I was on an invigilation duty, where no examinee was allowed to leave the room during the duration of the examination. Not even to go to the rest room. The examinees were adult international students.
About an hour into the examination, a female student requested to be excused for a toilet break. The co-invigilator and I reminded her of the exam rules. Then, this lady of Indian origin walks up to me and whispers, “It’s because I am suffering from periods.”
I tried hard to suppress my surprise, annoyance, not to mention the cryptic humour in her language. But the question foremost on my mind was: “Is the monthly cycle really a ‘suffering’?”
In most cultures, women are considered weaker, inferior, impure (along with several other adjectives with negative connotations), because they go through menstruation – the process of ovulation - every month. And, did you know that this experience is limited not only to the female gender of the human specie, but to all other female primates? Yes, all female animals also ‘suffer’ the cycle. Because, unless you ‘suffer’, you cannot give birth to the next generation and your specie will come to an end. Period.
Would you still call it a ‘suffering’? Or would you not consider yourself lucky that you own a body that is blessed? It is a signal of being equipped with potential parenthood. So celebrate it. Celebrate the cycle, as I would like to say.
Men, who condemn women at workplace because the latter go through PMS every month, need to be reminded about the repercussions of the absence of menstruation. They behave the way they do partly due to ignorance and most often from social and economic insecurity.
But how do you analyse the behaviour of critics, both men and women, who condemn the public display of a photograph depicting a fully-clothed young women in bed with a period stain? To be honest, I did not find the photograph aesthetically appealing. But if we are talking about a woman’s body and its many facets, the curves and the languor do appeal.
The abovementioned Instagram post was even pulled down by concerned authorities because they found it “objectionable”. Why? Because the menstrual cycle is too private to be shared on a public forum? Yeah right. Just as breast feeding in public is.
I request the moral police to come up with a solution. Given the way their socially-constructed conscience works, is it best to simply write off the menstrual cycle? If we do that (and it can very well be done with medical intervention), there would be no need to breast feed babies in public either; there will be no more babies. Period.
#Imnotdown is a hashtag promoted by an Indian sanitary pad-maker Sofy, to empower women and eradicate the social stigma around menstruation. They put their cause forward via lilting sing-alongs, poetry and documentary films. Each one of them is more endearing than the other. Each one is depicting the modern day life in India. Each one is enacted by young, independent and working women who are growing up in a booming economy. If you are not already proud of your home country, these ad-clips are surely going to fill your heart with pride.
The latest entry to #Imnotdown is a poetry slam by Rene Sharanya Verma. A student, Verma has already earned a name by rapping to raise awareness against misogyny in India (including rap slamming Honey Singh, the singer).
Quite a skilful poetry, the #Imnotdown slamming is full of euphemisms. Reminding us about our seventh grade biology book and the way our mothers would guide us through puberty, Verma says, “A woman’s journey from a child to an adult is marked by menstruation. Beta, leave a mark in the world. But, na-ah, don’t stain those whites.”
What an utterly awesome way to pimp your cause! Campaigns such as these kill the malaise by nipping it in the bud for the up-coming generation. That is the way to go forward. #Imnotdown. I am in my period.