To quash the taboos around menstruation, we don’t have to believe that menstruation is divine. We only need to accept that women and their bodies are human.
Menstruation has somehow been the topic of the season for a while. People slept, ran and selfied in what they believed to be a statement, a protest.
In Kolkata (where I come from), the city which if not anything else, at least stands today as the face of Student Revolution, (it remains to be seen how many remain with the revolution and how much, after the fire of the moment tapers off) – they launched a new, landmark style of protest. They wrote activist slogans on sanitary napkins – to be clicked and displayed, to flood the visual media with what they, again in their very own way, considered a protest, and awareness drive.
As would be usual and predictable, we on social media have adequately, if not excessively, followed up these sudden surges with a full-mouthed sharing, apparent caring and a-little-too-uncomfortable debating! While it seemed that many of us were absolutely sure they were doing some good by doing what they were doing, at times in their hearts we did wonder, in secret, to what extent were they doing the good that they thought they must be doing.
Because, while on one the hand they had the fire of protest, the other, which should have carried a reason and objective, well defined and understood, often lay empty!
Don’t misunderstand me, when I say: I do not know which side to take. While you can support their zeal, you lose your way when it comes to asking yourself what you want to achieve, what they want to achieve, through it.
But then, that was just the first part of the game!
Soon, what followed is this: There started being drafted and crafted many an opinion forming article. To be fair, quite a few of them, very correctly, argued against the existing taboos and social evils that stem out of ‘menses’ – the untouchability, the unacceptability, the social and familial ban and exclusions in the name of religious traditions and social conventions.
And then the next step – inevitable yet fearsome – happened. A plethora of half-baked, socially charged up theses on ‘science’ and ‘religion’ around menses erupted!
To refute the traditional practices around menses that ban a menstruating woman from the kitchen, from the temples, and even from the bed, some activists now came up with a counter theory. A ‘pedestal’ theory – if you know what I am talking about. They claimed purity of the menstrual blood, they talked about the strength and vigour of a menstruating woman that is, supposedly, so fierce that even God (if there is one, or many, or whatever!) fears her and keeps her away.
They talked about the sheer superiority of womanhood. They proposed deification and super-natural theories, sounding serious and scientific, and more so, pleasing! They talked about women not being mere humans, because… well, because they menstruate!
Now, that’s plain dangerous! That’s – trust me – no less dangerous than the taboos that it is supposed to counter in the first place. And, as we mindlessly go about hitting the likes and the shares – do we not, absolutely, need to stop and think of the many what’s and how’s?
Consider this, fellow divine women! Do you feel braver, stronger, kinder during those days of the month any more than what you, by your nature, are? Do you feel more benevolent, more charitable, more selfless, anymore than what you are, because it is that time? Does menstruation bring about in you any extra virtue, some additional conscience, some excess brain power, a superior heart, than your very own originals?
Do you need this theory, really? And are you good to trade this theory with what you want but never had, with what you want to claim? Would you want to believe it just because it sounds good, unaware that it is but a different means to reach the very same end?
No. Please, don’t be!
Remember (Oh, please do!) – social taboos on menstruation cannot be defended with the eyewash of respect. Pedestals have never helped us in any way other than promoting discriminations and disparities. Negative or positive, a larger than life interpretation of menstruation does not help women in any way.
We should, we must, know what we fight for. We must understand what we need to fight for. We need to fight against the evils. While we must absolutely stop the practices under which girls are made to sleep on floors and wipe themselves with rags, and not enter the kitchen or not allowed to wash their hair or stopped from going to schools, we should not, never, be fooled into a myth that they should not do all these same things because they are ‘divine’ and superhuman.
Pedestals are only an alternative, smarter, suave form of discrimination, an excuse for unfairness, a tool for disparity. In our struggle for human rights, we should not give up the very same human rights in the name of deification, in the eyewash of pedestals.
May we have the courage to fight for our rights. And, at the very same time, may we also have the strength to refuse the worship. May we have the have the sanity to ask for what is right and not be fooled, trapped and trumped anymore!
We do not, do not, accept belonging either at the feet or above the head. We just want our ground, a ground below our feet, just beside the other kind, the opposite sex.
We are not evil because we menstruate. We are not divine because we do. May we – just – be equals!
top image via Shutterstock
Sinjini Sengupta is the award-winning author of “ELIXIR” which is a fiction themed on
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