Periods and Impurity – Why Periods Are Stigmatized and Why It Needs to Stop

By: Rawan Khalil

The menstrual cycle, period, whatever you want to call it really as long as you don’t label as a curse or anything shameful, is a paradox in the way it’s viewed by society. People label/perceive it as a proof of the presence of something which is either fertility or womanhood (which they tend to value and glamorize too much), yet they shame women for it and label it as inconvenient and dirty.

Why do we talk about digestion, blood circulation and breathing openly as they’re natural biological processes but when it comes to our uteruses, vaginas, ovaries, or in other words, our periods or menstrual cycle (if you prefer)  we corner ourselves and not talk? The thing which we owe our existence to is shaming. It’s shaming that the wall of women’s uteruses (endometrium) breaks down biologically, by the power of something greater, and comes out of her body. You know what? the woman is a warrior that sheds blood from her vagina every month for other people to exist and you dare shame her for that, you dare make jokes about hormones which jump up and down for people like you to exist. Excuse me, but if you think even if just for a second that periods are shaming to women you are low-key disrespecting every woman around you starting with your mother, now I think the only person that should be ashamed is yourself!

There is this seemingly inextricable rope which people tend to see tying periods and the idea of being unclean or impure, and it has been there since forever really. Now let me show you/give you an idea of how periods are/have been viewed or treated throughout history till today. In one religion/culture menstruating women were regarded so unclean to the point where a man would not sit with his wife, eat or drink with her. Medieval people believed that if a penis made contact with period blood it would burn, and that if a child was born from intercourse during menstruation the child would be possessed by the devil or deformed. During the 1920s there was this actual medical debate about an invisible poison: menotoxin, which was supposedly present in period blood which could kill plants, stop bread rising, prevent jam setting. This idea was brought forward by an American-Hungarian pediatrician named Bela Schick who apparently proved his claim, and this is quite funny, by asking his maid to arrange to “cut roses” and he was surprised that they died too soon, when he found out that she was on her period “he tied the loose ends” as he concluded that her body killed the flowers.

I am going to skip forward to today, the 21st Century because all these thoughts I just laid down, are crazy? Yes! Radical? Very. But, you know what, people back then had less resources than we do today, had a narrower understanding of science than we do now, and so whatever ideas they had regardless of how radical and crazy they are, they’re justifiable. So what IS unjustifiable? It’s living in the 21st Century and still treating periods as a symbol of weakness, impurity and shame.

The first time I ever heard the word period, I was so confused. It was in that school assembly- you probably heard too if you are a girl, where they separated the girls and the boys (god knows what they told the boys) and told us girls about periods. I sat there like a moron looking around, pleading people with my eyes to explain what the hell is going on. What was even worse: that most of the people understood because they have already gotten their periods. Now ever since that day, I have always thought that whatever that is, it’s disgusting, all the girls came out giggling and whenever a boy asked what it was about and I would open up my mouth they’d “shhh” me to shut as it is a girl’s only topic. I believed them, I fell into the trap and maybe you did too.

Girls in Nepal are not allowed to go to school when on their periods, or even touch their textbooks because they’re impure.  In india, there is a sanitary napkins brand named: “whispers” because you whisper to your friend right, to check if you stained your trousers or skirt. We’re dirtier, more flawed and less fucking human on our period.

The media portrays period blood in advertisements using a blue liquid, god knows what that is. I am pretty sure blood is red.

All these ideas are due to the lack of awareness, I mean imagine if the lesson about menstruation was given to us earlier, if the assembly was given to both boys and girls for both of us to grow knowing that it’s normal. If we continue as the human race, women included, to treat women as filth, there would come a day where we will actually believe we are! There is a reason we live under patriarchy, it’s because women are seen as less.

One thought on “Periods and Impurity – Why Periods Are Stigmatized and Why It Needs to Stop

  1. i just wanted to say that the blue liquid is because once in an advertisement they used exactly a drop of blood for a period advertisement and people went crazy and some people would scream and faint when they see that blood because a lot of people have a fear of blood+it was unusual for them and the commercial had to be banned from ever being shown on tv again

    Like

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