Menstruation Taboos – The Current Sensation

Reading so many articles on the supposedly most taboo subject “PERIODS”, evokes certain thoughts. There was an era when certain things were staunchly followed during menstruation and they were:

(1) Female folks of the home were told to stay separate

(2) Instructed not to touch anything or anyone

(3) Even given leftovers to eat (including yesterday’s food)

(4) Usually told to be off social gatherings, especially religious functions

(5) Instructed not to enter temples

and many more.

I was raised in that era, when many of these rituals were followed in the family and community on a ‘partial basis’. I say ‘partial basis’ because there were elders in the family who had strictly followed these during their times, but with both parents working and living in a nuclear family, we chose to skip many of these things, because it was simply not practical to observe. All mom used to do was, avoid getting into the temple room of the house. Besides, time, energy and support were factors, stringent in their availability for my folks. So, in my home, the liberal attitude was born, more out of circumstances and which implied nothing but ‘UNDERSTANDING’ between my parents, over the domestic affairs.

My position was different from many of the women in my family circle. First, I belonged to one or two generations ahead of them. Next, my parents specifically encouraged me a lot, at education, the opportunity or importance of which was never known to most of the senior folks. While I lived among traditional, religious people, I harboured an outlook that, to them, was way too far-fetched…impracticable of attainment, though it was something normal for my generation. Besides, I was someone who strictly had my unique way of approaching things and spoke out my own mind, right since the budding years and I was affectionately accepted as such.

So, when it came to us, the expectation of following these rituals were automatically lowered, almost surrendered and nevertheless, we got the benefits of children belonging to the next generation, who, upon physical maturity, respectfully gained the freedom to follow whatever we preferred, without any pressure.

Whilst I’ve been told that many of the reasons for these taboos are scientific, I am, honestly, not acquainted with the correct reasons behind certain practices to be able to share with anybody. Compelled, I never was to follow anything at home and all this was entirely left to personal choices by my parents, elders and most importantly, my in-laws. Though modern in many ways, I am yet somewhere influenced by the love, my old-fashioned folks showered, for their way of advising bore a lot of old worldly charm and certain things becomes a matter of reverence. But again, I would follow, only whatever I could (insisting the words again – ‘whatever I could’) with my own kind of inadequacies. I was never questioned about it but at the same time, I never tried to figure out the reasons behind them. Again, this is not necessary for certain things get naturally inculcated as a part of one’s faith and upbringing.

But all said and done, that never deterred me from discussing my physical problems, even if they were of the female order, with the men folks at home, with whom I stay close and that included my dad and now my husband, because living in a nuclear family, with working parents, you have to create an understanding with them to draw support. And what mattered was that they always cared.

What I wish to say here is, alright “Period” is a biological function of the body but your ‘body’ is a personal thing. Religion or no religion, one has to be upfront about personal difficulties with their immediate families. It’s imperative that the issues one faces, whether it’s physical, psychological or the hard-to-follow practices must be discussed and sorted out with their near and dear ones. I somehow disagree with the tom-tom and hype around this subject, in disproportionate magnitudes, when what is really important is families must be made to understand these problems and encouraged to welcome accommodations. More efforts must be directed towards constructing empathy, tolerance and consideration for a woman, inside of her personal space i.e. if this significant element is what is essentially lacking.

I see menstruation lately being promoted…Correction! ‘Excessively Flaunted’, on the media and a huge fanfare built-up around it. Also, this is used as an angle to attack every other issue and aspect, whether relevant or not. I accept that, as human beings, we can be less tolerant to certain practices that keep affecting our personal space. Besides, there’s this grave need to ENCOURAGE A HUMANE AND BENEVOLENT APPROACH within our homes, towards this body function, granted only to the female gender and the problems associated with it, that is not limited to and includes dealing with the affairs of daily life when one is menstruating. But one must not forget the level of dignity attached to this body function, that deserves an accord of esteem and especially, when no other body fluids or functions, are ever so paraded in public. So, if correction is the intent, ideally, shouldn’t the talk of menstruation be directed at or happening more with the family members, doctors, educational institutions etc.? Health-related informative advertisements and short stories could be put up on televisions and radios.

Going some steps further, conscious efforts towards providing guidance, creating an environment of hygiene awareness and cultivating facilities therefor, like toilets, cheap or free, good quality feminine hygiene products, to females among the poor and rural areas, is what is really needed. Menstruation-shaming, fundamentally, should be addressed to eradicate within the homes that are uneducated and less exposed to liberated views and this would require a lot of field work, to create an underpin, for the women, less-privileged. Maybe a door-to-door education too might help in enlightening them about the bleeding discomforts, cramps, pain, hormones, mood swings and more on female reproductive system and health, besides explaining what sort of family understanding, support and care should be in place, to ease out their situation. Like that there are many things one can do but is an active effort really happening in those lines? Or is “Periods” just another sensationalism towards misdirected objectives, under the garb of feminism and discrimination?

PS: Thanks for reading. Please do feel free to write in your comments.

3 thoughts on “Menstruation Taboos – The Current Sensation

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