“Why does the chemist feel the need to wrap a sanitary pad in a pitch-black bag?”
“Why do we need to make up some excuse for our absence when it was actually due to menstrual cramps?”
“Why is the topic of menstruation conveniently skipped by our biology teachers?”
“Why period is a word abhorred in society?”
Such questions have always intrigued me and this is what has propelled me to openly discuss the ‘Menstrual Taboo’
I remember sobbing in my mom’s lap when I had my menarche. I knew that every girl goes through this phase in her life yet I could not help crying as I was way too terrified and shaken. My mother tried her level best to soothe me by telling me how menarche is a sign of fertility and that we as women should feel blessed as we have the power to reproduce and continue life in this world, which sets us apart from the opposite sex. At that moment, her words did serve the purpose of calming the young girl within me but growing up I realized that the majority of the people do not view menstruation the way she does. In fact, there is a huge taboo associated with menstruation worldwide, especially in India.
In most societies, menstruating women are considered “unclean” and “impure”. They are not permitted to enter the kitchen and places of worship. It is a shame how they are not only isolated and debarred from all kinds of social and cultural activities but also treated more or less like untouchables though there are no scientific or logical arguments to justify the practice of these widely accepted social norms. Such taboos and the harsh social treatment meted out to girls affect them both emotionally and mentally and lower their self- esteem.
There is a pool of creative names used to refer to periods so that there is no explicit mention of the word, especially in front of men. Instead of educating our boys about menstruation so that they too grow sensitive to it and understand what girls go through during their periods, we keep it as discreet as possible as if it is something deplorable. Menstruation is caused due to ovulation followed by the shedding of the endometrium which causes bleeding. I fail to understand how a natural part of the reproductive system could be so embarrassing that it needs to be concealed. It is ironic how we talk about future technology to flaunt our modern outlook while we shy away from publicly talking about a biological phenomenon pivotal to the existence of life on earth.
It is sad how menstruation which should have made women embrace their uniqueness, serves to embarrass them even in the 21st century. Menstrual taboos are so deeply ingrained in our psychology, cultures, and beliefs that we can’t expect society’s perception of menstruation to change overnight. But at least we all, young, mature adults can make efforts to come out of our rut of narrow-mindedness and abandon the unreasonable social ideology handed over to us by our forefathers. It is high time that we all accept it just like any other natural phenomenon and talk openly about it without any feeling of discomfort or embarrassment.
Suneela Garg and Tanu Anand. “Menstruation related myths in India: strategies for combating it.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4408698/