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The effort to end period shaming
is going mainstream.

By Rupi Kaur and Prabh Kaur -- Let’s begin with the obvious: Every woman in the history of humanity has or had a period. Each month, her uterus sheds its lining, sending blood flowing out through her vagina (unless she’s pregnant, in which case she gets a lengthy reprieve). This process is as natural as eating, drinking and sleeping, and it’s beautiful too: There’s no human race without it. Yet most of us loathe talking about it.

When girls first start their periods, they embark on a decades-long journey of silence and dread. Periods hurt. They cause backaches and cramps, not to mention a cloud of emotional ickiness—and this goes on every month, for 30 to 40 years. In public, people discuss periods as often as they discuss diarrhea. Women shove pads or tampons up their sleeves on their way to the bathroom so no one knows it’s their “time of the month.”

They get bloodstains on their clothes. They stick wads of toilet paper in their underwear when they’re caught without supplies. Meanwhile, ad campaigns sanitize this bloody mess with scenes of light blue liquids gently cascading onto fluffy white pads while women frolic in form-fitting white jeans.

In a 1978 satire for Ms. magazine, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem answered the question that so many women have asked: “What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear—menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:

Men would brag about how long and how much,” she wrote. Steinem envisioned a world where “men-struation” justifies men’s place pretty much everywhere: in combat, political office, religious leadership positions and medical schools. We’d have “Paul Newman Tampons” and “Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-Dope Pads” and a new model for compliments: Nearly 40 years later, Steinem’s essay still stings because “menstrual equity” has gone almost nowhere. Today, tampons and pads are taxed in most states while adult diapers, Viagra, Rogaine and potato chips are not.

Men can walk into any bathroom and access all of the supplies they need to care for themselves: toilet paper, soap, paper towels, even seat covers. Women, however, cannot. In most schools, girls have to trek to the nurse’s office to ask for a pad or tampon, as if menstruating is an illness rather than a natural function.

In most public and private places, women are lucky if there’s a cranky machine on the wall charging a few quarters for a pad that’s so uncomfortable you might prefer to use a wad of rough toilet paper instead. No change? You can pay for a parking spot with a credit card, but have you ever seen such technology on a tampon machine in a women’s bathroom? The situation for prison inmates and homeless women is far direr.

Even if you do have access to tampons, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require companies to list the ingredients—yet the average woman has a tampon inside her vagina for more than 100,000 hours over her lifetime. Tampons may contain “residue from chemical herbicides,” says Sharra Vostral, a historian at Purdue University who wrote Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology.

“We do not really understand the health consequences, because we are not testing for them in relation to tampons.”If all this sounds unfair, try getting your period in the developing world. Taboos, poverty, inadequate sanitary facilities, meager health education and an enduring culture of silence create an environment in which girls and women are denied what should be a basic right: clean, affordable menstrual materials and safe, private spaces to care for themselves.

At least 500 million girls and women globally lack adequate facilities for managing their periods, according to a 2015 report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). In rural India, one in five girls drops out of school after they start menstruating , according to research by Nielsen and Plan India, and of the 355 million menstruating girls and women in the country, just 12 percent use sanitary napkins.

“In today’s world, if there’s nobody dying it’s not on anyone’s agenda,” says Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli, a WHO scientist who’s worked in adolescent health for the past 20 years. “Menstrual problems don’t kill anyone, but for me, they are still an extremely important issue because they affect how girls view themselves, and they affect confidence, and confidence is the key to everything.”

For something that has over 5,000 slang terms (shark week, Bloody Mary, red wedding), the period is one of the most ignored human rights issues around the globe—affecting everything from education and economics to the environment and public health—but that’s finally starting to change. In the past year, there have been so many pop culture moments around menstruation that NPR called 2015 “the year of the period,” and Cosmopolitan said it was “the year the period went public.”

We’ll never have gender equality if we don’t talk about periods, but 2016 signaled the beginning of something better than talk: It’s becoming the year of menstrual change. There’s a movement—propelled by activists, inventors, politicians, startup founders and everyday people—to strip menstruation of its stigma and ensure that public policy keeps up. For the first time, Americans are talking about gender equality, feminism and social change through women’s periods, which, as Steinem puts it, is “evidence of women taking their place as half the human race.”

Menstruation wasn’t always so taboo. In ancient and matrilineal cultures, it was a mark of honor and power, a sacred time for women to rest and revive their bodies. Today, no one is going to the spa or taking a few days off of work to celebrate her period. Menstruation has been cloaked in shame for centuries, but that silence was broken for a brief moment in 1970 when Dr. Edgar Berman, a member of the Democratic Party’s Committee on National Priorities, suggested that women could not hold office because of their “raging hormonal imbalances.”

His comments were directed at U.S. Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii, who had implored her party to focus on women’s issues. Berman asked people to imagine a “menopausal woman president who had to make the decision of the Bay of Pigs,” or the president of a bank “making a loan under these raging hormonal influences.” Mink ridiculed his “disgusting performance,” forced his resignation—and, for a very brief time, women’s periods had the floor. Then 46 years went by without any change.

In January, President Barack Obama may have become the first president to discuss menstruation when 27-year-old YouTube sensation Ingrid Nilsen asked him why tampons and pads are taxed as luxury items in 40 states. Obama was stunned. “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” he said. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” -- Source.

Menstruation
A Sikh Woman's Perspective


"From a woman all men are born. How then can
any man degrade any woman?" -- Hari Kaur Bird

"Service is the answer. What is the question?" -- Hari Kaur Bird

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