The Bitch, the Witch or That Woman on a Shaky Pedestal?

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Millions of women are ostracised for what is , and in fact, a magical and bodily function that enables the miracle of life. It is our fear of this magic that makes us step back from it. All we are doing here is labelling a woman unclean, without cause or reason, just like women who could heal or had intuitive powers were declared ‘witches’ in the old days, without cause or reason. Payal asks hard-hitting questions and asserts the feminine identity, in her regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Today I wore a white saree. I love the pristine white of it and wore it with confidence, blithely unaware of impending trouble. And then, I got my period and had to deal with that dratted stain on my white panties, white petticoat, and my white saree.

So, that makes something we should talk about, right? The shame and the worry connected with that stain. Not mine. Not now, at any rate. But surely ‘ours’ when we were young girls.

Yesterday, I was discussing this with a few . Why do we still uphold menstrual taboos? Even in families that are educated, I hear that the girls are made to eat separately, not allowed to sit on the sofa, given different food, not allowed to enter the kitchen or the prayer room. In orthodox families, they wash their clothes by hand and sleep on the floor. Many ladies are popping pills to delay the period, just so that they are ‘allowed’ to be part of the celebration.

Menstrual taboos seem really strong in southern parts of India. I have to ask those of you who believe this: 

  1. Why is menstrual blood unclean? How is it different from the blood the courses through your body?
  2. If passing through the makes it unclean, does that make your unclean? If so, what of the child you pushed through that ? Is it doomed to be impure all its life? 
  3. If you believe that God ordained through religion, that women are impure during periods – why do you suppose that God punished you with periods and impurity in the first place, because ostracism is isn’t it?
  4. How is the human race to procreate without the miracle of periods?

Even today, millions of women are ostracised for what is normal, and in fact, a magical and powerful bodily function that enables the miracle of life. It is our fear of this magic that makes us step back from it. All we are doing here is labelling a woman unclean, without cause or reason, just like women who could heal or had intuitive powers were declared ‘witches’ in the old days, without cause or reason.

Why is semen not ‘unclean’? It smells disgusting, it tastes disgusting, it’s completely useless except for that one or two times that you might need it to make a baby. Why should men not be ostracised for their bodily emissions?

Yes, that’s right, I’m a Bitch then. Which if you come right down to it, is nothing more than a female dog, and since dogs are loyal, loving and have a bite, it’s not something I object to. In fact, I do not even consider it pejorative because if it denotes a female who will bite back, yea, that’s me.

For those who have daughters, break this taboo for their sake, if not yours. You owe it them to be the mother that validates their womanhood, not shames them for it. 

Back to girlhood and the shame of the stained skirts – yes, even in an all-GIRLS school with nuns. We all lived in dread of that stain and the matron always kept extra sanitary pads and skirts handy.

Here’s how one amazing child, who obviously has an amazing mother, handled it:

She got a stain on her skirt in school and the boys started making snide remarks and sniggering at her. And she stood up and said – loudly – “What’s the matter? I got my period. I get it every month. And I have to bear with it, with the pain and the discomfort and the till it stops. Don’t know what a period is? It’s what your mother got, that’s enabled her to give birth to you assholes!” The – an enlightened one – supported her by saying – “proud of you” and giving the boys a punishment to teach them sensitivity. 

Tell your girls not to worry about stains. There’s no shame if an accident happens. Support their womanhood and help them to carry forward with confidence. Medically, there is no reason for a woman to rest, eat different food or be secluded during the period. Even if you didn’t fight for yourself, fight for her right to live without taboos.

Maya Angelou said nothing can dim our light – but let me tell you – YOU dim it as a MOTHER, every time you tell your daughter to not touch things because she has a period, every time you shame her for what she says or does or wears or how she behaves. You dim her light when you echo what society will try and force on her.

The way I figure it, it’s going take a long time to change but change is never going to happen as long as you remain that ‘good’ woman, balancing on her shaky pedestal. As long as we stay quiet, women will be labelled ‘bitches’ and ‘witches’ and you, you ‘nice’ woman, you ‘good’ woman will always be afraid to fall off the pedestal that society has placed you on.

If you have a contrary point of view, I’d love to hear it. 

Recommended reading: The Bitch is Back. A collection of writings where women recount their unique experiences and share their learnings as the female of the species.

©Payal Talreja

Photos from the Internet

#TheBitch #Witches #GoodWoman #Periods #TabooAboutPeriods #StainedSkirt #UnshamedPeriod #FeministAtFifty #DifferentTruths

Payal Talreja

Payal Talreja

Businesswoman, curator of handlooms, poet, writer, and erstwhile doctor. Payal Talreja practices everything except her involuntary ‘profession’. She claims that words chose her and are now her weapon of choice because an activist born will stay silent for no man. A wanderer, a voyager, she’s happy to slum it or luxuriate in any life experience. She crafts poems and fiercely feminist essays and will assume her ‘Chandi’ avatar to ‘write’ any .
Payal Talreja
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