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Male-female role reversals have intrigued most of us. 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?” Nikita dwells on this interesting subject, in the regular column, exclusively in Different Truths.
“What is this, mummy?” asked an 8-year- old girl holding her mother’s tampons. Caught unprepared and unwilling to talk about puberty to her daughter, the woman hushed the child saying, “These are window cleaners, baby.”
Most of the women refrain from talking about puberty and menstruation to their daughters until they start bleeding. A girl’s first period may occur anywhere from the age 9 to 14. A recent research says that girls start experiencing other hormonal changes in the body by the age of 9 or 10. When she starts developing breast buds, you will know that her first period may not be far off.
“A girl’s first period should actually be a milestone in a series of talks over many years about normal development – physical changes and psychological changes,” says Karen Zager, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in New York City and co-author of The Inside Story on Teen Girls: Experts Answer Parents’ Questions. “All of that should start when they’re very young, in age-appropriate ways.”
Every woman in the history of humanity has or had a period. It is as normal as eating, drinking, and sleeping. There is no human race without it. Yet most of us hate to talk about it. 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 the world where “men-struation” justifies men’s place everywhere: in combat, political office, religious leadership positions and medical schools.
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. Girls are dropping out of the school due to lack of proper sanitation, separate toilets, taboos, embarrassment and lack of knowledge.
Menstrual problems are not killing anyone but they largely affect how girls view themselves. Mostly, girls start losing confidence when they are treated as impure or inferior during their periods. Access to healthy living also means availability of sanitary napkins during those days.
Menstruation was not always a taboo. In ancient cultures, it was a mark of honour 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 from work to celebrate her period. In India, many women believe that they are impure during periods and should refrain from entering the kitchen and doing other household chores. I believe, it started with a kind initiative, which allowed women to rest and revive the bodies. Kamakhya Temple in Assam, India is a holy abode of the menstruating goddess.
In 1970, 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.” Berman asked people to imagine a “menopausal woman president who had to make the decision of the Bay of Pigs,” Even the greatest Leaders of the developed countries hold primitive views when it comes to women and periods. It is a reflection of how women’s bodies are viewed even today by governments and society.
You can buy food without paying taxes but a sanitary pad is still a luxury item. A Guardian columnist and feminist stated that tampons and pads should be made free for all. Horrified conservatives fired back: If women had access to free tampons, what would come next — cars and food? Don’t you want the government out of your uterus?
Education about menstruation is sorely lacking all over the world, depriving many women of the vital information they need to properly take control of their bodies.
Photos sourced by the author from Internet.
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