Why do we have to wrap our sanitary pads under the layers of paper and black polythene, as if we are buying some banned item or health hazardous product?
A guy can roam around bare chested, but a woman feels embarrassed shopping for sanitary pads, or even lingerie for herself, and we even at times end up buying wrong sizes, which may cause major health issues for us. Ever wondered that we can’t even sun dry our lingerie, feeling awkward if someone might see it hanging in the open. Instead of talking about breastfeeding, breast cancer awareness and hygiene, we promote such health issues under the wrap of marathons or celebrities.
Anything to do with women’s health and other feminine issues has become a hush-hush affair. Whereas selling of alcohol and tobacco, as well as their consumption goes on in full public view, despite the fact that these products have life threatening effects, not only for the consumer but also also to the passive smokers. The number of men who indulge in drunken driving is the largest in our country, as compared to rest of the world.
We want our girls to reach Mars, educate them, but then we deny them the everyday freedom of going out and buying basics like lingerie and pads freely. We kill girls in wombs, in want of a male child; but the one giving birth is also a girl, as men are still not capable of this, and never will be. We look for lady gynaecologists for our ladies, but kill the girl child in the womb. As girls grow, we tend to make them insecure about their bodies, but on the other side boys enjoy their puberty with sporting beards and flaunting their bodies.
Boys flaunt their newly acquired manhood and girls hide it by newly acquired straps, which they try to hide under their clothes, every now and then. Talking about the woman’s safety, a woman becomes public property, the moment she is spotted in a lane or a dark alley, even if she is returning from her job.
Charity begins at home, so before telling our girls to abide by so called societal norms, it is important to teach some ‘sanskaars’ to our boys as well.
This is a long and arduous task. A country like ours, where the preference for male child is clearly visible and the birth of a girl child is still scorned, makes the upbringing of female child rather difficult.
When she decides to marry a guy of her parents’ or her choice, the new family bond often means snapping ties with her parents and family. ‘Settling down‘ for a daughter means getting her married – now her responsibility is of the son-in-law and his parents, who are deemed to have full authority over the girl, and these in laws behave as if they have done a great favour to the girl and her parents by doing this! Of course, all this is not applicable to boys!
But all this happens much later… what happens before all this is the major cause of such mindsets. The moment a girl is born, we start worrying about her future, our expenditures, and we look at them as a birth of a loss, whereas the birth of a boy becomes or may appear as an investment for many, as they do not have to send their sons away, but get someone else’s daughter as brides for their sons.
I remember while teaching us a chapter on ‘Reproduction’, our class teacher, a Gold medalist in Biology, took separate classes for boys and girls, that too in standard ninth. We were given sanitary pads at school then, and the pad distribution in school became a major source of embarrassment for girls, and the source of amusement for the boys. During college days, a lady Professor in Botany told us that the importance of dupatta in Indian culture is to cover the female breasts, so we need to take it properly.
The lessons learnt then stay with you – even now, buying or picking up sanitary pads in a store is embarrassing, as all eyes are on us or the sanitary wear, as if we have committed some crime – the piercing eyes of those around, men and women, seem to be imagining our monthly periods! Trust me, these glances are rather uncomfortable, unless one decides to make up her mind not to be affected by it.
Can a guy even imagine, what goes on behind the usage of these pads, the amount of bleeding and cramps a woman goes through? But NO! Menstruation is considered as a taboo, and instead of being considerate about such issues pertaining to women health and hygiene, we tackle it by restricting our women from entering temples, religious places, even from cooking, and tag them as impure for those 5-7 days.
The onset of puberty, buying sanitary pads and then disposing of them has always put women in difficult situations in our country. This is a country where the moment a girl reaches puberty, parents begin to worry. How can just anyone come and misbehave with you, just because you happen to be a female? More then telling our girls about do and don’ts, we need to educate and control our boys.
If basics like these are not dealt with, how can we address the larger issues of women empowerment and safety? Women’s health has never been a big thing for health planners, or a real a cause of concern, unless it is about women as mothers – despite the fact that women undergo so many physical changes, from onset of puberty to menopause. Every girl or lady should have the free basic facilities of such health checkups, but our inhibitions and upbringing limit us, and we only turn up to doctors or gynaecologists when the situation becomes alarming or grim for that matter. No, the only thing about women’s health that interests us more is peeping inside the purchase of a lady with sanitary pads and lingerie.
I have seen my aunts in the family using cloth during their periods and washing them for reusing them, but that was a long time back. Though there is much awareness generated, women are still conditioned to feel ashamed of our monthly cycles, forgetting that nature has given us more power to endure pain in this regard. From puberty to child birth, we go through all. Then why do we consider our periods or physicality as a hindrance; it is rather our strong point! From bleeding to going through childbirth, whether it is normal or through caesarean, we are capable of bearing much more than our opposite sex – in fact we are the stronger sex!
Ladies, it’s high time that we rise from our restrictions and not let our power of productivity or our mammary glands become our hurdles. These are not given to us for feeling ashamed of our bodies but as special powers to raise life. Enough of lecturing on dressing etiquette and manners for ladies. It is for us to decide what to wear and what not to, but before that, it is important that we deal with our basic daily needs in a dignified way, instead of feeling embarrassed.
The onus of our strength and power lies with us, and for this we need to start with step one, by respecting our daily needs as necessities and not as something to be ashamed of. The howling wolfs and scavengers can only be dealt with if we start respecting our bodies and taking them as our strength and not weakness. So next time when you go out to buy sanitary wear or lingerie, do not be ashamed.
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