I think we need to stop making periods such a taboo. I think we need to change the mindset which assumes that women on their periods unclean or impure. I think we need to educate young girls that a perfectly natural and normal bodily process does not make them tainted in any way. I think we need to educate young boys, especially, that periods are not something dirty, but instead a very natural occurrence.
How many times have you reached for the remote control while watching television with your father or your brother and a sanitary napkins commercial shows up? What I don’t understand is why. Why are periods such a big deal? For something that happens to half the population of the world once a month, periods sure are a topic kept too firmly under wraps.
It is especially so in the presence of boys. I have been astounded by the ignorance of most of my male friends when it comes to the topic of menstruation. These boys, who are otherwise so informed, studying in one of the best colleges of the country, are stumped when it comes to knowing the difference between a pad and a tampon. After they get over the initial embarrassment of seeing girls talk freely and without any shame about their bodies, the questions that they pose are a clear testimony to how unaware and uniformed they are. And it’s not even their fault. What is a guy supposed to do when, from his earliest childhood, the topic of menstruation has been hushed up? He has seen his sister whisper to his mother when she gets her period, and the word ‘pad’ didn’t even enter their conversation. They used instead the discreet abbreviation of ‘SN’ for sanitary napkins. He has heard his female friends, when in the company of males, talk in hushed tones about ‘chumming’ or getting down. How can he expect any information, any knowledge about periods when even the word is taboo? He grows up believing that it is something to be kept under wraps.
Why are we so afraid to say that we got our period? Why do we use inane terms like chumming to convey the simple truth? It’s slightly more relaxed today when in the company of females, but not many of us, I can vouch, have spoken about getting ‘down’ in front of our fathers. I remember a friend of mine, who transferred to our all-girls school from a co-educational institution, telling me what a refreshing experience it was to get up in class and announce that she needed a spare sanitary napkin. In her previous school, she confided, one had to whisper the request so as to ensure it remained out of the earshot of the male members of the class. In biology lessons, the topic is quickly shuffled through. Some schools do take the time out to organize seminars that educate students about menstruation, but these are exclusively for female students. What are the guys supposed to do when nobody takes the time or the trouble to educate them? They remain ignorant, of course.
The point that I’m trying to make is that we need to stop treating the subject of periods like it is a taboo. Commercials on television are discreet, they show blood as blue. What purpose does it serve except further confounding the already confused kids in the matter of how their bodies are growing and changing? If band-aid commercials can show blood as it really is without inflicting mental trauma on innocent minds, I doubt that sanitary pad commercials will do much harm. And why the discretion in the first place? Menstruation is just another bodily process. It happens to every female when she reaches puberty and goes on till she hits menopause.
By tagging the word unmentionable, the only thing we achieve is the continuation of this taboo. Why is it that a woman who is, on every other day, made to slave in the kitchen and told that it is her rightful place, not allowed to cook when she is on her period? As if a little bit of blood makes her unclean in some way. It is not so much a woman on her period as our mindsets which need some cleansing. I don’t mean to be vulgar here, but just the fact that I have to justify my talking about periods and blood in clear cut terms and be apologetic about it is testimony to the fact that we are far, very far from the progressive society where women do not have to be ashamed about their bodies. Because, let’s be honest here, if periods were something that happened to men, we would probably revere them and find a way to make women seem inferior for not having them!