Thursday, June 6, 2024

Periods - preparing our next generation

Smriti Irani lost in the elections. I hope she finds her way back in parliament. I say this as I remembered one of her attendance where she calmly but confidently replied in the question hour, "Period is not an illness", Smriti Irani had confidently put her 'personal' opinion in the parliament. I appreciated the way the discussion around the often taboo subject happened so openly, respectfully and in a dignified manner especially between the two genders. Each person that participated in the debate epitomized how mature we can be when discussing such issues.  

It coincided with my own internal discourse of how personally I feel about periods as a woman. Especially, since I have two daughters who will grow up one day to face similar situations, this become even more pertinent question for me in general. How should woman feel about periods? And to answer this for my girls, I revisited my own story as a girl and how did I feel the first time. But first lets start with

Should we or Shouldn't we?

talk about periods with our daughters. I came from a generation where there was no question of talking freely and confidently about it. The general attitude was nobody would. Forget about open discussions. Women were huddled together into the kitchen in the patriarchal setup and the D-day would be looked upon as a filthy disability. By the way have this outlook really changed? 

And then came the times when it couldn't be ignored any more but women just tend to be hush hush about it or giggle sheepishly too embarrassed to discuss anything relevant related. Remember those initial days of Sanitary pads showing in TV commercials. And in most of our families everyone, men or women, would do their best to ignore that Ad even though seconds before and later our eyes were glued to the rest of the content on TV. I remember being so confused what the fuss was about as a little girl who had no idea as the women in my family always dismissed my curiosity too ashamed to talk openly about it.

What does all that say about our own feelings about being a woman?

Over time, in my personal experience, after speaking with so many woman from all sorts of backgrounds, I understood this hate towards periods have led to woman in general not feeling great about herself. Sad, two beautiful genders needed to make a beautiful world but one feels constantly bad about her biology! Beauty begins at home. Instead the one word that describes the feeling most of the girls feel after starting a period would not be beauty but - 'ASHAMED'. Yes, girls feel ashamed of periods. And we have to break this cycle of this feeling of being ashamed. It is nothing but social conditioning being passed down between generations and generations of women. And don't get me wrong, by breaking the cycle, I don't mean going totally opposite and become shameless about it. We need to be confident and keep our grace. 

Some woman believe they can talk confidently about periods. But talking is different. That is your attitude. Deep down how do you feel about having periods? Especially that icky feeling you cant avoid to have about those days. To young mothers I ask to reflect, if you have a daughter would you teach her or you will escape till she gets to know from the special sessions at her school? What would you tell her when she asks if this happen to everyone even boys? How would you make sure that your girl who till now enjoyed being a girl wearing pretty dresses and playing princess dolls suddenly start seeing being a girl as a not so pretty affair after all? Will you talk to her with grim expressions lamenting on the fate of every girl or will you be carrying a smile on your face while talking?

Your deep down feelings are going to decide the foundation of next generation of girls - if they are happy being girls or not. And if they are healthy. Knock knock, the emotional health play a big role deciding the physical health of a person. A happy woman is likely to take care of herself every day and hence, have happy periods. And you have an important role in deciding that.

Think about it like this : You have to move to a new region due to some circumstances and the natives there aren't welcoming to anyone as they are not happy people themselves. A happy person is welcoming but they are not. They talk in a different local language but don't guide you. You learn with great difficulty that local language and struggled so much that in time, you also end up becoming a bitter person. You hate the country, the people and the language. And now another new foreigner arrives in that region just like you. Chances are you will not be welcoming too. The cycle continues.

We have something similar in our period-land. You talk to any woman, ask their first experience, their first reaction about having periods. And they will say they were scared, shocked, cried. How many were encouraged by their mothers or elder sisters and got to share their feelings? They hated why it happens to girls and in some cases they hated why are they girls? 

As a mother, as a human, who see myself more as a soul in a vessel, I find that feeling absurd and something that needs to be addressed. No one should feel why are they born like the way they are! We are supposed to just carry on in the best way we can with what we have got and let the life happen. 

Ok, so we agree woman should not feel ashamed about having periods. But how to feel great about it?  After all, it IS a mess we have to deal with every month. And its just us the woman suffering from it. Suffering - hmm, yes that's the root cause why we feel its a bad thing. Lets tackle that. Our social conditioning that it is a suffering. Lets challenge that.

What did I feel the first time?

The first time I had periods, I was glad and thankful. I was not ashamed, I didn't cry. The reason was I was a late bloomer. I was not conscious enough to feel bad about being a girl and yet conscious enough to understand the women in the family were so ashamed of it that nobody wanted to guide me. I am a self learned person and that helped me to learn a lot and without any prejudice against myself as a female gender.