Oh boy, women bleed!Menstruation is a taboo. No one talks about it. Women do not openly purchase sanitary napkins. We pretend we don’t menstruate. We refrain from talking about our period at homes and at work places.
Menstruation is a taboo. No one talks about it. Women do not openly purchase sanitary napkins. We pretend we don’t menstruate.
We refrain from talking about our period at homes and at work places. I have always tried to reason with the stigma vis-à-vis the biological fact a female body goes through.
Like how men have beards when they hit puberty—girls bleed. What’s the big deal? I repeat in my head.
Often, families and friends laud the teenage boys for sprouting one line moustache or a goatee. The boys are identified for being macho and finally a man.
On the contrary, families hide their girls when they start their first period, ashamed when their bodies provide proof that the girl is perfectly healthy and normal.
These young girls go on to believe that their bodies have betrayed them. They coax their bodies because suddenly it has made them impure.
They can no longer mingle with the other sex openly; they must be mindful and often face exclusion from family functions. They are forced to perceive their bodies negatively.
An article I read a while ago mentioned that girls lose half their confidence when they start menstruating.
When young girls face discrimination, exclusion and isolation at such a young age, they go on to lose not just their confidence but also their self-worth.
I am a mother to a seven-year-old girl and it saddens me deeply because I may protect her at home but god forbid what the relatives and the society feed into her.
At the same time, I am excited because I know then she is normal and can lead a healthy life. As her mother, I will take it as my duty to protect her and ensure she will not be excluded from any social, cultural and religious functions—only because her body functions, normally.
A gender specialist remarked that recently her brother’s daughter was excluded from a huge family function because she had her first periods.
Of course, she counselled the family, the mother and the grandmother but it was sad that the girl eventually was not allowed to attend the function.
“My niece was looking forward to the function, she was devastated. I can’t bring a change within the family, imagine trying to bring change through my work,” she stated.
It’s all in the head I respond quickly. Girls who grow up with families that follow strict menstruation ‘dos and don’ts’ often reinforce the same rules without reasoning.
Colleagues who have worked in internationally affiliated organisations, who have received numerous training on gender equality, menstrual taboos and have worked decades trying to abolish chhaupadi are seen practicing the same in their own homes.
In the cities, it may not be a chhaupadi, but their daughters, nieces and their female cousins face discrimination, exclusion and isolation in one form or the other.
Just because these girls are not ridden to cow sheds does not mean it is not happening to them.
I am shocked when male colleagues talk casually about how their wives are bent on staying impure and refrain from cooking during their periods despite the husbands discouraging them to do so. Why do the wives always have to cook is a different story altogether.
Such stories from men and women show that increasingly men don’t care about the boundaries but women continue to care and pass the torch to their daughters.
I know cousins and relatives who do not attend functions; some for religious connotations and some simply as an excuse.
It is funny because people understand and empathise, ‘ah she is on her periods,’ and excuse their absence as if they never existed.
Women unfortunately are the flag bearers of such malpractices and pass these ridiculous ideas to their daughters.
If only the mothers wrapped their head around and woke their senses that their daughter’s periods are a celebration and a private matter at the same time.
If only mothers played a positive and integral role ensuring their little girls are just little girls who happen to one day menstruate because every girl does.
I am certain that when mothers treat menstruation as just another natural growth in their children’s bodies, many little girls will learn to accept their bodies and grow up to be confident women.
I call upon women to treat their menstruation positively because only when our gender embraces positivity, we can eliminate gender-based discriminations.