We may have started talking about ‘women issues’ on social media but the reality is far from there. The stigma around periods runs very deep even in today’s society. Periods are not something to be ashamed of. It is as natural as breathing or walking. The biggest contributing factor to the stigma would be the lack of awareness. For our daughters, wives and all the women we need to acknowledge this today so they can have a safer environment tomorrow.
WHAT IS PERIOD SHAMING
Period Shaming is a direct result of the stigma surrounding women’s menstrual cycle. When society makes you feel bad, guilty and sees you as ‘impure’ for something that is as natural as our existence that is what we term as period shaming.
INSTANCES WHERE YOU’VE BEEN PERIOD SHAMED
While no form of bully has clear distinct laid out ways of it being carried out, but these are some of the most commonly used phrases when it comes to period shaming-
- Don’t enter the kitchen in this condition
- Wait outside while we pray in the temple
- Wrap the pads with newspaper while buying
- Sit away from the rest while eating
- It’s a shame if anyone knows you’re menstruating
- Wash your own dishes because now are having your periods
- Made to feel bad if you asked for a day off
- People consoling you by saying this pain is natural and not giving you any medication
There are countless other extreme recollections of women with their experiences while battling society’s insensitiveness and lack of empathy. Countless number of girls enter periods without knowing what it is, countless of them have been gossiped and ridiculed because of period stain on their skirts and countless of them have been ‘caught’ while taking the pads to washroom. The lack of information forces these girls to rely on Google as a primary source to clear their doubts. Internet should not only be relied upon for these inputs because sometimes it also can be misleading source of information.
POSSIBLE CAUSES FUELING PERIOD SHAMING
The attitude of society is a clear reflection of what they’ve been taught. Our educational system is the breeding ground for the setback mentality in the society. An institution with such significance and influence over us could achieve in bringing the normalcy around it. No one is asking them to hoist the pad up in the air like a flag but the mere acknowledgement could go a long way. These educational institutions may have held a seminar or two for the girls and called it ‘holistic education’ but who will teach the boys?
Government Policies and Corporate
The other possible reason is the lack of awareness. Government has failed to bring out schemes and programs to break the stigma. Even corporate plays a big role in this. Half of humanity needs pads on a monthly basis and yet they are sold wrapped in newspaper. Small and individual businesses are not the only culprits. Big corporate firms fuel the stigma even more by using blue stain while advertising for pads. What the blue stain in these commercials may achieve that red could not, one may never know. The newspaper and the blue stain are symbolic of how our society views periods- a taboo, not to be discussed at any circumstance.
Unavailability of resources
Most women in remote areas still use cloth, sand and rags, mostly because they simply cannot afford the luxury of buying pads. The burdensome taxes on period products make it available only to a small section of society. Any government is expected to level up the playing field and when they add tax to it, they not only profit off it but also take a crucial commodity out from the grasp of a significant number of women.
Parents Attitude & Influence
Parents mold their children and influence their thoughts. They are the first interaction with the child and so it is important they make a healthy image and address such issues beforehand to prevent any sort of emotional discomfort, embarrassment and equip them emotionally to be ready. And this should not just be restricted to female children but also the boys should be brought up and raised in a way so that they are able to acknowledge and respect this phenomenon as they grow up. So the environment at home should ensure this acceptability among themselves and children with their growing age.
MYTHS SURROUNDING PERIODS
These are some of the prevailing common beliefs in today’s so called advanced society-
- Insertions of menstrual cups lead to loss of virginity in women.
- Every girl gets PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) while studies reveal only 5% of the women get a severe form of PMS causing irritability and mood swings.
- Intercourse during periods doesn’t lead to pregnancy.
- Don’t wash your hair while menstruating.
- Avoid exercising as it will disrupt the flow.
- Period blood is gross and impure.
While as absurd as these may sound to us, many people do believe these. This is a clear reflection of how inadequate our education system is in tackling issues of significant relevance.
PEOPLE WHO HAD WORKED OR HAVE BEEN WORKING FOR THE CAUSE
Various organizations and individuals have come forward to break the stigma surrounding periods. This is an on-going struggle for centuries and includes contribution of numerous people across the world. Many of them have dedicated their lives to better the current situation.
One of these is Arunachalam Muruganandam, recipient of National Innovation Award and listed as 100 Most Influential people in the World by TIME magazine, who was socially outcaste and ridiculed for working on pads and sanitation. He risked his income, survival and family to work on manufacturing low cost sanitary making machinery. His life is truly an inspiration. India won’t be able to tell its story of reform in society regarding periods without mentioning him.
Meghan Norean raised her voice against period being a taboo, period shaming and filling earth with trash. She along with Luke started Shomota which paid women to manufacture period products.
UGER is an organization in Rajasthan which employs women from lower socio-economic background in the making of sanitary pads. This ensures not only a means of livelihood for them but also provides them with a sense of freedom and control over their lives.
Numerous NGOs like UGER work relentlessly to spread awareness and terminate every single myth surrounding menstruation. Society and orthodox people may have chased them for doing this but they’ve stood their ground.
Scotland takes a big step. While women in India are asking for period products to be affordable, Scotland announces free period products. Anyone who requires products like pads, tampons, and menstrual cups can get it all at various public institutions, schools, libraries and leisure points. They are not only ensuring hygiene and providing a basic commodity available for all but also making these products eco-friendly. Monica Lennon was the spearheaded individual who was campaigning since 2016 to get this bill to pass.
Public Figures like Sonam Kapoor has often used her social media platform to break the stigma and even worked in movie revolving around this issue “Pad Man”. On the other, Taapsee Pannu, with her wit & sense of humor is also very vocal about such issues. Many celebrities like Aditi Rao Hydari, Dia Mirza, Diana Penty have taken part in #RedDotChallenge, a social media enrage to spread awareness and normalize talking about menstruation.
NOW IT’S HIGH TIME WE STOP PERIOD SHAMING
Well, we have come a long way, but the truth is we are still very far from achieving a safe environment where society doesn’t scrutinize periods or period products anymore. Still when a girl starts her periods while in class, she is laughed & pointed at, instead of getting a helping hand. No one deserves to be stared at the red blotch on her skirt/dress.
It’s NOW time we STOP viewing menstruation as a non-mentionable taboo and start talking about Hygiene & Periods freely to make world a comfortable & healthier place for the coming days.