Updated: May 5, 2020
PERIODS: WHY SHHHH?
I n India, menstruation is usually a taboo topic even amongst women, sometimes. Men never discuss it, mostly. Yet, talking of it can demystify it and make things easier for women, girl children, boys and men themselves.
A bold departure from the norm is by Anitha Nair who, in one of her novels, has portrayed a father who has to take care of his daughter and also change her sanitary napkin etc., which though cast in a tragic setting, does open up through literature, a taboo subject. It shows that one of the ways in which the silence, menstruation is wrapped up in, for and by men as to how they can help in making life easier for women and girl children, is through literature.
To give this article a better frame it may be good to think of what men can do and boys to be a help and not a hindrance to women in this regard. For the ease of classification men can be divided into married men, single ones and fathers with no spouses as in Anitha Nair’s story’s case. In all these cases the first and the most obvious medium is education, both at home, and in schools. By education, I mean, not just sex education but also classes that teach about body functions like this in more depth, in an instructive manner.
Having two daughters and asking their opinion on this topic has been illuminating for me.
They say that in case of having an educated mom like they had, the best thing I could do was not to interfere but leave it to the mother and daughters. In other words, to mind my own business. I asked them what was I supposed to do if I were a single parent.
Their practical tips to me were:
If not yet married, read up on all this.
To be kind and considerate.
To be sensitive in how I spoke of it.
To read up on all this.
To be a mother too and teach the children about it when the time came.
To be kind, considerate, caring and sensitive in thought, word and action, while doing a and b.
(This surprised me) To get involved in community actions like seeing that sanitary napkins were tax free, were kept of international quality and standard, and be instrumental in making them available everywhere etc.
There is a great need for literature on the same as well as didactic or propaganda like pamphleteer in all languages. Audio visual methods can serve the purpose to conspicuous extent.
In literary groups like ours The Significant League, prompts on such taboo topics can be given. Such exercises if done constantly, can sensitize men and ease women. Along with these if lectures by doctors, activists , and other experts in the field of hygiene, health and even food and diet can be of great use in freeing menstruation from the stigma attached to it for ages. The open, clear, simple discussion on it will make it easier for men to deal with women and provide the right kind of help by being the right kind of company to them.
Jokes on the subject that are not savory would then be avoided. Perhaps people would
then stop calling it 'that time of the month' and call it just menstruation as knowledge
spreads. All religious injunctions that are only superstitions must also be gently brushed
aside though in India this change would best come, if the progressive minded holy men
accept the fact that the old traditions regarding menstruation are no longer valid in the light of the advancements society has made. Women should be fully empowered not to hold on to customs stale and hampering blind beliefs still functioning to their maximum potential.
The best way is still through delight and instruction, through art and literature and education in the right spirit, to bring about the changes required.