Life for a girl comes in full circle when she gets her first period. Well here is why: We live in a society which doesn’t allow women to speak ,discuss or even buy their sanitary napkins freely.The society sanitizes itself by washing sheets, clothes and bed covers , cleaning and painting and does everything possible to keep this secret . Well I have mostly seen women talking in hushed tones about : they being down.. on cycle..being in that time of month to uphold the same sanctity of secrecy around their menstruation cycle. I was also told to keep quite, be watchful of my clothes avoid going out and not visiting temples or entering the pooja room of the house. When my unabashed , rational mind asked : why?? I was told it is so because it has always been so, no arguments taken nor discussed.
If we go by our standard text books on information about periods it simply states that this happens because woman’s womb prepares itself to nurture a child each month and then if it doesn’t receive the fertilized egg, slowly over the course of 3-7 days discards all the soft lining made of cells and repairs itself by making new one and gets ready again. Well theoretically it is the most important body function because of its relationship with reproduction and nurturing the human race.
Then comes another twist to the tale, if it is just a bodily function like eating or urinating then why the hype and the mystification. Perhaps it is the blood , maybe common people squirm at the sight of blood, but we have injuries all the time. Additionally if bleeding is so normal and each girl on earth goes through this most of her life then why such indifference , such secrecy. The problem must clearly lie in the source of the blood: the uterus, the root of all contention. Men have their genitals that are visible and physical but women’s parts are hidden and concealed in her body and clearly men are not comfortable with the idea of bright red blood flowing through her body from parts he cant even see .
The idea of hushing and concealing the monthly period has become so internalised in our societies that some women are disgusted by the acts of free bleeding and exposing period stains. Some claim it is unhygienic which is why they cant bear the idea, but the truth is the blood that flows out is the same that flows if you cut your finger, maybe with million more life giving stem cells in it.
Fact is in almost all communities in world, women are not allowed to perform tasks which are regarded as ‘holy’ like performing religious rituals and customs, cooking food or carrying out any auspicious activity, so much so that even a new mother is considered impure as she bleeds days after she gives birth and can only be reinstated in the family once some ritual sanitizing is performed.
Purity of women is of such an extreme concern to society that it gives out guidelines and forms standards for measuring her purity where everyone gets to choose the elements of definition except her. This is what is leading to the arousal of a new age uproar against these sanctions. One of the early risers was Rupi Kaur from Canada on Instagram posting her staining pictures which were removed from the platform on account of not abiding by community rules, which clearly didn’t mention not posting your own pictures which had you fully clothed in a non sexually provocative imagery. It is funny that you can find nude pictures on Instagram but they removed her pictures not once but twice.They restored it at last when her numerous followers started writing to Instagram and she herself wrote an open letter to them.
Its funny how a woman, when she cant have sex properly because she is menstruating, is considered impure and unclean in a world obsessed with virginity and purity of girls. Clearly the very definition of purity manufactured by patriarchal structure is intrinsically flawed. There are also political leaders announcing in public that they would allow women inside Sabrimala temple if there were machines to detect if she was menstruating . Then again, there are women like Kiran Gandhi who ran a full marathon freely bleeding because she chose comfort over pads (read more about her here). Campaigns #happytobleed and #freebleeding signify the amount of rage and discomfort women share over being stifled over being on periods and staining.
There are more significant issues of providing basic sanitation and clean toilets for women and children across globe. Also, making basic essentials like sanitary napkins accessible to millions of young women at affordable prices so that we could really live without fretting over staining.
Here’s another beautiful article on menstruation taboos in India by an ex-Young India Fellow in Open Magazine: Women Don’t Bleed Blue