We are living in a society where fighting and ‘creating a scene’ is acceptable in public, but kissing and hugging is not; where a year ago men pissing in the open were acceptable but talking about periods is still not.
But why there is so much taboo or restriction on periods? Why can’t we talk normally about periods like every other thing? Why do we have to change the channel of our television sets whenever an advertisement of Stayfree or Whisper comes on? Why do shopkeepers in our society wrap sanitary napkins with a newspaper, but products like alcohol and cigarettes are sold openly?
Well, the questions are many but the answer is one—MINDSET! We are taught, from the very beginning of our periods, that we are bound to live in a bubble while we are PMSing.
My periods started a bit earlier than anyone in my group of friends. They came as the uninvited guests and gave me a shock which I still can’t forget even after all these years.
I remember the first day I got my periods, I locked myself in the washroom and cried for hours thinking I have got some deadly disease. After many attempts by my mother, I finally came out and revealed about my ‘disease’ to her. After knowing the disease I was talking about, my mother laughed and taught me that this is not a disease but a blessing.
However, it felt more like a curse than a blessing to me. The first few years were a bit difficult, they would start anytime and used to last for five to seven days, with my stomach aching as if someone has been continuously punching me for days. Honestly speaking, I used to hate periods, I used to curse myself for being born as a girl.
But as soon as I got to know more about periods, I stopped cursing myself and thanked God for making me a woman. For making me a powerful creature, that bears so much pain, that bleeds regularly, that gives birth to another human. But you know what that disgusts me? That we still have to face the tantrums of society, and we still get these taboos in return.
There were no taboos in my house related to periods as my mother was way too cool for that. She would simply ask me to visit temple by saying “As if anyone knows that you are having periods or not.” But things were different in my relatives’ homes.
“You can’t touch the pickle.”
“You can’t touch the clean drinking water.”
“Stay away from the kitchen area, and forget visiting the temples.”
“Don’t wash your hair with shampoo for the first two days.”
“Use separate bedsheets and wash them separately.”
…and so on.
My periods would finish faster than this list of taboos. Whenever I used to visit my relatives, it felt as if I was a prisoner, getting punished for committing a sinful crime. The level of taboos was so high that I remember a cousin of mine was not allowed to see the body of her own father for one last time when he passed away. However, things changed after that day, she took stand for herself and fought with all the taboos single-handedly.
You know what the problem is? We have been taught to accept things as the way they are, irrespective of how right or wrong they are. If they have been followed since forever, they must be right. Right? No, a big NO! The solution lies within ourselves; if we want to change something, we need to stop accepting such things society throws on our faces in the name of ‘Culture’.
I remember it was after a year of my periods starting that my school organised a quick session to educate us girls about menstruation and about what all we should do and avoid. We were handed pads after the session. When we returned to our class, there was this buzz going around among the boys. We could sense what they were laughing and whispering about.
There was always this one stress, one fear at the back of our heads, which would limit us to do anything like ‘normal’—the fear of stains. This used to be the permanent duty of me and best friend to check each other for stains. I remember being laughed at when one day my friend forgot to check the blood stains on my white skirt. I remember the look in the eyes of my male classmates, who were holding back their laughter and giggles, and the look in the eyes of my girl classmates who were way too embarrassed that their cheeks turned red. And after that, I started skipping the classes for the first two days when the flow used to be high.
Things changed when I reached my college, my friends were way more understanding. From bringing me home-made food and chocolate,s to even handling the projects and assignments alone for a few days, my friends always understood the pain of being a girl.
One day, I remember when a pack of Stayfree fell out of my bag in front of everyone, it was a few male friends of mine who helped me get out of that ‘awkward’ situation by saying, “Kya pehle nhi dekha kya kabhi?” to the people who were staring and laughing.
To the men reading this, support a girl who is on her periods. Understand her pain because some day a boy or a man might be period-shaming a woman in front of everyone and she will be facing the same humiliation most of us had to face. Speak up, because according to me, that’s being a real man!
And lastly, let’s remember that taboos around periods are nothing but bullshit. Menstruation must be celebrated not suppressed!