You shouldn’t be afraid of your monthlies or ashamed to talk about it.
A period can be categorized as many things: a pain, a bloody mess (literally), usually inconvenient and sometimes embarrassing. But it’s definitely not categorized as ‘positive’ or ‘confident inducing’, because getting your period is constantly looked at as shameful. But, as inconvenient as a visit is from Aunt Flo, it’s not something to hide. It’s time we all stop being afraid of Shark Week, embrace it, be vocal about it and make it something that lends confidence to your make-up as a woman. You have the capacity of continuing the human race, and as silly as it may sound, it’s a position of power. So, stop being ashamed and afraid of your body and its functions; stop letting people invalidate you for it; start owning it and help others own it too.
1. Because Mother (Nature) Knows Best.
If there’s one reason to not be ashamed of your monthlies, it should be the fact that it’s a completely natural occurrence. More than half of the world’s whopping 7.5 billion people go through this phenomenon in their lives. When did being normal require having to be hidden or being labeled ‘disgusting’? If men aren’t shamed for having excessive chest hair, why are women for having a period? Unlike chest hair, however, the menstrual cycle lends itself to the perpetuation of the human race. Kaboom, you’ve got the world in your palm, girl!
2. Because Stigma = Sticky Situations.
Part of the problem surrounding a period is people’s unwillingness to speak about it. We all know what a taboo subject menstruation is, especially within the conservative culture of Sri Lanka. In fact, the only time a girl’s period is talked about is when it’s celebrated with a lavish party at first spot (which for the record, none of us gals enjoyed). By making menstruation part of an open conversation, it reduces the stigma and gives people who actually want to learn more about it the ability to do so.
Menstruation is a natural process that’s largely woven around reproduction and so plays an enormous role in reproductive health and fertility. A study conducted by Monash University in Australia found that out of 204 women seeking fertility assistance, only 13% knew which days of their menstrual cycle they were fertile. In other words, most of us don’t know what’s happening inside our own bodies. If there’s such uncertainty in a First World country with ample sex education, one can only imagine the plight of Lankan ladies. Although the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka and other government health bodies do offer great services concerning reproductive health, the stigma surrounding the subject restricts us from reaching out; since it has been drilled into us from a very young age that menstruation is gross and should be hidden at all costs, the hesitancy at speaking about menstruation is not at all surprising.
By actually starting to discuss your period, you begin to deconstruct the hush-hush nature surrounding it. Having said that, instigating conversation doesn’t necessarily mean pulling out the subject over dinner (unless you want to), but meaningful conversation within peer groups and on social media platforms will help negate the taboo surrounding a natural, bodily function.
3. Because Healthy Is The New Sexy
All biological functions that happen in the human body are a representation of its health. For instance, an increase in our body temperature has us running to the doctor because that indicates an intrusion in the system. It could be the viral flu or it could be a symptom or a side effect of another unidentified disease. But, we know that something’s wrong and that actions must be taken.
Similarly, our period is a part of an immaculate biological system that’s been programmed to run like clockwork. This is why at the end of the 28-day cycle, the uterine lining is shed to indicate no impregnation. This roughly equates to the fact that a regular period indicates that all’s well in the system.
But an unusual delay, longer flow period or surprise arrival could indicate that there’s a glitch somewhere in the system that demands professional attention. For instance, abnormally heavy bleeding, insufferable cramps and painful bowel movements during menstruation are a few known symptoms of endometriosis, and one of the main indicators of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is irregularity or absence of periods. But if we don’t talk about it, any menstrual or ovarian issues are shoved under the covers. Although not all irregularities point at detrimental situations, your monthlies do give you first hand stats on the condition of your body.
4. Because Pink Taxing Is Not Cool.
This term refers to the extra amount that women are charged on certain products in comparison to the same products marketed for men. The reason? Because we’re women. The sad part about this whole ordeal is that sanitary napkins and tampons, a necessity for women, undergo this taxing too. As a result, this makes these hygiene essentials a luxury for a majority of Sri Lankan women. According to Mohan Baharara, Group Director CEO of Capital Maharaja Organization speaking at the ‘Eva Piripun Mehewara’ event, sanitary pads are taxed with a 15% VAT + NBT + Port Levy, completely disregarding the absolute biological necessity of the product. He further went on to state that of the 4.2 million women who have menstruation-related concerns, studies show that only 30% of them use sanitary napkins.
According to Plan, a UK organization committed to promoting children’s rights, only 12% of girls and women have access to sanitary menstrual supplies. With the addition of the 70% of the underprivileged girls and women in Sri Lanka to that world count, it’s imperative that no woman should be placed in a position where she has to resolve to rags and pieces of clothing to manage her menstruation. Yep, that’s right—those tampons lying around in your bag are equivalent diamonds in this light.
Now, you’ve got all the reasons in the world (literally) to own your period and not be ashamed to talk about it! It’s time to start making a change. If you won’t speak about it confidently, who will?
This article was originally published as ‘Period Shaming: It’s About Time We Put A Stop To It’ in the August 2017 Confidence issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more stories of inspiring women, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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