I vividly remember when I was in Class 10th in a small town called Dalhousie, I saw boys and even teachers giggling or frowning on the topic of periods. I was so naive that I did not understand a tad bit of what was being giggled upon. I thought I am so weird for not knowing what exactly periods are! Come to think of it, as a student of class 10th, I should have had such knowledge by then. It goes on to point a finger at the education system where periods are considered taboo even in the classrooms. Chapters on Reproduction continue to be skipped by the teachers.
Instead of being educated by the informed professionals, my knowledge about periods came from friends who were equally clueless. Even with our naive assumptions, I could never understand why the mention of periods invoked giggles amongst my peers. My elder sister had once asked me to buy her pads from the local store. At the shop, much like everybody’s experience, I even noticed how the shopkeeper carefully wrapped the napkin pack with a newspaper. I had even asked my sister about why the shopkeeper would do that! But my sister dismissed my question.
In retrospect, when I think about it, I cannot stop thinking about how my sister and every young woman is inherently indoctrinated to shy away from the conversation. It stems from a false sense of shame inflicted upon them for simply having natural physiology. As a human being born into the gross cultural privilege of being a man, I believe the accountability of narrowing down spaces for menstruators lies on men. My simple reason for this is the fact that the taboos pertaining to menstruation are usually segregated as “women’s issue”. It’s bizarre on so many levels because the human rights of women cannot be written off as a women’s issue. It is everyone’s issue!
Lack of open conversation is the breeding ground for misinformation which further feeds into the biases denying menstruators the basic right and respectability. As a society that dominates every narrative from the patriarchal lens, I want to come forward and be an ally to the menstruators in their fight to restore their “bloody” affair for visibility and pride.
Today, my sister and I have both evolved into better-informed individuals about menstruation. Just like charity starts at home, conversation too, starts at home! There are no more newspaper-wrapped sanitary pads coming home for us anymore. We stare back at uncle aunties who try to morally monitor us. This menstrual Hygiene week, I stepped up to not take away the mic from the menstruators but to engage with people of the gender who benefit from patriarchy. It’s time we step up and become an ally!
Here is where I want to end the article but I have one more anecdote to share if you are willing to hear. So here it goes,
Once upon an evening, my educated and well-read friend and I along with a few of our friends went to the temple. She refused to go inside the temple. When asked, she remained quiet, hoping we would understand why! We did. We failed to convince her why it was normal to go inside the temple during the periods. Heck, what you gonna teach your kids, I quizzed with visible resentment. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite able to reason it out with her. It’s funny how we worship Goddess Kamakhya because she bleeds but we do not let menstruators into the temple. Bizarre much? The Indian culture is so patriarchal that it has trained the menstruators to blindly follow what men have practised in the past. What a deplorable state of affair, one may ask! What is even education which doesn’t let you shake an inbuilt belief system hindering the evolution of society into a more inclusive space.
At home, when I see my sister in law not entering our ‘ghar wala mandir’ during her periods, I make her question her faith which is so fragile that her god will care if she is bleeding or not. I couldn’t much shake my sister in law into reason but I have pledged to normalise periods with my nieces, nephews and even my own kids. They must grow into an environment that doesn’t consider periods, taboo. We have a superstore in Dalhousie and I make sure the sanitary pads are not given in a newspaper bag and are put along with other shopping items. If requested for a newspaper, they get a very 2-3 liner humble and shameless lecture from me. I don’t care if it makes them uncomfortable. It’s time people forego their comfort zone around something that is SO NORMAL!!!!!!
Author: Arpit Shangri