Vagina & Menstruation – Let’s talk about it!
The article’s title should give you an obvious idea of what this blog will be about. If not, It’s about vaginas and women’s natural monthly cycles. As a body part that half the world is born with, and is the reason the other half exists, I can’t help wonder why we dare not speak about it in public without the entire audience being disgusted.
With the buzz about Akshay Kumar’s upcoming movie, PadMan, there’s no better time to talk about the black wrap and secrecy around sanitary napkins that doesn’t seem to fade away with time. If you go to a medical store to purchase sanitary napkins around India; they wrap them in black plastic or multiple layers of newspaper.
A regular bodily function labelled wrong!
As a teenager who was first introduced to the concept of menstruation and my vagina bleeding every month, I wondered if all the secrecy around speaking about it meant it was wrong? The first time I told a man at the pharmacy that I wouldn’t need a bag for the napkins, he insisted that I should take one. He looked at me as if I had broken the law and wrapped the sanitary pad packet in heaps of newspaper.
Every month women bleed, have cramps and mood swings, yet they aren’t allowed to speak up, or they would be labelled and teased about it. The norm is that cramps are wrong or unholy, as if women commit to the wrong side by allowing their vaginas to bleed. Which if they didn’t, ironically, they’d have to visit a doctor. These subtle opinions, views and regulations around vaginas and their functions affirm thoughts of imperfection in young girls; they reaffirm the idea that they are less than or not good enough because they partake in a profane act every calendar month.
Norms around Periods
As articles on the Guardian and CNN attest, menstrual customs in our country range from harsh conditions such as sleeping on the floor and banishment from regular life for the course of the cycle to avoiding temples, religious institutions and some rooms in the house. What might seem like sheer regulations leave their shadows on young girls. They tell her that a regular bodily function is wrong or that she belongs to the imperfect sex. Instead of teaching young women to love themselves, we are teaching them they are flawed.
While this article might seem like a personal rant, women should come out and share their stories. Stories of how they grew past the stigma of their monthly cycles. We should speak up and out loud until every little girl or teenager around the country gets all the help she needs, to love her body. Let’s speak up until advertisements for pads stop using blue water and start showing blood. Why not speak up until parents no longer use menstruation as an excuse to ban their daughters from entering temples. We need to speak up for as long as young girls are not comfortable with their bodies. Lastly, we should speak up for the sake of us.
Movies like PadMan are much needed to create mass awareness on a topic that affects millions of women. Releasing on January 25th, I can’t wait to see if PadMan is successful in smashing the shame and taboo around menstruation. Don’t forget to watch the movie with your brothers/fathers/boyfriends/daughters & significant others.
About the Author
Vidhatri Pattapu is a feminist and sociology undergraduate student interested in making this world a more equal and safe space for people of every gender, race, ethnicity and nationality.