Saturday, August 8, 2015

Why I don't talk about my periods!

When I first came across this website called Menstrupedia which encouraged talking about periods, I found it very odd! I wondered why would a bunch of women sit around and talk about periods! We know this stuff and that’s about it. But the more I explored the site, the more I came to know about the initiative started by Aditi Gupta to educate girls about this hushed up phenomenon which women go through in silence every month. I realised that there was a huge population of girls who have no idea about periods and hence face health issues due to ignorance. Menstrupedia made sure that they went around to smaller cities and villages and spoke about period related issues, educating girls and women. Their initiative is to inform women about what they go through and what are the best ways to manage periods considering a majority doesn’t have access to hygiene products. 

I accept that awareness is important and girls should not suffer because of some outdated notions that periods are unholy or impure. But I don’t understand the unnecessary compulsive need to talk about periods. Yes, considering it a taboo and asking girls to hide it is wrong. Teaching girls to be ashamed of it or of being a girl is wrong. But apart from raising awareness where it is required, I don’t see what is this primal urge to go out of the way and force it on people’s attention. Such things will not kill the taboo but make people crinkle their noses and look away anyways. No, I don’t talk about my periods. I don’t go out of my way to talk about it. I don’t hide it either.

Well! You must be wondering why am I talking about periods then. What forced me to just sit and down and write all this is the valiant deed of a Ms. Kiran Gandhi who is being applauded for running freely with period blood running down her legs. I am sorry if that was too graphic for you. But the world is celebrating this as a triumph for breaking period taboos. How? I don’t know. Going back to where it all started - Ms. Gandhi trained for the marathon for a year and got her periods just the night before the marathon. Kiran, who would otherwise respond like any other girl to a period, “decides to bleed freely and just run”. How is that empowering women or helping them express freely is beyond me. 

Kiran Gandhi (Center) (Photo Courtesy)
The feat has had its fair share of media coverage. Cosmopolitan seems to be one of the first magazines to interview the brave lady. And the questions as you can see are as inane as they can get. Case in point - question 2! 

Some of the responses on Twitter have been:

Kiran Gandhi brings awareness for women who don’t have access to female hygiene products. (Err...aren’t those women already aware that they WILL stain their clothes if they use no protection?)

Many people think periods are gross. Kiran Gandhi tried to raise awareness about that. (Err.. So is the sight of a woman walking around in bloody, stained pants un-gross and beautiful?)

While the Twitter world has not been its usual boisterous self over the Gandhi issue, a few months ago in March 2015, there was a furore over Instagram taking down graphic pictures of periods (use your discretion to view the pictures) posted by Rupi Kaur. The pictures were taken as part of her project to demystify periods. Rupi Kaur shot back a response to the service provider and re-posted her pictures. The story had gained popularity by then and Instagram chose not to take them down again. This was celebrated as a triumph of their project and the right of women to talk about periods. How do pictures of stains and period blood in the commode achieve that is, again, beyond me! 

Both these people, and many like them, believe that presenting periods graphically before the world will raise awareness and debunk myths around the concept. My question, and my problem with the whole thing is, why talk about it just for the heck of it? Just to prove that you are free to talk about it? An even bigger problem is the defence behind the act -  periods are a natural bodily function and hence it should be ok to talk about it and post pictures of it. Agreed! Going by that logic, so are peeing, shitting and sex. (Err..I think something as natural as people having sex, also known as porn, was recently banned in India.) We should talk about all that freely, announce to the world when we go to shit  and post pictures of poop once we are back. And while we are at it, why don’t we start posting pictures of blood stained napkins! Should shatter the mystery once and for all! For everyone! 

I stand my ground of not making a big deal of something that isn’t a big deal. And creating a hullabaloo over it with imbecile theatrics like this doesn’t help the cause. If you want to raise awareness and demystify periods, make it a normal thing to talk about it in your own house. Include men in it. Get every woman to believe that it is normal to talk about it. Tell your sons that it is not gross. Teach them how to be supportive to a woman, any woman, at that time. You want to demystify it? Join a movement like Menstrupedia and demystify it for those poor, hapless girls and women who have no access to information and consider periods a mystery indeed. You want to contribute to the cause? Donate money to organisations like Goonj which make eco-friendly, affordable sanitary napkins for the economically backward women of the country. Unless, your actions have real implications for real people, it’s all a sham. And I think it makes no sense either! 

I'd love to hear what you think about this. Drop me a line here or hit me on Twitter at @Suman_Kher. Let's talk! :)