I have been meaning to write this for a long time.
Let’s talk about ‘Menstruation’
Despite the fact that menstruation is a topic which still remains a taboo in this country. Even after 17 years into the 21st century, in majority areas of the country, it is talked about in hushed tones. So let us talk about menstruation, not just for the benefit of women but also for men.
- In most cases, the only time a child, boy or girl, encounters talks about menstruation is in biology class in 10th. The ones who opt for PCB in this country, get to study about it more and then those who go on to do MBBS, study about it further. But let’s be real, the percentage of those who study about menstruation in detail is negligible in comparison to those who don’t. Even in class 10 Biology class, the chapter on menstruation is mostly interspersed with giggles and embarrassing nods and the most basic lesson is lost. The basic lesson being – menstruation is a normal biological process, a process which occurs every month and is a sign of a healthy reproductive system in women.
- We never really study the cultural implications of menstruation in this country. One of the basic example of cultural implication being that women are not allowed inside a temple when they are menstruating. And thus, a process which is purely biological and has nothing to do with the character or devotion of a person becomes a medium of shunning a gender for five days a month, for an average forty years of their life. Now, we must consider that worshiping god and observing rituals is a way of life for most women in this country, but for those five days, these women are prohibited from practicing something that provides ‘meaning’ to their life. (this is not my personal opinion, just something I observed.)
- Even for the millennial women, who do not believe in rituals, the cultural implications are still in place. So even though, they may not be interested in worshiping or going to the temple, it is difficult to avoid the persecution which comes along if they happen to do something (by mistake) which is prohibited to women who are menstruating, such as touching a pickle jar.
- In India, it is widely believed that if a menstruating woman so much as touches a pickle jar, the pickles inside would rot. It does not happen. It never happens. I am not a fan of pickles, but by some stroke of luck I have happened to crave pickles exactly when I am menstruating. I have touched the jar, I have taken pickle out and nothing happened. Nada. The pickle has remained as good as ever.
- I may face persecution for this or may not, I don’t really care but I have gone to temples when I was menstruating. Nothing happened. I am doing pretty okay for myself.
- There are many communities in India which celebrate a girl’s entry to puberty and invite friends over for a feast when a girl begins menstruating. By doing so these communities celebrate a woman’s fertility. While, it is good to see that certain communities do not treat menstruation as some dirty secret, in my personal opinion, the idea behind celebrating fertility also sends a message that it is a woman’s duty to bear children. And let us not get into the whole idea of how infertile women are treated in this society (we will keep that topic for some other day.)
- Let us treat menstruation as what it is. A biological process. It happens every month. Generally, a menstruation cycle is of 28 days. In some women this can exceed by a few days and in some women it can happen a few days earlier. Women, while menstruating, undergo menstrual cramps. Some women find these cramps bearable, some don’t. Some women may take medicine to ease out the pain, some don’t. Chocolate certainly helps during cramps. So does keeping your bullshit in your mind and not blurt it out to them.
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Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash