I get very moody when I’m PMSing and the five days of my period are the most uncomfortable days for me – it’s painful, icky and it really limits my physical activity. However, none of these things bother me as much as the ‘secrecy’ around this ‘period’ does. I don’t understand the logic and I don’t understand why I can’t tell my boss that I can’t run around for meetings today because I have my period. Why are women supposed to carry on with their day pretending like it isn’t happening? Why must it be treated as something filthy that should be hidden? It is a natural bodily function and a very important one at that. We are allowed to take it easy at work or at school if we have, say a headache or a fever. Why can’t we take it easy when we have menstrual cramps then? Why must we pretend like they don’t exist?
When I just hit puberty, I hated getting my period. Again, not because of the pain or the discomfort they brought along with it, but because I felt dirty. I felt dirty because I felt like I was carrying around this ugly secret that the world must not know I had. I had to act, sit, and walk like I always did. I always had to be cheerful, or pretend to be at least.
I remember those days when all I wanted was to get done with school so I could go home and escape into the privacy of my own room. Doesn’t this sound so wrong? Should menstruating women really be made to feel like this? Isn’t the physical discomfort and the moodiness bad enough?
Don’t get me wrong – I am not asking for special favors or treatment, I just feel that women should have the right to express themselves. Whining when you have a fever or a headache is acceptable, but I also feel that women should have the right to whine they’re down.
A terrible consequence of this secrecy is the lack of awareness so many women still have when it comes to products for menstruation, simply because WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT! Most urban Indian women use sanitary napkins, which in my opinion are the most uncomfortable things in the world. I used them for several years myself, simply because I didn’t know any better. I was introduced to tampons only when I was around eighteen years old and I couldn’t believe that up until then, I had not known about a product that was so comfortable and one which made my period so much more bearable. I learnt about menstrual cups only recently and plan to try it out soon, given that it is also the most environmentally friendly option available.
Why is it then that women aren’t given all these choices? Is it so important to not talk about this ‘filthy ‘thing that it’s better to let girls and women instead be physically uncomfortable and self-conscious (the constant fear of staining is a source of perpetual stress during periods.)
I discovered another problem with this secrecy when I decided to tell as many girls and women as I could about tampons. I started off with my friends, extolling the virtues of a tampon when compared to a sanitary napkin and was taken aback at the responses I got:
“I don’t want my hymen to tear!”
”My mother said only married women are supposed to use these!”
”Eew, I don’t want to put my finger up there!”
(This shocked me the most – are you seriously ‘eew-ing’ your own body?)
I wouldn’t have had to hear such silly responses and meet so much opposition if we were told, right from when we hit puberty, about all the methods available for our aid, in an unbiased and objective manner so that we could make informed choices based on what we found comfortable instead of what method the society deemed as acceptable.
It’s just periods. We all know it happens and we all know that it is a very important and natural bodily function, so can we please drop this veil of secrecy around it and talk about it freely?