other stuff. It just goes to prove that we are so embarrassed and so disconcerted as a society about anything to do with menstruation, it’s actually alarming.
In a lot of families, women can’t enter the temple, they can’t pray, they can’t touch holy books, they sometimes can’t enter the kitchen and they are also not allowed to have sex or touch plants. Why do we treat this likes it’s a disease? There are some explanations where people try to justify these stupid rules but most of them have no scientific backing and stem from myths, cultural and religious beliefs, or just good old patriarchy.
“Nearly 88 per cent of women [in India] use dry leaves, wood shavings, plastic and old fabrics, because they can’t afford napkins. Due to this, reproductive tract infections are 70 per cent more common in women, and 27 per cent of all cervical cancer deaths happen in India, “- Krutika Pursnani
The campaign #LahuKaLagaan is a movement to get the Government of India to make sanitary napkins tax-free. It was started by the non-profit She Says, and a lot of celebrities have supported it publicly.
In rural India only 2% out of a target 75% of the women use sanitary napkins. 2 percent. Think about that for a minute. What do the rest use? Old cloth, rags and other unsanitary materials. Not only is that extremely unhygienic but it also sounds very very painful. 23% of girls drop out of school because they don’t have separate bathrooms and they can’t clean themselves freely. Also due to lack of proper sanitation, it becomes really hard for women to do anything on their period. Lack of proper sanitation actually hinders a girls education, meaning that it could adversely affect her entire life. It is the birthright of every Indian girl to have easy access to sanitary napkins. A survey shows that most women in rural India were shocked when they first got their period and didn’t know what it was and what to do. It worries me to think of the girls who don’t get told what’s happening. Who aren’t aware of the changes their own body is going through. Who aren’t informed about PMS or how sanitary pads work. I don’t know about you but I would be very worried if I randomly started bleeding from my vagina and nobody gave me a proper answer as to why.
There is such a huge stigma, that people refuse to talk about it and since people refuse to talk about it, the right kind of awareness isn’t created. Information isn’t reaching the people it needs to reach.
Firstly I want to address anybody reading this who still doesn’t understand menstruation- Once a month, the inner lining of the uterus sheds itself (if we aren’t pregnant) and that’s why we bleed from our vaginas for a few days. It’s painful sometimes and one can experience cramps. It also causes hormonal imbalances and PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) which can cause mood-swings, cravings, acne, body ache etc. I think it’s important for every single person in the world to know this.
Secondly, I want to make some things very clear, Periods are not gross. They are not some disease. They are not something to hide, or be ashamed of, or embarrassed about. They do not make a person impure or unclean in any form or way. People need to stop acting like ignorant buffoons and realize that this is just a natural bodily function that half the population experiences at some point.
Why are we taught to hide the evidence of our menstruation?
I for one, am tired of this. I’m tired of being made to feel uncomfortable about this, I’m tired of having to hide my pad (how come no one hides toilet paper? Or diapers for kids) you know what the best way to take a pad to the bathroom is? HOLD IT IN YOUR HAND. This seems like common sense and yet I always feel the urge to put it in a bag or my sleeve or my pocket. Why are we taught to hide evidence of our menstruation? like it’s a crime or something. I am tired of being worried about “spotting” in public, because GOD FORBID someone sees a bit of blood and realizes you are a woman(??). Nobody acts this way about food stains on their clothes. I don’t want to whisper the next time I need a pad. .
On this Menstrual Hygiene Day, lets make the collective decision to stop being embarrassed about our period, to stop letting it hinder us, to stop being scared to talk about it. Let’s spread awareness, and help those in need, and be proud of our bodies. Periods are hard enough without the additional bullshit. It’s time to stop going with the flow.