Why talk about ‘periods’ in a hushed voice? Let’s kill all menstruation taboos!
Menstruation is a natural process just like birth, aging, and death. It is simply a mechanism by which the body of most female mammals functions. It is a reflection of reproductive health. It is absolutely not a rare phenomenon.
Nearly two billion women undergo menstruation every once a month. Why then is periods such a ‘talk behind closed doors’ topic even today?
Even though we’ve made much progress when it comes to topics like ‘menstruation’, many societies see women who have periods as impure and regard them as ailing. There is a certain shame factor still associated with periods in many sections of our society.
Menstruation taboos have given rise to situations where girls and women are not allowed to cook or even enter the kitchen. Some families think it is inappropriate to enter a devotional and religious place during periods. Things are not supposed to be touched, eaten, cooked, wore, or even said. Is it a woman’s fault that her ovaries are fully functioning and healthy?
Apparently, saying the word ‘menstruation’ in an audible voice is an unaccepted behavior. The norm is to either say ‘those days’ in a low whisper or look at the other person with a cunning smile until she can figure it out.
Each family has different code words and signs that the females use with giggles and hushed sounds which subconsciously teaches the younger one that it is shameful that her body is fit, healthy and functioning on the rules of biology.
When I spoke to my grandma about periods for the first time, she looked at me in disbelief and cringed with her eyes looking like she had tasted a sour fruit. She said it was the first time she was addressing the topic directly. She could never be so open and bold to talk about it.
Now when I talk to her about it, she finds it liberating and pleasant to discuss how the menstruation taboos have changed and minimized over the course of time. She tells me stories of her youth when she lived in a joint family where women who had periods didn’t cook or work in the household. She would like the first day of rest and a holiday from routine but eventually found herself bored and hated seeing others pull off her load.
With every generation, the liberties and consciousness on the topic improved. My mother doesn’t follow the social implications and menstruation taboos that my grandma did. She doesn’t give herself a holiday but we all try to be helpful to her if she’s feeling down.
She cooks everything she likes. She isn’t hesitant to admit that she gets tired easily during periods and sometimes hormonal imbalance causes her to have mood swings. We both laugh off any tension that was created during those mood swings. An environment of understanding is created.
I was well prepared for my first period. Not only had my mother given me all required knowledge but she had also encouraged me to go to a lecture where everything surrounding periods was explained in depth. I knew it wasn’t a disease, ailment or something to be ashamed of even before I had it. This gave me the confidence and self belief to joyously greet my first period.
I don’t follow any sort of menstruation taboo or stigma and logically reason with my mother and grandma who find it astounding but don’t object. We have the best kind of relationship where we don’t force our beliefs on each other.
Being comfortable with talking about periods, when given an opportunity, I decided to volunteer for an NGO which had a stall for awareness on menstruation. A street was blocked for people to play, dance, etc. We made sure that whoever came to the stall and played with any equipment didn’t go without a basic knowledge about periods and the false stigmas around it.
There were many parents (mostly mothers) who came to us with their daughters and took active participation in awareness development of their child. Some of them even brought their sons. I saw some wives bringing their husbands. With this appreciable response, there were also many families who shied away and when passing from there, made sure their children’s eyes were looking elsewhere. I saw faces going blank after realizing where they found themselves.
I also encountered a journalist from a local news channel who despite the banners and slogans, wanted to interview us for ‘meditation awareness’. After correcting him twice, he ran the fastest run when he discovered what the awareness drive was actually for.
All superstitions can be curbed with knowledge. All code words, hesitation, hushed whispers, stigmas, taboos can be shown the way out if proper knowledge, awareness, and equipments are spread. Only bad things have to be kept hidden.
Periods is not a bad thing. It is a part of nature and nature is pure and grand in all its forms. If at all there is one thing to do, let us decide to not hesitate shouting ‘PMS’ as loudly as we can shout ‘life’.
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