When I was naïve and young, the period advertisements which reeked off inconvenience brought monthly by a blue liquid were processed unconsciously and deceptively. Nothing seemed out of place or fundamentally wrong; it was as normal as the misogyny plaguing the air or the bemused expression on your face if you’re reading and wondering the purpose of this article. And then five years ago, when the clutches of the menarche gripped me in a cycle of blood and cramps, all that was left unprocessed by the child in front of the television watching that horribly fallacious advertisement was slowly and carefully absorbed.
Questions and disconcerting thoughts rushed and stained the ‘untainted’ furnishings of my mind, just like the blood gushes out of my vagina every 28 days; brimming with an unsolicited arrival of your disgust and stereotypes, carefully wrapped in fear and shame.
Class 8th, NCERT Science Textbook, Chapter 9: Reproduction in Animals. You do remember it, don’t you? Or at least I do, all your incessant giggles and sly glances at your fellow partners-in-crime (and subsequent shaming) while I continued to stare at the textbook and wonder why the graphic representation of my body, our bodies, amuses you so much. And when we turned the page to encounter the diagram of my vagina and how the destruction of its walls causes blood to flow from the organ you steal glances at, your laughs grew loose and less restrained. All knowledge is precious and rewarding, but your knowledge of my body seemed pejorative, unnatural. The education system was supposed to impart you with the foundational Biological knowledge of the reproductive system, a body of study as basic and normal as your mockery and subversion of what makes me a girl, a woman.
When I was 12 years old, I got my first period. The idea didn’t scare me; I remember my sister venturing to engineer a sanitary napkin, and the scenario where I was old enough to use one fascinated me. But all those packets delivered wrapped in newspapers or black polybags made me wonder why the protection which was being offered for the hygiene of my vagina was being shielded from the world. The ideas of discreteness and not showing that my body was functioning as it is supposed to were later fed to me. The bloody occurrences at school subsequently led me to hide those green packets of shame between my notebooks or in my bag, because if you saw them, what would you think? This monthly guest is a harbinger of my good health, and as normal as the game of hide-and-seek you want me to play to refute consciousness of my womanhood.
I stained my skirt for the first time when I was 13. Blood soiled through my clothes, that was the first time I cried because every inch of my existence told me I was supposed to cry. Why? Menstrual shaming. People saw what wasn’t for their eyes to see or acknowledge, those blotches of dirt smeared across me. The blood which so organically sprouted from between my legs was supposed to be kept hidden away in all those debasing advertisements and societal prejudices which I am expected to conform to everyday. What happens between the legs, stays out of your conscience and with your misconceptions. Unfortunately, your endeavours in keeping my body a formidable piece of enigma to the world influenced how I felt about discovering parts of myself, about my body as a whole. Wasn’t the idea of wanting to know about the sexual contours of my existence supposed to be as normal as your desire of keeping this whirlwind inside me a mystery?
Cut to today, when I have managed to build bridges away from your derogatory ideologies, and internet campaigns and a growing mindfulness of the fallen pieces of your misogynistic jenga have caused a wave of revolution. The matters of my vagina, the leaking and the seeping, might allude to an imagery of dirt and disgust, and the patriarchal constructs you continue to espouse allow you to attribute your derision as the abjection of my elemental structuring. Obviously, it’s nothing ‘personal’; just how your view of this beautiful construct of womanhood as impure and dirty reeks off a biased stench of stigma and injustice. I’ve never been a devout anything; for any religion which casts me off as dirty because I bleed because my body chooses to be healthy needs to be questioned instead of being cited as the reason for your derision.
What you’ve normalised through years, I wish to extract that drop by drop, and fill that void with the reality millions of women like me face. 12% of those who bleed don’t even have the privilege of using that sanitary napkin or tampon you want me to so masterfully conceal. With every eye you turn or every fallacious idea you seek to spread about the normalcy of my periods, you choose to deny millions of girls and women the right to an emotionally and physically healthy exploration of a journey they will traverse over the next few decades.
And thus, I reject the keyhole through which you choose to view this ‘unnatural’ phenomenon. We’re not dirty, we’re not impure, and your face shouldn’t wrinkle up in disgust when we talk about menstruation. We’re healthy, we’re powerful, and the next time you spot us hiding our wonder, tell us we’re strong and talk to us like we’re normal.
Feature Image Credits: The News Minute