The Period Taboo

August 19, 2015 Written By Saumya Surbhi

Chances are that you have already come across the article about a woman who ran the London marathon without a tampon on her period.(“Here’s why I ran the London Marathon on the first day of my period – and chose not to wear a tampon” -Kiran Gandhi)Kiran Gandhi committed these greatest of social faux pas (the plural is the same but pronounced “PAH-Z” I googled) to make a point, to bring menstruation out from the proverbial shadows.

I know what you are thinking: “How dare she? Was it the blood loss that led to this decision? Do we really need a woman flaunting her period stained pants instead of hiding in embarrassment that the men-folk have seen this travesty? Where are the town elders when we need them? Are those pitchforks pointy enough?”

We are now bombarded with women’s voices, expressions of their sufferings at the hands of the patriarchy. There are women-centric shows and books with female protagonists who have somehow successfully navigated the treacherous terrain of the menstrual cycle by avoiding discussing it altogether. Other than the jokes made around the crazy this inspires in women, very little is said otherwise about it. As rewarding it is to see the discomfort this rouses in men, the question remains: why IS this so uncomfortable?

Why do we keep getting sanitary pads wrapped in newspapers which somehow work as an even more effective attention drawing device than a neon light sign? How is period never discussed by female protagonists of books? Are they just not getting their periods? Is that not a matter of concern?

Any girl or woman’s attention is arrested by her period for about ten days every month whether it is cramps, mood changes, bleeding or the general anxiety of getting it at the wrong place at the wrong time. That is 120 a year or roughly 4 months in a year. That is an awful lot of time fretting about something that half the population is trying to avert their eyes from. This taboo exists not only among men, but sadly also amongst women who are often ashamed to discuss this.

The taboo has had grave consequences. Menstruation is still hidden in many parts of the world. In rural India, where women do not have access to sanitary pads (only 12% of Indian women have access to sanitary pads), this taboo is even greater1. Women see it as a curse that makes them unclean. The cloth used in lieu of sanitary pads is washed with stealth and dried not under the sun but covertly under the bed, an unhygienic practice that is a major cause of reproductive diseases for women. Not content to hamper only women’s private lives, the great period monster also forces one in five girls in India to drop out of school owing to the discomfort caused by lack of sanitary pads and places to change, if needed2. (Research says people are 87% more likely to be convinced if there are statistics involved. You believed me for a millisecond there. This one is made up, but all the rest are true.) This makes it not a woman problem but rather a human problem since it severely limits the participation in the public sphere by half the workforce.

As flattered as I am that men can barely look me in the eye when the subject of menstruation comes up as if I’m suddenly surrounded by a blinding light, the way companies insist on showing our blood to be blue like we are some sort of nobility, I urge them to treat us like common people though it might be against their very instincts.

We need to talk about our menstrual cycle because it is not a curse that should be suffered in silence for all the great sins Woman has committed. We need to discuss it because there are large parts of the world in which women are still hiding, ashamed to talk to even their mothers about this “disease”. We need to bring it to the fore because only then can we ensure that sanitary pads and tampons are not luxury items but essentials. We need to end this bad blood with this great period monster.

To defeat this monster, please visit here for information and commonly held myths about the menstrual cycle.

  1. George, Rose. “My Period May Hurt: But Not Talking about Menstruation Hurts More.” The Guardian. N.p., 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Aug. 2015. 

      2. Jha, Rupa. “100 Women 2014: The Taboo of Menstruating in India.” BBC News. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Aug. 2015. 

The Period Taboo

August 19, 2015 Written By Saumya Surbhi

Chances are that you have already come across the article about a woman who ran the London marathon without a tampon on her period.(“Here’s why I ran the London Marathon on the first day of my period – and chose not to wear a tampon” -Kiran Gandhi)Kiran Gandhi committed these greatest of social faux pas (the plural is the same but pronounced “PAH-Z” I googled) to make a point, to bring menstruation out from the proverbial shadows.

I know what you are thinking: “How dare she? Was it the blood loss that led to this decision? Do we really need a woman flaunting her period stained pants instead of hiding in embarrassment that the men-folk have seen this travesty? Where are the town elders when we need them? Are those pitchforks pointy enough?”

We are now bombarded with women’s voices, expressions of their sufferings at the hands of the patriarchy. There are women-centric shows and books with female protagonists who have somehow successfully navigated the treacherous terrain of the menstrual cycle by avoiding discussing it altogether. Other than the jokes made around the crazy this inspires in women, very little is said otherwise about it. As rewarding it is to see the discomfort this rouses in men, the question remains: why IS this so uncomfortable?

Why do we keep getting sanitary pads wrapped in newspapers which somehow work as an even more effective attention drawing device than a neon light sign? How is period never discussed by female protagonists of books? Are they just not getting their periods? Is that not a matter of concern?

Any girl or woman’s attention is arrested by her period for about ten days every month whether it is cramps, mood changes, bleeding or the general anxiety of getting it at the wrong place at the wrong time. That is 120 a year or roughly 4 months in a year. That is an awful lot of time fretting about something that half the population is trying to avert their eyes from. This taboo exists not only among men, but sadly also amongst women who are often ashamed to discuss this.

The taboo has had grave consequences. Menstruation is still hidden in many parts of the world. In rural India, where women do not have access to sanitary pads (only 12% of Indian women have access to sanitary pads), this taboo is even greater1. Women see it as a curse that makes them unclean. The cloth used in lieu of sanitary pads is washed with stealth and dried not under the sun but covertly under the bed, an unhygienic practice that is a major cause of reproductive diseases for women. Not content to hamper only women’s private lives, the great period monster also forces one in five girls in India to drop out of school owing to the discomfort caused by lack of sanitary pads and places to change, if needed2. (Research says people are 87% more likely to be convinced if there are statistics involved. You believed me for a millisecond there. This one is made up, but all the rest are true.) This makes it not a woman problem but rather a human problem since it severely limits the participation in the public sphere by half the workforce.

As flattered as I am that men can barely look me in the eye when the subject of menstruation comes up as if I’m suddenly surrounded by a blinding light, the way companies insist on showing our blood to be blue like we are some sort of nobility, I urge them to treat us like common people though it might be against their very instincts.

We need to talk about our menstrual cycle because it is not a curse that should be suffered in silence for all the great sins Woman has committed. We need to discuss it because there are large parts of the world in which women are still hiding, ashamed to talk to even their mothers about this “disease”. We need to bring it to the fore because only then can we ensure that sanitary pads and tampons are not luxury items but essentials. We need to end this bad blood with this great period monster.

To defeat this monster, please visit here for information and commonly held myths about the menstrual cycle.

  1. George, Rose. “My Period May Hurt: But Not Talking about Menstruation Hurts More.” The Guardian. N.p., 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Aug. 2015. 

      2. Jha, Rupa. “100 Women 2014: The Taboo of Menstruating in India.” BBC News. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Aug. 2015. 

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