#FeministMondays | Where Are The Pad Women?

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I watched 'Pad Man' last weekend and I thought that it was a good movie. For me, the movie was all about the love that a man had for his wife and wanting to ensure her well-being. The promotions around the movie was done well too. I know a lot of people came forward and complained that why are they showing the use of sanitary pads when it is not good for the environment and how pads were getting wasted while celebrities were posing with it. The intention of the movie was to get men and women to talk about menstruation and show that it is not something to be ashamed of, and it did it well to a certain extent. At the movie, in the theater, there were an equal number of men and women and I was honestly surprised. I actually thought that men probably would shy away from watching this movie. My husband was keen on watching it as was I and the reaction from the crowd was quite something. Once the movie ended and they showed the real life pad man, there was a standing ovation as well. I was surprised and well, proud.

I got my first period when I was a few months short of thirteen. One morning I woke up and it was there. I told my mother about it and she gave me a pad. She did not have to explain all the details to me as I was aware of what was happening to my body. No, in spite of having two daughters, my mother never felt the need to talk to us about menstruation. Nor did our aunts or elder cousins. I was lucky to have an elder sister whose experience taught me about menstruation. When I got my first period, I was neither shy nor embarrassed. I took a shower, ate breakfast and went out to play on the street. Yeah, that's me. My mother did not stop me and she let me be. I thought that periods were normal and since I did not have any discomfort, I thought periods would be a breeze every month. When my grandmother saw me playing on the street and called me and as I came up close to her and she yelled "No, no, don't touch me", I realized how wrong I was.

I continued to be the person I was. I was always an active person, and I continued to play, dance and jump around. I decided to choose to ignore my grandmother and since my parents too did not make a big deal about it, I remained the same. After the first month, no one knew if I had my period or not. Why should anyone anyway? It was happening inside my body and I was very careful to stay safe and hygienic. Studying in a convent helped too, where menstruation, sex and pregnancy were taught to be normal experiences. I'm one of those lucky ones, who does not face any pain during menstruation. I occasionally get cramps, but nothing intolerable. I workout, go to work, visit temples (If the situation arises that is. I'm not a religious person but if I have to go to a temple, being on my period or not doesn't matter to me), eat what I want and do anything that I want while I'm on my period.

Then, I got married. Having grown up in a house were periods were considered normal, suddenly having to tell someone about it every month was torturous. I could have just kept quiet and not mentioned it at all, but then people started asking me if I was pregnant. You see, I have no issues talking about menstruation, but the way I got treated after that is what troubled me the most. I was treated like an untouchable and not allowed to walk around the house or enter the kitchen (the Gods were kept there (Yeah, so much for the God is everywhere logic)). This scarred me terribly. It affected me so much that because of the stress of the ill-treatment, I completely stopped getting my period until the doctor gave me pills to induce it. For months, I wouldn't get it and God only knows the number of pregnancy tests that I had to take every month just to be sure that I was not pregnant. This was another added stress. In short, my life was screwed. But once we moved to a place of our own and my mind knew that I was free from the unnecessary stigma, my menstrual cycle performed like a well oiled machine. No external pills nothing. It was like perfect clockwork. And I went back to being and feeling free, doing what I wanted when I wanted to.

Why do women treat other women badly when they have their periods? Now, thanks to the movie, many men are aware that there is nothing to be ashamed of periods and are willing to openly talk about menstruation. But, what about the women? When will they stop feeling ashamed and impure about having their periods? Why don't mothers educate their sons and daughters about it? Why don't mothers/grandmothers/mothers-in-laws/sisters treat other women normally while they are on their period? Why are they considered impure and treated like lepers? Why are they expected to hide away from others like they have committed a crime? Why don't women make it easier for other women? Especially when they have gone through such harassment themselves? Shouldn't they try to free the other women from stigma and taboo? I know I am asking a lot of questions, but sometimes I cannot help but think that sometimes women do this to have a sense of control on the other women.

More than men realizing that periods are normal, women need to realize it first. They need to know that it is a normal body function and is nothing to be ashamed of. I have seen women sit separately on the floor, act weird even when no one tells them to do it or when no one knows that they are on their period. Why not treat it like a normal body function? Is there a certain level of attention seeking attached to it? When asked about it, they brush it off! But their body language is screaming out the obvious.

You can do all that you do on a regular day even on a day when you are on your period. Don't let a wad of cotton between your legs define what you can or cannot do. Women who treat other women badly during their periods have a special place reserved in hell for them. Some women go through extreme pain and discomfort during their period and the last thing that they need is to be treated badly during that time. If you can't be of help, then you have no right to cause them more pain. As a woman, if you don't understand the other, what's the point of all this feminism that we talk about? Nobody cares if you visit a temple when you are on your period. But when the woman herself feels that she's dirty and should not do it, then no one can help them. Will they ever learn?

