We are living in a purportedly modern era, where information is on our fingertips and we are on our way to be a knowledgeable society.
But, when it comes to menstruation or more commonly known as periods, we Indians are an abashed lot, be it male or female. We are so indisposed to talk about periods, we don’t call periods as it is, preferring to term it as ‘women’s problem/dilemma, three days problem, theetu, suttham illeh (unclean), thale mulugiruchu, mayil, the time of the month and cannot go to temple/prayers altar time,’ anything but menstruation or plainly periods. It’s like uttering the latter words is sinning.
Ironically though, we Indians practically tell the whole world when a girl gets her first periods – she attending puberty is much hyped and celebrated with pomp and splendour. Then, hypocritically, we, Indian females are told by our mothers, grandmothers and aunts to guard the ensuing menstrual cycle very closely, especially from males and even husband.
Here’s Arunachalam Muruganandam broaching this subject of high confidentiality and taboo:
Notice the man, Arunachalam mentioning that even future doctors (women) are reluctant to talk about this issue on periods. When you go to shops to buy sanitary pads, the shopkeeper would wrap it in a newspaper as quickly as he could, give it to you and give you a look that says, “Atha vanthe vele mudinchu le, edathe gaali pannu,” as though you are making clandestine, unlawful business.
Most of us last learnt about periods in Form 3 Science and Form 4 Biology if you chose the Science stream. I can undoubtedly testify that our teachers skim through the Reproduction chapter in Form 3 science subject as swiftly as they can to avoid questions especially in coed secondary schools. I went to an all girls school and my Form 3 science teacher was a Malay male trainee teacher – he browsed through the Reproduction chapter at supersonic speed.
It is not uncommon for students in all girls schools faking period cramps to avoid PT class and assembly and screaming, “Who has a pad??!!” Been there, done it.
Periods are not a shame – they are a part of a girl’s life
We are made ashamed to tell our brothers (especially younger) why we take longer in the bathroom, why we can’t follow the family to the temple, why we skip school when we don’t apparently have signs of fever or cold, etc. If we have to tell it, we are conditioned to tell with eyes downcast and head hung low in a hushed, apologetic intonation, as if we had done something wrong. It’s akin to saying being born female is shameful. Worst, we are deemed dirty during menstruation.
I can safely say that every guy watches porn but are at a dead end when it comes to details about periods, especially Indian guys. Guys don’t think twice to say the F word but become spineless when menstruation is brought up. I’d say Indian guys should get to know the sciences involved in menstruation, PMS, hormonal imbalance, cravings, emotional roller coaster, etc.
But our society is quick to brand an Indian man who gets his wife sanitary napkins queen controlled and henpecked rather than sweet, caring, loving and mostly, understanding. Girls too, are reluctant to disclose the details about periods to guys.
I am not saying females should expose themselves each time they get their periods; all I’m saying is, Indians should stop associating periods to shame. Having periods is not a crime, wrongdoing or sin for a woman to be embarrassed of and would want to hide from others. It’s not a problem either or dilemma. Menstruation is just a biological function like digestion and blood circulation and should be regarded as just that instead of an embarrassment or an inhibition to function normally. It’s only once a month and 12 times a year – hardly an ordeal. My mom once told me that childbirth is so painful and is so urgent, you lose sense of shame. Just came to my mind here.
Menstruation is a sign of femininity and fertility and it’s powerful, not tenuous. It’s a sign of life going on, not something to hide from others at all costs. Periods are not a full stop – they are to be continued…