Menstruation is not only a women’s issue; the idea of visualizing “period” with a feminized lens is problematic as it doesn’t acknowledge and provide space of discussion and talk about the fact that other genders bleed too. People often forget this and a lot of people don’t know that other genders also experience menstruation. This is because of limited understanding and knowledge were given to them about menstruation.
This idea not only discriminates but also establishes a sense of negligence towards people who experience pain and discomfort during periods. If we talk about education on these issues, we need to acknowledge that school texts (books) always talk about menstruation’s gendered aspect. The texts always stated its women who experience menstruation.
Once puberty bumps, women and trans men, including other genders who experience menstruation are taught not to talk about periods openly. Firstly, the idea of menstruation is always seen for women, so cis-men are always put in a position where they are either unaware of menstruation, or they are not indulging in conversation related to it.
If the person who is bleeding needs a pad, they are supposed to ask from a person who experiences menstruation in a low and hushed voice. I remember when I was in school, I never asked for a pad because I used to be a very shy person. Similarly, I saw girls asking for pads and hiding in their pockets and jogging towards the washroom, trying to escape from male teachers and professors eyes.
In our culture, we have grown up hearing about the shame aspect, which is reflected with menstruation. We are frequently told things related to disgust about menstruation. And the cis-men (I’m quoting cis-men here because trans men also experience periods) are always kept at the position where they are not aware and not educated about it. They remain clueless over what period is and why it happens and all other information.
The presence of menstrual taboos empowers the exploitative nature of patriarchal societies. Therefore, it is necessary to talk openly about the taboos existing around us from the initial stage and criticize it at every moment because people who are experiencing their periods are tagged as impure and filthy.
They are expected to not indulge in social or cultural activities that lead to social exclusion. This demeans the identity of the entire menstruating population for no logical and rational reasons. These stigmas and stereotypes completely alienate them as it does not provide space for sympathy. It simply discards the presence of their whole identity because of some orthodox religious beliefs that tag women and other genders impure and unclean.
As these reasons exist in the societies we live in, these are the very reasons why many men and women take it as it is and restrict their movements, work schedules and daily routines. These instances lead to happenings where women are not accepted at the places of worship. They are considered impure and are also advised or forced not to get involved in any religious act until their periods get over.
In certain regions, these superstitions and stigmas force women to get detached from their work, and also it forces them to not enter in spaces like the kitchen, sacred spaces etc. They are shamed for menstruating, and the cultural myths continuously try to put female and other genders at lower pedestal than cishet men. Menstruation has always been a subject of shame and embarrassment in traditional associations. Menstruating people are subjected to sleep on the ground and not touch anything that has some religious beliefs attached to it because people think it will get polluted or cursed.
Menstruation, from a very long time, has been considered impure and filthy. There is a long history of menstrual taboos in almost every culture that has discriminatory behaviour towards those who experience menstruation. These narratives manifest the ideas wherein the one who bleeds gets to hide and thinks the process of menstruation is associated with dirt and impurity, etc. As we all know, it has always been associated with disgust, shame and filth. A menstruating woman, in general, was taken to be as dirty, impure and unclean.
There is a need for breaking the normalized gendered thought/aspect in our society over the period. This attitude towards menstruation doesn’t give space to male get included in talks and conversations. Therefore, there is a need to break the barrier of feminine ideas and knowledge attached to menstruation for which period education is essential to be included in the curriculum. The stigma attached to periods will be broken as this will acknowledge that other genders, including men, also experience periods.
The representation of cis-women in commercial advertisements should be made more secular as the ignorance of this fact leads to suffering for other genders. People neglect and don’t support other genders. We need to discuss these issues in public to raise awareness. Different educational institutes need to plan webinars/ talks, sessions, including professionals and people who do experience this issue. Our education system needs to organize workshops and educate more and more people and students about these issues from the initial stage because it’s a taboo that’s still existing around us. We need to break it together by educating and informing people.