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Women deserve to be aware and well-informed about the various options available to them when it comes to menstruation, contraception and personal hygiene.
“Don’t sleep straight for too long, don’t turn on your side and forget to shift again, don’t sleep on your stomach, don’t sit for too long.”
In the hours during which most people let their bodies unwind and relax, a woman has to stay alert because periods are so unforgiving. So many rules to follow, and the absent-minded me. Despite it being 10 years since the first bloom of puberty, I am still far from getting used to this regime. Even as an adult, I manage to stain. I cringe or cry, whichever comes first.
When I look back at how this journey into womanhood began, I want to kick my 13-year-old self for not asking all the right questions; instead, I mechanically nodded my head while I took in instructions. Like they say, half-truths can be dangerous.
Sanitary pads, sanitary pads and more sanitary pads were shoved down our throats. By our family, by our teachers and all those strange people who would visit our school to talk to us about ‘the changes that our bodies would be going through’ while conveniently dodging half the relevant information. Now, I feel trapped, stuck with a gynaecologist who constantly says, “it’s normal, it’s normal” or suggests a hundred different tests and assumes I’m not sexually active since I’m unmarried.
Everyone just assumes. Like they assume we love sanitary pads. What else could we do when we were given limitations, instead of answers?
As a growing young woman, I felt I had every right to know about all kinds of available modes, medications and options in this aspect rather than a hurried 15-minutes speech before my wedding night.
It reminds me of a prominent part in George Orwell’s 1984 – Newspeak. ‘Introducing smaller, more concise words to tunnel the freedom to think beyond.’
I read about tampons in old copies of American teen-aimed magazines in a resident library. For the longest time, I didn’t know what they were; until a few months ago when I finally mustered up all the courage I could and decided to give it a try. I was often told they were more comfortable than sanitary pads. My mother’s first response to this was “No, they’re awful and uncomfortable.” “Really? Did you try it?” I asked. She said no. It did not surprise me in the slightest. It’s the idea of it that made her uncomfortable. When I eventually did try my very first tampon months ago, I was so relieved. No more rashes, no dampness and finally, I could sleep comfortably at night. ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me of this before?’ was my first thought. I could have easily saved years of discomfort and sleepless, stain-conscious nights.
Going back a bit, I was just shy of 21 when I sat across a male gynaecologist who refused to tell me anything about daily birth control pills. “No. If you must, then use condoms,” he half scolded me. I honestly had no intentions of using them. When a friend told me she uses daily contraception and that it helped regulate her flow and reduced cramps, it peaked my interest and I desired to know more. As a growing young woman, I felt I had every right to know about all kinds of available modes, medications and options in this aspect rather than a hurried 15-minutes speech before my wedding night.
I tried to talk to more doctors and friends with the prospect of gathering as much info as I could. I wasn’t surprised to find that a majority of my peers were as clueless as me, furthermore deeming the usage of contraception as unsafe. My peers also felt similarly about the utilization of anything other than sanitary napkins. To prove the degree of awareness, I conducted a short survey on social media asking 400 women of age 18 and above to participate.
As women, it is imperative for us to know of the devices available to us, so that we can find out what works for us and what doesn’t, without getting swayed
To start with, 84 per cent women use sanitary pads, 11 per cent use tampon and 5 per cent said to be using the menstrual cup. Getting down to how and how much they knew of tampons, 37 per cent of women said they’ve heard about it from their friends and an abysmal 2 per cent were informed by their gynaecologist. Even out of this, only 23 per cent of the women were well aware of how tampons worked. A similar figure was seen in regards to daily birth control pills, only 30 per cent women knew. And how they knew? A good 40 per cent said the Internet was their source. Only 24 per cent said they were told by a doctor. Other interesting answers were that their boyfriends or partners informed them of birth control or that they heard of tampons and birth control in movies.
Either way, it boils down to one thing. We aren’t told the whole truth. We rely on secondary sources like the Internet to understand our biological concerns, which is not always the safest bet. At some point, if my niece approaches me with concerns, I would take it as my duty to tell her what she needs to know. For this, I need to be open-minded to at least, listen to her so that she can trust me and talk to me without hesitation. Aside from this, knowing the details first-hand from a doctor should be the best available primary source.
As women, it is imperative for us to know of the devices available to us, so that we can find out what works for us and what doesn’t, without getting swayed. Even if we are uncertain, honest and unaltered guidance should be available. The door for approachability has to be open for all, unbiased and regardless. Knowing too much, especially in a case like this, is definitely a boon.
Image of elements related to a woman’s hygiene via Shutterstock
A rebellious 20-something Indian girl living in the Middle East, documenting my experiences and observations growing up in a patriarchal society, hoping to strike a cord with women who have experienced similarly.
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).