“Why are you crying like a girl?”, “Dude don’t be such a p***y”. These are some of the many phrases that we all have heard and even used. Girl and woman are used as synonyms for weakness, sensitivity, and inferiority. The patriarchal society we live in accepts us only with terms and conditions, Men= strong and Women=weak.
This gender inequality has existed for centuries and so has the struggle to overcome it. You must be wondering, why am I bringing up gender inequality whilst talking about menstruation?
It is like a butterfly effect. The unequal power relations between men and women result in women’s and girls’ voices not being heard in important aspects of their lives, like household, communities, and so on. This also has led to the cultural taboos, stigmas, and shame around menstruation, like strengthening the prevalent cultural belief of menstrual blood being “bad blood” and menstruators being “impure”.
During their periods, women and girls may be excluded from using water and sanitation facilities, are unable to participate in social, educational, religious activities, and in some cultures, are even excluded from their homes. This is how gender inequality acts as one of the underlying issues towards the neglect of menstrual hygiene.
Moreover, most men do not know about the normal physiology of menstruation, such as the menstrual cycle. Men, being the breadwinner of the household, are responsible for decision-making regarding facilities and services needed by women and girls, including access to toilets and the availability of sanitary napkins, and women and girls’ participation in awareness-raising sessions and community meetings.
When we talk about the urban landscape, even the awareness is gender-centric. In 8th grade, when we were introduced to the reproduction chapter, the important topics were hurried through and genuine questions were dodged. Seminars about menstruation and period products were restricted to girls only. We were taught to keep menstruation and period products a secret, from medical shops giving pads covered in black bags to switching on the tap while tearing the plastic off it in public bathrooms. Due to the stigmas and taboos around the topic, men and boys have cursory and inaccurate information which they gain from social media, movies, books, and other informal sources. While most men are aware of menstruation, they lack the knowledge of the why’s, how’s, when’s, and for what’s. The thought of buying period products is a form of discomfort and shame for them.
The dialogue of menstruation needs to happen with the menstruators and the non-menstruators. So that we break the stigmas and taboos with awareness and knowledge, bust every myth with fact and create a supportive, secure and comfortable environment for everyone.