If you are a regular cine-goer, you’d have noticed that every Indian movie theatre is nowadays running an advertisement where the macho film hero goes and advocates the importance of sanitary napkins to a common man. The man smirked at the mention of ‘Menstruation’. And that’s exactly the best description of our society in a 70mm shot.
It’s the 21st century and surprisingly we are still ‘discussing’ a normal function of the human body like a gang of clammed up species. Whether Menstruation came as God’s curse to Eve, is something only the two of them can clarify, but it has definitely been there ever since. And so are the omnipresent gap-mouthed reactions and zipping of lips as soon as the word ‘periods’ is uttered.
Birth, death, sickness, growth, handicap, men look a certain way, women look a certain way - all these things are so normal that they are discussed in Philosophy classes, and even merit an entire book! Then there is the Menstrual Cycle.
What makes this one, particularly natural process, different from all the others?
Risk, embarrassment, awkwardness: how do these adjectives suddenly come into play when it comes to periods?
Why is there even a need to advocate or educate men about periods?
Sadly, there is. And there’s a long long way to go on that road.
While there have been long-drawn taboos around periods, the majority of it traces back to the lack of information and education. The Indian myths about menstruation and impurity can be traced back to the Vedic period, c. 1500–600 BCE.
“Women shouldn’t come to temples in those days. Keep them confined to certain areas of the house. Do not wear whites. Bleeding women are dirty and impure. Virgins shouldn’t use tampons. Don’t touch the pickle, you’ll turn it sour. When talking about it in public, turn almost mute on the word ‘Pad’. Keep particular period-safe clothes for those days of the month. Why not cancel swimming/workouts than taking the risk?”
As much important it is to quash these myths, reinforcing the fact that it’s as normal a body function for women as breathing is of equal significance. The idea that the word ‘Periods’ needs to be ushered in a quietude or is meant only for the fairer sex to be heard, needs to go.
“Sanitary napkins need not be sold wrapped in a newspaper. Women shouldn’t hide their menstruation like an old prophecy. Those runs to the washroom with sanitary napkins tucked in the hem is a bad idea. Making sure that the men of the house don’t get to know of ‘it’ is an even worse idea.”
This is where the awareness has to stem from. This is all that we need to outgrow and unlearn.
Heading back to what originally triggered these exaggerated schools of thought about menstruation is futile, and of course a long debate. What needs to be attended to immediately is the repulsive approach that continues to rule our world – of males and females alike. Whatever varied reasons they might have had, the harsh truth is it has come from both the attitude of men and women. For men, out of the knowledge of the unknown and for women, from the acceptance of the abominations of the known.
So, what is the solution to addressing the elephant in the room? The key insights which should make up men’s guide to periods: communication and education. Crystal clear communication between the two genders and educating both sexes on the normalcy of the whole deal.
Women need to stop hiding their periods like it’s an issue, a disease. It’s a regular monthly body function and that’s exactly how it has to be seen. It does not make you impure. Men on the other hand must stop being ‘uncomfortable’ with the mention of Menstruation. Remember, it’s not you but the ladies who bleed, who handle all the pain, irritation, PMSing and body changes. Making it sound like a hot potato is not the kind of contribution the society wants from you.
If there’s a need to talk about sexual health, mental health then most definitely there’s a need to discuss Menstruation as well. Women ought not hide that they are on periods. Women bleed, five days a month, and it’s time that men get used to the fact. And that is what contributes to the building of the human race. There is no mortification to it.
Let’s stop the whispers and hushed baritones, let’s stop with those stolen glances. Let’s stop the portrayal of blood in sanitary napkin advertisements in blue. Let’s discern from feeling ‘shame and scare’ when talking about periods. Let’s stop the uncomfortable silence. Let’s stop PERIOD SHAMING. And let’s educate men to end the stigma around this.