A couple of days ago, whiles scrolling through Instagram, I came across some post about menstruation. To be honest I don’t know why it was even on my feed but here it was and it got me thinking. Why do we behave the way we do when it comes to menstruation? Which of course is a natural phenomenon. These posts aroused my curiosity so I decided to look into it further.
As a woman or a girl, have you ever used the public toilet whiles menstruating and it suddenly becomes a secret mission? The process of changing in the toilet must be done as quietly as possible so that no one knows that you’re changing. Maybe you had to flush the toilet or cough a couple of times to mask the sound of a pad being unwrapped. Perhaps you had to smuggle the pad or tampon into your sleeves/pockets so no one knows what you’re up to?
Or perhaps you had to double-check your seat each time you got up just in case of leakage? Maybe you had to whisper whenever you were asking someone for a spare pad? Have you ever faced any of these dilemmas? Just think for a moment. Why do we go through so much effort to hide that which is so natural? And these are just a few ways in which society teaches us to conceal our periods.
Maybe to you, it’s just a monthly occurrence that you must deal with but have you ever considered what other women have to go through just because they menstruate?
Isn’t it crazy to think that right now, girls are being bullied for having such a thing as a period (1)? A period. Right now, hundreds and thousands of girls are missing their lesson, a chance to have an education simply because they menstruated and this is just the beginning of the problem.
After some research, I came across some interesting cultural beliefs as well as some superstition about menstruation which brings about problems to women and girls. To you and me, some of these superstitions and beliefs may seem illogical. However, these are used as bases to impose restrictions on women and girls which bring about shame, isolation, and disgust instead of embracing that which is completely natural.
Here is a list of just eight examples of superstitious beliefs about periods that people subscribe to around the world (2; 3; 4):
- You can’t touch flowers or plants because they will die quicker.
- Pads need to be washed before they are thrown away or else you will be haunted by a ghost.
- You cannot make sushi because it will change the taste of the food.
- You can’t wash your hair, take a bath, paint your nails or hold a baby whiles menstruating.
- You cannot cook or enter a kitchen as it will make the food go off.
- You can’t wear white jeans.
- You can’t mix pads with trash or you will get cancer.
- You can’t wear tampons, it makes you impure and you’re no longer a virgin.
On top of this, there are some religious beliefs about menstruation which also hinders women who believe in a certain religion. These women having their periods can stop them from entering holy places, participating in religious activities and coming into contact with people because they are considered “unclean”.
It’s time to put a stop to period shaming women and girls and start normalising mensuration by educating both men and women about menstruation (5). About the cycle that takes place during menstruation and things related to menstruation such as PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).
We need to be able to have open discussions about our periods without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. It’s time to end the secrecy and celebrate the joy of being a woman. It’s time to embrace the fact that your body is functioning perfectly well and to believe that you are clean. You are not diseased from having a period. It’s s not just women’s issues, it’s also a societal issue. Period.
1. The Guardian. One in five girls and young women bullied about periods-study. The guardian. [Online] May 28, 2019. [Cited: September 6, 2019.] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/28/one-in-five-girls-and-young-women-bullied-about-their-periods-study.
2. Hello Clue. 36 Superstition about periods from around the world. Hello clue. [Online] September 5, 201. [Cited: September 6, 2019.] https://helloclue.com/articles/culture/36-superstitions-about-periods-from-around-world.
3. Werft, M and Canal, G. 10 Myths about Periods. Global Citizen. [Online] May 23, 2017. [Cited: September 6, 2019.] https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/8-crazy-cultural-myths-about-periods/.
4. Armitage, S. 38 things not to do on your period according to superstition. Buzzfeed. [Online] August 1, 2017. [Cited: September 6, 2019.] https://www.buzzfeed.com/susiearmitage/period-superstitions.
5. Normalising menstruation, empowering girls. The Lancet child & adolescent health. 6, s.l. : Elsevier, 2018, Vol. 2.
Written by Anita Akoto