It was ‘that time of the month’ when I visited my friend’s house last year. It was like Niagra falls in my pants and I desperately needed to change. As I walked out of the washroom, finally feeling more comfortable my friend spoke to me in hushed tones, “Please don’t tell my mother you’re down.” Before I could ask her why having my periods had to be such a secret affair, she shut me up and changed the topic.
It was much later that I realised, had her mother found out, she would have thrown a fit. Because ‘a visit from Aunt Flo’ meant that I had to be disbarred from entering the kitchen, touching the utensils they use, touching the temple, and the last straw was not being allowed to touch the people who had to enter the kitchen! I found this out because my friend narrated to me the time when her mother came out after a bath and accidentally touched her daughter’s arm when she was ‘having her chums’. She panicked and rushed into the bathroom to cleanse herself of the impurity.
So basically, women are treated as untouchable, thought of as impure and taught to keep quiet of their pain when on their periods.
What people don’t realize is that they are following practices that were made years back, not taking into account the changes that have been made. Earlier hygiene standards during menstruation was a big concern because women did not have access to sanitary napkins or tampons and that is the reason why they were asked to stay out of kitchens so that they don’t contaminate the food. Women were not taught that they need to take care to be clean when on their period, and the health dangers that may follow if they neglect hygiene.
The practice of not letting women enter the kitchen or do any household work when they are menstruating was done so that they could rest while they bled. Not because they were impure.
Women felt uncomfortable discussing the problems they faced, they felt shame in drying out the cloth they used to soak the blood.
And even today, thousands of girls make use of euphemisms to refer to periods because they feel shame for being on their period, for being a woman even. Little girls aren’t explained what the reproductive cycle means, instead they are taught to NOT discuss it in front of their brothers, father and male friends.
Menstrual taboos are the reason why young girls drop out of schools, women neglect health issues that could arise because of lack of hygiene, problems in their emotional state are seen, and the list goes on.
Men and women, boys and girls must be educated about what menstruation actually means, and we need to catch them young so that girls don’t fear being made fun of. Skipping the chapter that discusses menstruation or reproduction as a topic in school is not the solution! Pushing difficult things under the carpet so that you can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means that you don’t have the ability or strength to face up to it and come to solutions.
Learn to recognize that menstruation is a natural bodily function, and must be discussed to help sensitise people about the different things that need to be taken care of when you menstruate.