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7 Ways You Can Be An Effective Ally To Menstruators

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

A significant point to think about when it comes to menstruators is how non-menstruators are usually out of the picture. Most times, they are oblivious to the phenomenon in itself, and other times it becomes apparent that they may be aware, but have no intention of building upon their basic knowledge.

Ignorant questions are asked. A non-menstruator asked a girl if menstrual cycles had anything to do with the moon. Another non-menstruator held the impression that menstruators could choose when to begin bleeding. Similarly, a woman talked about needing to find a tampon, and a non-menstruator asked her why she couldn’t just hold the blood in.

a girl and a boy walking

So what exactly can non-menstruators do? I have a few suggestions.

1. Educate Yourself – The Process, The Outcomes, The Side Effects

First and foremost, learn about menstruation. Excuses provided by non-menstruators of not having studied about it in school adequately hold no merit as a simple google search turns up a plethora of information. WebMD, Healthline and Planned Parenthood are a few of the most basic websites that can be consulted.

But as mentioned before, just knowing what is on the surface isn’t enough. It would be helpful to take a deep dive and learn about the stages and side effects of menstruation too, which are vital in constructing the whole picture and building perspective for the long run.

2. Be Sensitive To Related Medical Conditions

Non-menstruators need to understand that menstruation can be a touchy topic for a lot of menstruators, especially if they live with conditions like premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). They are a painful reality, and not “made up to garner attention.”

Therefore, cracking jokes about how a menstruator must be on their period or must be PMSing and how it is best to stay away from them if they appear moody or emotional is uncalled for and trivialise the medical condition at hand.

3. Provide Emotional Support (If/When Required)

As mentioned, it is normal for hormones to be all over the place when it comes to someone who is menstruating. This, along with cramps, means that the individual is dealing with an abject amount of pain. Yes, medicines, foods and hot water bags are helpful in some cases, but they may not provide comfort for everyone.

It is essential to go out of your comfort zone and provide emotional support and care to the menstruator if they require/ask for it. In many cases, just the presence of someone who will listen to them as their emotions get heightened is enough.

4. Use Correct Language

Calling a menstruator crazy, irrational or hysterical when they are menstruating puts them at a disadvantage. Slangs and terms referring to how they are ‘impure’ and ‘dirty’ during their period dehumanise them. Therefore language used to refer to a menstruator needs to be kept under check constantly.

5. Do Not Fetishise it

Several people look at ‘period sex‘ as a fetish. Even though having sex while being on your period is a personal preference, it should not be non-consensual. They may be suffering from heavy bleeding, cramps, or may not want to engage with it. The overarching idea here is about the sanctity of consent and not holding period sex as a given, which again underplays the concept of periods to a certain extent.

6. Do Not Isolate Them Or Give In To Taboos

Taboos surrounding menstruation are held widely across the country. It is of vital importance to unlearn them, to not inflict these regressive learnings, knowingly or unknowingly upon coming generations. Taboos like ‘don’t enter the kitchen’ and ‘don’t touch the pickle’ have no place in our society. It would be a good idea to actively spot such discrimination in immediate surroundings, identify it, call it out and as a result, unlearn them.

7. Spread Your Learnings – Not By Mansplaining

Once non-menstruators have learnt a fair bit about menstruation and its intersections, it may help to spread this knowledge to fellow uninitiated ones. Successful allyship requires it to not be performative, with no appropriation or moderation of voices. Rather than mansplaining concepts that are faced by menstruators, it would be better if their voices are amplified.

Learning about menstruation can undoubtedly be daunting, where one may end up saying or doing the wrong things at the wrong time. Still, despite success and failure, the need for sensitisation should be the end goal.

The author is a part of the current batch of the #PeriodParGyan Writer’s Training Program

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