I went to a medical store to buy sanitary napkins for myself. Yes, I was in my periods. Packets of Whisper and Stayfree were right in front of me on the first rack. All of the people working in that store were boys. I asked one of them to give me a pack of Stayfree. He took one from the rack and went behind the cash counter to get a bundle of newspapers. He brought it out on the counter behind which I was standing, wrapped it up and handed it to me. I paid him, then ripped off the newspaper off the pack. I was outraged.
Why should I be ashamed of walking down the road with a packet of Stayfree in my hands? Just because I’m a girl and I get my periods, or should I say, I go through ‘that time of the month’ every month?
Getting periods is a very natural phenomenon in a woman’s body, the whole world is aware of the menstrual cycle, we’ve studied about it in our 10th grade biology, and yet this deep set, unspoken, unquestioned prejudice about the same since years exists. When some girlfriends of mine get paid an unexpected visit by their period, they rush to the bathroom with the pads covered in plastic or wrapped in handkerchiefs. And get very conscious of any stains that might present themselves on their bums.
Girls have always been taught that this subject should not be raised in public, especially in the presence of men. That it’s a big no-no and should be kept to oneself. By doing this, we are teaching our women to be ashamed of their bodies, to look down upon it negatively, as something that needs to remain hidden. We hide something when we’re not proud of it, or reluctant to accept it. What is the harm in letting the world know that you are chumming?
This in itself contains the same social bias that is practiced in regard to mental health patients and I-pills and condoms. Ordinary people around us may require a psychologist but will never admit it due to the ever-eternal, “what-will-people-think.” We may be very knowledgeable about sex, but the same bias exists towards its precautionary measures, and to date raises eyebrows if you go to buy an I-pill or a condom at a medical store, irrespective of your gender. We should not let this become one of those topics too. If you get your sanitary napkins wrapped in newspapers, do not encourage the habit. Talk people out of it. Because it is nothing to be ashamed of. This is not ‘forward’ or ‘open minded’ thinking. It is about changing our outlook of the same.
Most of all, the aunties and mommies should be enlightened about this, since they keep this bias alive as they never questioned it in the first place. It’s ironic that God might not like me if I paid him a visit while I’m on my periods, or might get offended because of it. And I might have to start worrying about not receiving his blessings on account of committing this grave sin; well, I’ll still be committing a less offensive sin than those who blindly and ignorantly indulge in promoting this mindset, cause this is what they were raised with. Let’s just say, when we meet in hell, the oil in which I will be fired or barbecued for my sins will be much less hotter and my snacks, much tastier than yours. If that’s the case, even temples of Goddesses should be closed for five days every month, just so that they don’t feel left out. Don’t look at me, nature spares no one, not even Gods.
Referring to it as ‘that time of the month’ and ‘your friend paying you a visit’ are the most common ways the menses or periods are referred to in public. Even our lame Bollywood movies do not mention chumming, a few exceptions being ‘Kai Po Che’ and ‘Ki and Ka’ among non-existent others. As natural as it is for boys to spout facial hair as a part of their gaining puberty, the same is true of girls getting their periods as a part of their gaining puberty. So why the social taboo? Why are mothers reinforcing these lessons in their daughters, and they in their daughters that it’s socially unacceptable to reveal or talk about your menstruation?
It is a beautiful process, as it is the inner scraping of the uterine walls every month that helps a woman become a mother someday and hence nothing to be ashamed of. It’s your body cleaning itself. It’s a process of releasing toxic waste from one’s body, not unlike urinating and pooing; infact, it’s the most purifying process there is, one that’s much needed to cleanse orthodox minds. And any pickles or papads that might wither or rot because of your ‘touch’, or you entering the kitchen makes it impure, it’s just your body heat acting up because of the hormonal changes you’re experiencing, and not because it’s religiously incorrect. If that be so, Kali Mata would rain hell upon thee. Another woman who would be as outraged as me if she were aware of this practice, I’m sure.
The red bindi that you put on your forehead, exists in large quantities vertically below it. If you’re not ashamed of that red dot, then why be ashamed of this one? So girls, next time someone gives you disapproving looks or shushes you for talking about bleeding, don’t let it get you down and don’t feel small for wanting to talk about it in public, because you’re amazing the way you are. And so are your periods.