Periods. Menstruation. Menses. Why can’t we talk about it? SShhh. Secret. Hidden.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day and being on my periods today (while writing), I’d like to unveil the truth behind the real-life drama of getting periods every month. Remember, I am not ‘down’ today but simply on my ‘periods’ as I have been experiencing every month for the last 10 years. A significant natural biological process that every girl and woman goes through every month for about half of her life that causes the survival of our species. Yet we consider it a taboo and feel awkward and shameful talking about it. Even the most famous name in menstrual hygiene products ‘Whisper’ suggests that menstruation is something to be spoken about in a whisper so that no one would know about it.
I still remember the 12 year old self me who smiled after getting her periods for the first time during school hours. This excitement of my puberty couldn’t survive when I returned back home. Like my sister, I was also directly or indirectly told to follow the same old ridiculous norms. I was told to keep it a secret from others, even from my father and brother. Later when this chapter appeared in our textbooks, the biology teacher skipped the topic. In fact, one day, a female teacher suggested several things we should not eat and do during periods. I grew up in a small town, Hapur in West Uttar Pradesh, where even buying a sanitary napkin is considered to be shameful. I was one of those girls who used unhygienic ways of managing periods like cloth rags, which I would keep in a dark corner place. I was considered impure and forbidden from worshipping or touching any object of religious importance as you may often find signposts outside temples denying the entry of menstruating girls and women.
Nobody in my family, society or community ever told me to not believe those rules but I did not follow them because of my rebellious nature, as others say. The whole process of changing my own mindset and my family’s perceptions was a series of gradual events. First of all, I found out about other ways to manage periods, started with stitching my own pads using some cotton and a fine piece of cloth, constantly changing them to get rid of infections. Later, I came across with sanitary napkins when my classmate in school offered me a pad and I persisted in asking my mom for them. I roamed and played around without worrying about stains and pain because even after hitting the puberty, I was still the same tiny fool as I was at puberty minus-one. Eventually, from not following any of the eating habit myths, doing yoga during periods, skipping showers in chilly winters, not hiding the sanitary napkin while going to the bathroom, going to medical shops and asking for napkins even in the presence of other people and being completely normal mentally as well as physically, I denied every concept of being called “Impure”.
However, not everyone has the same learnings. Girls learn to be ashamed of their bodies, lose self-confidence and in some parts of India, they choose to drop out of schools. For them especially, I would like to share one message- When you get your first period, smile from ear to ear and note down the date because you gotta be strong to have a rebel heart. I understand it gets gross later and you start hating your periods but trust me, you have to accept it as you accept other biological processes of your body because you’re going to live like this for almost half of your life. So better cheer for it. Accept that you bleed and it is completely normal.
Even after moving to a capital city, Delhi, I couldn’t find a major difference and became aware of one more problem women were facing- Mood Swings and Depression. Yes, of course, hormonal changes have an impact on our brains but you can kill them all with a simple change in your perception. My dear lovely ladies who believe in PMS (‘Pre’ Menstrual Syndrome) even during periods, please understand that PMS and mood swings have no direct correlation with periods but with your mind. So here is another message- No magic is going to happen to change your moods, do not link every single problem to your period, do not make your period an excuse for anything. No matter what, never let it become your weakness. Believe me, because I’ve run 21 km while bleeding. You don’t always need a helping hand, you have to stop going with the flow to bring changes in your life and your community. So, Women of India- Refuse to be treated as less capable, weaker, dirty or impure for being a woman.
Stop complaining about your periods! Cheers!
About the Author
Radhika is pursuing Masters in Economics from CDS-JNU and aspires to work for rural development and agriculture in India. Also, she is an endurance runner and has ran for two half marathons and dreams to run an Ultra by next year. She has started writing recently on her blog – rostrumreflection.wordpress.com. You can connect with her on Facebook.