Today, I cook, eat, work-out, play, pray, travel, run, dance and do everything that I want to do as and when I want to do. If I'm on my period or not, doesn't even matter.

P.S: This post is delayed by a week (just like a period at times) as I was caught up with regular life last Monday.


This post is a part of the powerful series #FeministMondays on Naba's blog and you can be a part of it too. On the second Monday of every month, write an impactful post with the hashtag #FeministMondays and link it back to Naba's blog.

26 comments:

  1. As always, only you can write with such clarity, Soumya :)

    I can totally understand that feeling of being told you are not pure. Fortunately, in my teens we moved abroad and there, it just became a normal thing. In our college, which was actually a quasi-religious institute, periods were treated very normally. We could go anywhere, do anything when on our period. Marrying into a family where this was absolutely comfortable was another big plus. I still cook, clean, go into the puja room and that also helped a great deal when I had to tell Gy about the periods.

    She is growing up with the knowledge that it is perfectly normal. So much so that when they had the talk at school she said, so many girls were giggling while she felt it was totally cool to talk about it.

    So right about how women should support other women. If not us, then whom?

    Yet to watch the movie. My movie watching is slack these days. Maybe will catch it on TV soon.

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    1. Only you can make me feel so good with a comment, Shy <3

      I'm so proud of you for bringing up Gy this way. I wouldn't want any woman to go through what I went through for that brief while.

      Women need to stand up for one another. There is no point of feminism else.

      Watch the movie, it is worth it.

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  2. I come from a family where periods were normal. Though we did not indulge in period talk of any kind with my dad and brother, I did talk to my sister and mother if I had anything to discuss. But yes I came across girls who had ridiculous notions of impurity and dirty surrounding it. It's not gone now. I do evening during periods including making pickles and sitting for pooja. But I know of aunties and some younger women who avoid cooking or going for poojas. Old fashioned thinking and so many myths. Like you pointed much more among women than men for sure.

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    1. Yes, Rachna. It is so sad to see that girls still have to go through so much just because they are on their period. When will it stop?

      It came as a shock to me when I had to go through harassment for no fault. What was more shocking is that it came from another woman and her blind beliefs! It is a woman who is blinded by the notion more than a man. If a woman doesn't follow a few things, no man will ask her to.

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  3. I’ve never understood the whole stigma around menstruation. My parents never stopped me from doing anything, and neither did my husband, so when I hear some of these “taboos”, they just sound like outdated concepts and superstitious beliefs that some people haven’t grown out of.

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    1. You are very very lucky is what I'd say. Sadly, there are many many women out there who go through hell every month.

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  4. I havent watched Pad Man, but this is one movie that was certainly needed to break the taboos around menstruation in India. Fortunately, in our family, we never had any restrictions during periods but have seen quite a few friends experience so many restrictions and some have to go through all that even now. Hope this movie brings about some change in our society!!

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    1. In India, the only way you can talk to the mass is either through cricket or bollywood. So, the movie will trigger a change I hope.

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  5. That's just how I grew up - treating periods as another part of being a human being. Back then, mum and other women did stop us from entering temples, etc. But, one day,( after I got married ) I told mum I was not going to follow all those silly rules. No, we are not impure or anything just because we are on periods and so we will definitely do the puja, or enter the temples. Our God will never mind!
    True, women are each other's enemies. And, I think, that's just because they had to suffer when they were younger, they want to ensure that their juniors go through the same ill treatment - why should they be spared? must be their attitude.
    Makes me livid just thinking about it all!

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    1. Exactly what I feel. Just because they went through something, they make sure others do too. It is wrong on so many levels. Like I said, I cannot help but feel that there is a contrived sense of control somewhere here.

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  6. For at least twenty-five years of my life, I was part of an orthodox family where one was supposed to sit apart. Our family was loving and kind, yet liked to follow tradition in many ways. Now, before you think that it was a mean thing to do, let me assure you the women were treated like queens and princesses. My uncles cooked and cleaned during those days. They brought my aunts and later me, books to read, wonderful snacks to eat and it was almost like a holiday. Not so much at my aunt's place where things were the opposite and we were treated like pariahs.

    It was only when I moved away from home with my Mom that we lived "normally" through the period, because obviously we were fine with not feeling "different" during that time.

    When my son was growing up, I explained to him about what women go through with a period and he'd show wonderful empathy. I am happy to say my husband was super-understanding too. None of the men in our house are embarrassed to go ask for a pad at the pharmacy.

    Too sad that some people still make it out to be something to hide or be shy about.

    Haven't seen the movie yet, and hope to, soon.

    Love you Hotsie!

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    1. Oh that sounds so sweet. Having men take care of women instead of ill-treating them.

