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An Indian Take On Gloria Steinem’s Famous Essay ‘If Men Could Menstruate’

Posted: August 3, 2016
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If men could menstruate, there would be no more menstrual taboos – for isn’t what happens to men considered to be the ‘normal’ in our society?

I was reading the book, As If Women Matter by Gloria Steinem. The entire book has taken me through a beautiful journey. But one idea that made me think over, imagine, re-think, reflect upon, deliberate, have a debate with myself and ponder upon for over an hour was, “If Men Could Menstruate”.

And this idea, apart from making me think, stirred a desire in me. A desire to break free from the unnecessary regime I have to live with. A desire to slaughter the questions I do not want to answer. A desire to live in a world I want to create on my own. A world that is different from the world now. A world where not the women but where the men would menstruate.

But then I began contemplating – what would happen if men began to menstruate in the current world that we live in? Ah! This thought is something I could not get rid of. Where the men would menstruate – let me help you imagine what would happen. Here you go:

Menstruation would be considered holy

First, the Gods would also menstruate. Though we have a number of female Gods in Hinduism, none of them menstruate in the current world. Even Ma Kamakhya, the Goddess of fertility, menstruates only once a year. But in my world, the male Gods, the Holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), the Hanumans and the Ganeshas, all of them would menstruate. None would be spared. And they would menstruate every month, just like us. And when Gods begin to menstruate, it will be holy.

Not a taboo

Every child would know about menstruation from a very young age – just the way they know about shaving and brushing teeth in the world of today. This topic would find place in children’s books to equip them with lessons in self-care, hygiene and grooming. May be teachers would teach “M for Menstruation” in school. After all, when dads menstruate, it cannot be shameful. It will be a matter of pride and would be spoken about openly.

Going to temple during menstruation would bring more luck and blessings

No, going to temple while menstruating would not be taboo anymore. Instead, it would be the most sought after things to do. Mothers would advise their sons to visit temples and pray to Gods on all the five days that they menstruate. They would say, “Beta, this will bring healthy cycles to you and keep you away from irregularities in your periods”. And there are chances that the Gods would bless them doubly for praying during these five days and ease them of that cramp in the stomach during their next period.

Songs will be written on this subject

Like lullabies, women would sing songs to ease the pain and discomfort of her son when he first begins to menstruate. Mothers wouldn’t cry when sons begin to menstruate (like how they do in some parts of India when daughters start menstruating). Like birth of a son in India, menstruation of the son would also be considered an auspicious occasion. There would be a big dinner party where people will bring gifts to congratulate the boy for his achievement. And why shouldn’t they? After all, menstruating is a sign of good health of the boys, isn’t it? Families and friends would get together and pray for his better health and healthy cycles during his lifetime.

Swayamvars would have included questions like these

As mentioned by Gloria Steinem, boys would discuss about how much and how long (pun intended) in this ‘men menstruating world’. Before giving the hand of a daughter in marriage, the parents would want to ensure that the boy is affluent and has good health. So, in addition to questions about job and salary, the girl’s parents would also ask boys how much and how long. May be the swayamvars in the epics would be different. Rather than display of physical strength they would write about endurance in a different way. E.g.: “The king kept riding on his horse despite his menstrual cramps and discomfort and managed to defeat the army of the rivals. The princess was enthralled by this and fell in love with the king…..”

The characters in Indian TV soaps would menstruate

In the current world, there are two things that never happen in these soaps – i) the characters never die; ii) the women never have PMS.

In my world, the men in these series would menstruate. Suddenly in some episode we will see someone saying, “Aaj hamare bete Aarav ko bleed karte hue dus saal ho gaye hai. Isi khushi me humne aap sabko yahan bulaya hai.” (Our son Aarav completes ten years of bleeding today. We have invited you here to celebrate this occasion). And lo! The trend would begin. The middle class Indian household would soon start hosting parties to celebrate successful completion of the son’s bleeding year after year. And what would this day be called? “Blooday”, probably?

Women in India would fast for the healthy menstrual cycle of their husbands

And just like Karva Chauth (an Indian ritual where women fast for their husband’s long life), we would have another day to celebrate. And we would have another day where women would go hungry.

PMS would be considered as normal

It would be a criminal offence to say someone is PMSing when one is in a bad mood. The fact that hormones are at the lowest level during this period would be considered as normal and not something to be made mockery of. There will be anti-PMS joke groups all over and a revolution would have begun at the drop of a hat.

The advertisement industry

The washing powder ads would have lines like these – “Kya aap apne bete aur pati ke stained undergarments aur trousers se pareshan hai? Kya unko in stains ki wajah se promotion nahi mil raha?” (Are you troubled with your husband’s and son’s stained undergarments and trousers? Is he not yet promoted because of these stains?). And then they would produce powders and detergent bars that would wash off these stains without much hard work. And may be a stain would not be considered as something that people need to whisper about. And yes, the ads about sanitary napkins would not begin with a “Shhh…”. It would begin with drum rolls to grab everyone’s attention.

Names of sanitary napkins

Instead of names like ‘Whisper’, ‘Azad pads’ and ‘Stayfree’, they would be named ‘The Red Blood Revenge’, ‘Truefitt Monthly’, ‘Macho fives’, ‘Menstrual freedom’, etc. And they would have taglines like, ‘We are because we bleed’, ‘We bleed and that’s why we are men’, ‘We are free and therefore we menstruate’ and so on and so forth.

There is a possibility that another thing will happen in my world. As Gloria Steinem says, maybe housewives would wound themselves every month to participate in their husband’s pain. This is something that I would never like to see in any world whether or not MEN WOULD MENSTRUATE.

Published here earlier.

Image source: wiki commons

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