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7 Musicians Who Didn’t Shy Away From Singing About Periods

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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.

From Bob Dylan’s timeless song ‘Times Are A Changin’ to Iqbal Bano draped in black saree performing ‘Hum Dekhenge’, music justifies its true invisible potential to bring ripples of change. Musicians made it a crucial weapon to wrestle against all kinds of socio-economic evils by crooning melodious tunes. Let’s not forget the modern pop culture genre of punk, funk, rap and hip-hop that had their roots in rebellion.

To ward off the stigma entrenched in menstruation, a handful of independent musicians of the later 18th and early 19th century resorted to hip-hop in order to connect with the young blood. In this article, we will revisit some iconic numbers blabber mouthing menses when it was still the best-kept secret. The credit of making the earliest public appeal of the word ‘menstruation’ goes to such lively and powerful music.

Manmeet Kaur And Shruti Madan: ‘The Period Song’ 

“Char Din huye lekin period abhi baaki hai/ Red Wedding in my pants kyunki period abhi baaki hai / Can I get a P? Can I get my period period.”

A revolutionary peppy music member of Girliyappa Original also joined the bandwagon of menstrual music club in 2016. ‘The Period Song’, featuring many popular content creators spread like wildfire all over social media. Lyricist Sameer Anjaan and vocalists Manmeet Kaur and Shruti Madan have fantastically kept the satire alive while imparting the bigger social message.

The four-minute long song doesn’t fail to touch upon the wider spectrum of period-related topics, starting from menarche, period sex, ban on kitchen/temple entry, menopause, PMS and the baseless idea of wrapping sanitary napkins in a newspaper. The parody of ‘Char Baj Gaye lekin Party Abhi Baki Hai’  throws out the gloomy and negative portrayal of menses to embrace more positive portrayals.

Shruti Maggo: ‘Mai Besharam Nahi’

One year ago, Shruti Maggo, a Hindi-spoken word poet became an overnight YouTube sensation after her period rap went viral. In Mai Besharam Nahi’ she cuts open her heart and carefully stitches the woeful incidents attached with menstruation to weave a powerful rap. It’s overwhelming to see Indian youth coming to the forefront and addressing the elephant in the room by creative pursuits. Her rap is the best answer to shut the filthy orthodox mindset that attaches an impure status to menstruating girls.

In case you’re losing your mind searching for some adequate Bollywood representation of this social crisis, sadly, you’ll only find skewed results in the Indian music industry. We still have a long way of revolution to witness in music.

Dolly Parton: PMS Blues

“But a woman had to write this song/ A man would be scared to /Lest he be called a chauvinist/ Or just fall victim to those/ PMS Blues.”

The famous American multi-talented singer admired for her country music, Dolly Rebecca Parton released her live album ‘Heartsongs:Live from Home’ in 1994 in her own theme park Dollywood. One of the infamous hit tracks was ‘PMS Blues’. Testifying the gallant and witty personality of Dolly, this number is the sort that will instantly hype up your soggy Monday sisterhood spirit. The song begins by acknowledging Eve’s curse on women and goes on to describe clenching teeth, swelling heads, hateful yelling and mood swings. With a tinge of female boss energy, Dolly actively calls out male jingoism pertinent to menstruation with the aim to dismantle the taboo attached to PMS and periods.

 Tacocat: ‘Crimson Waves’

“Call my girls if they wanna go/ take their minds off dumb Aunt Flo/ Sew a scarlet letter on my bathing suit/ cause I have got sharks in my hot pursuit.”

Tacocat’s hit period positive anthem ‘Crimson Waves’ was released in 2014. Garnering over 10,000 views in a single week on YouTube, the music became the second single hit from their NVM album. This Seattle-based indie punk rock band addresses feminist issues with subtle malice and metaphors. Emily Nokes, Bree McKenna and Lelah Maupin are the ultimate powerpuff trio who hit off this palindrome band from basement and house shows. The vivid music video of the song debunks the common notion of avoiding fun beach or pool days in “that time of the month”and encourages you to venture out.

Angela Maria Ani DiFranco: ‘In The Boardroom’

“These business got the money/ they got the instruments of death/ But I can make life/ I can make breathe.”

Menstruation, since time immemorial, has been a great barrier against women’s equality in all the avenues of life. Angela Maria Ani Di Franco wages her musical battle using her own record label to crush patriarchy in a corporate glitzy life of air-conditioned rooms and flashy suits through her single track called Blood in the Boardroom’. The natural power of birthing another life imbibed by women outweighs all the materialistic things in life – money, power and fame. The imagery of big brown bloodstains on white chairs has been used by Ani to rupture the invisibility of this monthly natural process.

SkitBox: ‘Got That Flow’

The comedy crew of SkitBox targeted the men who are disgusted by the period and look down upon women as inferior through their flashy song ‘I Got That Flow’ in 2016. Raging one liners enhance the meaningfulness and melody of the rap. Well-informed men can be crucial harbingers of the change-making processes related to destigmatising female centric issues.

Lunette: ‘Oh No I Am Getting My Period’

The representation of blue blood in sanitary napkins ads to hide shame is common sight. But,vsome multi-million business houses came forward to join the rap battle of putting periods in a positive light. Lunette’s ‘Oh No I Am Getting My Period’ with NYC-based rapper Princess Superstar bashed the weak-kneed approach of female intimate product brands. Lunette’s menstrual cups are a household name all over Europe and America. The thought-provoking lyrics nurture the vibe of self-awareness related to menstrual health management in the best possible way.

The spirit of music is immortal. Rhythm is the antidote of unspoken and unheard voices. As Shakespeare said “When words fail, music speaks.”  So, here I jam my period playlist in loud blasting speakers, wilfully wishing that music, the hands playing the guitar and my words echoing through this stratified society are able to normalise the ‘Shark Week’.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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