      Normal is so underrated these days, no? That's how we need to bring up boys and talk about it with men. Women need to tell men that periods are normal and not act cocky about it themselves.

      Love you more, Hottie Bombalatti <3

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  7. Commendable post, Soumya. I am able to relate to this post really well. Same with my periods cycle. There has been no trouble whatsoever till I conceived. I am yet to get back mine after delivery. The time was perfect and without a doubt it was just like other days.

    I know some friends and family who have cramps and also severe pains during their periods. After listening to their stories, I came to know the other side of this. Understanding their situation made things easy for me rather than questioning more or taking pride by comparing the situation. More than words their cries and pains spoke volumes.

    Also, my parents took our periods normally. Two girls na! 😀 Since mom went through a tough time earlier, she kept things light for us. It is the same with my mother in law too.

    I don't believe in taboos. However, I have read a few things about periods and God which I easily relate to. And so I believe it. To me, Periods is all about emotions. A week before my periods, I used to feel low or angry. Generally, women are most powerful when they have their period. We are considered most pure during that time. It is said that the power of the Idol in the temple will be transferred to the woman when we visit the temple. If the thought is good, it doesn't matter, but if the thought is destructive it could lead to power being misused. Though this makes sense to me, it totally depends on each one's situation. When we have good thoughts, why bother? It could be just a theory, but since it justifies my thinking, I believe it.

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    1. Thanks Jay and I'm so glad we discussed it over the phone yesterday.

      Yes, I have read of this logic too about where a woman is as powerful as God during her period, but I have questionable thoughts about God too so I don't believe it. But I respect and accept the fact that you do. To each his/her own after all.

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  8. The word is accpetance-- accepting that its a totally normal aspect of our lives. But sigh, the truth is most seldom do. The taboo, the untouchability, the norms ... tehy could get on to your nerves. I can totally empathise with you Sowmya, it must have been hell, having to go through so much stress. All that I can hope for is the generation ahead stops the belief and taboo and learns to accept it and live life normally.

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    1. You said it, Ramya. Women need to accept this as normal and as a part of their lives. Then tell men the same.

      It was worse than hell. It makes you question so many things. But I'm so glad I'm out of there and living on my own terms now.

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  9. Didn't know they had a movie on that. Going on to menstruation, you're lucky you didn't have cramps. For me, everyone knew I had it because I always had to take a day off school with vomitting and cramps. My family didn't stigmatise it as much as I heard for some friends who weren't allowed to eat with the family or go into the kitchen. I didn't go into the prayer room for a while but then, once I was about 15 or 16, I realised it's nothing to be ashamed of and would go in. My mum, who is religious, didn't mind if I did. I do wish in India, they realised menstruation is just a normal part of a woman's life. Inconvenient at times if you suffer from cramps but otherwise, nothing to worry about.

    Can I just say though, the pill was the greatest invention! It helped my cramps big time.

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    1. Oh poor you! I hope it is much much better now.

      In India, more than the cramps it is the people around who are the pain in the wrong place. Hopefully, with time it will change.

      Oh yeah, while I was on the pill, I got my period like clockwork. But it had way too many side effects for me. Just going natural now.

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  10. You hit the nail, Soumya. Where are the pad women indeed? A lot of the stigma around periods is propagated by women themselves. They don't want to talk about it, hide pads and what not. I never felt ashamed because of periods. I have always bought pads without feeling the need to hide. When I need to take pads to the washroom at work, I don't hide it either. It's natural as simple as that. Women need to be open about periods and also about the fact that periods are different for different women. We need to stand by each other.
    Thank you for linking to #FeministMondays. So happy that you choose to do it.

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    1. I feel like slapping some women, when they talk in code or shy away from periods. We need more women talking about it and accepting it as normal.

      You're welcome, Naba. It is your initiative after all and a great one at that. I just had to be a part of it as it is something that I deeply believe in.

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  11. I grew up in a house where talking about menstruation was completely normal and no big deal was made out of it apart from Mom's constant plea to rest and not tire myself out. It was all thanks to my parents who never made me realize it was such a taboo thing outside our home. I prayed and did things like normal. After marriage the entire scene drastically changed where I realised my in-laws family was still very awkward about it. It makes me uncomfortable to be at their place when I am on periods. Even disposing the pads is a problem and embarrassing. Thankfully husband has been understanding and helps me out each time but I rather avoid going there altogether if I am expecting my periods.

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    1. I went through the same thing. I was made to feel like a leper and it hurt me so much. I totally get what you are saying.

      I have a very understanding husband too, but just lets me be.

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  12. You write with such honesty, Soumya and that's what I love about you. This is one brilliant post and more than the men, I want the women to read it.
    Missed reading your writes because as you know my hands are kinda full (Muffy) :) But I saw a tweet on this post and couldn't help but bookmark it. Keep writing, Soumya. .Keep inspiring.

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