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A 14-Year-Old Kenyan Girl Committed Suicide After Being ‘Period Shamed’. Why Is This Even A Thing?

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No matter how much we talk about periods, we simply can’t get people to wrap their head around it. We have ads playing on television, movies being made about pads, women buying period paraphernalia without hiding it and yet, when we get them, it offends people. And you would think most women would give it back, considering that we don’t actually ask for this but some women are actually ashamed of it, and we don’t know why.

Today, after coming across a rather unsettling and unbelievable post about a 14-year-old committing suicide after being ‘period shamed’ in a school in Kenya, I found myself annoyed and uncomfortable, in equal measure. Not only was the news of a young girl killing herself over being shamed about a process so natural distressing, but the fact this was the first time I was actually hearing of a concept of ‘period shaming’ was alarming too. Of course, we are in a time when about anything becomes a ‘thing’ even a sneeze by Taimur Ali Khan, but this seemed important and I decided to educate myself, and therefore you, by way of this article.

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❗️CW: suicide —— A 14 year old girl died by suicide yesterday after being #periodshamed by her female teacher. It was her first period. The teacher berated her in front of the class and made her stand outside because she didn’t have a pad, for the remainder of the school day. It’s 2019. How the fuck is this still happening. I googled the article to continue reading and was shocked at the DOZENS of articles under the same title “girl commits suicide after being period shamed” all across the world. This is NOT OKAY. We need #MenstruationEducation as a part of #ComprehensiveSexEd that should be mandatory across the world. Our strongest weapon is knowledge #advocateforSexEd #sexedinschools

A post shared by MaryMacrae Lynch, MSW, LMSW (@clinicalfeminist) on

Understanding Period Shaming

So after reading, what were a series of very informative articles and studies and recalling many of my own personal experiences in its wake, I was finally all caught up about the phenomenon that is ‘period shaming’, and guess I hadn’t been a stranger to it after all.

You see, my understanding of the term went way back, to the time I had actually been introduced to the term of ‘menstruation’. The point in every girls biological life where she starts to discharge blood and other material from the lining of her uterus every month from the time she hits puberty until menopause, except of course, during pregnancy. Now reading about it at present, feels like no big deal at all, right? We’re old enough to understand it, go through it and hell even talk about it with friends. But this isn’t and hasn’t been the case with a lot of us women out there.

Also Read : Taapsee Pannu Is All About Talking About Periods And We Support Her Wholeheartedly!

I was 13 years old when I was first introduced to the concept of periods. And the way it was done, was also the first time I was period shamed in my life. Of course, that time I did not know any better. Summoning all the girls of my class to the library, where in the far corner was a projector ready with a presentation waiting for us, all the boys were politely asked to exit the room as the teacher, female of course, began to explain our biological cycles to us in hushed voices. That right there, the need to feel to hide it was where the problem arises from.

Period Shaming is the conscious or unconscious act of making someone feel invaluable or shameful for being on their menstrual cycle. Every time a shopkeeper packs up a box of tampons in a black carry bag while giving it to you, he is period shaming you. Every time you sneak a pad from your bag and carry it to the washroom covered in a newspaper, you are period shaming yourself. But the question is, what for?

Why Is Period Shaming So Rampant?

What is so unnatural or secretive about the fact that a woman, because of biology, goes through the process of menstruation, that people talk about it in hushed tones like it’s nuclear weapon code? For years now, decades rather, society has conditioned us to feel inferior and disgraceful about our own bodies. And the reason for such shaming and disgrace is the lack of knowledge, in girls and boys alike.

Now imagine, living in a world where you’ve been taught to whisper about such things to each other and never encouraged to talk about it as openly as you would about any other thing. Cut to the current and ‘woke’ state of affairs, where now it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about your periods and your body. The change that most of us have now desperately started seeking will not come overnight and that is one thing that we need to really understand. This has not happened now and today, it has taken years and years of talk about it. The burden of de-stigmatizing the the myths around periods can’t fall on the women or men alone. It has to be understood first, fought later.

Also Read : On #MenstrualHygieneDay, Here Are Ridiculous Menstruation Myths From Around The World

What Needs To Change?

We with a considerable lack of information on the subject, have been contributing to making it the taboo that it is today, and this needs to change. Lest we lose the lives of more women and girls over it. And if you really try to look at it, all of this period shaming arises out of nothing but our very own fabricated myths around it. Bleeding is perfectly normal. The weird notions about the woman being impure, of being untouchable are all ramifications of a culture trying to control its women. In certain parts of our society, women on their periods cannot enter their kitchen. And if that riles you up, imagine this. They are not even allowed to eat from the same plates. You know, lest everyone else becomes ‘impure’ as well. Often, women on their period aren’t allowed to be part of religious functions. For something that is entirely biological, these restrictions seem irrational and illogical.

Let’s, for a moment, forget what we do. Let’s see how we talk about it. Often instead of saying we are on our period, we have names for it. ‘I’m down, I am chumming, It’s that time of the month’ We struggle to understand why our periods have to be nicknamed so that we can bring it up in a conversation without alarming anyone. Or hide our pads in the back of our drawers, just so it doesn’t ever fall in the sight of our fathers or brothers at home. We need to change all of this and then some.

I mean, we bleed every month for a week, from the time we start adulting to the time we hit menopause and we just took it in our stride. Isn’t it time you do it too? Rather than looking down upon a friend for going through an absolutely natural process, we must learn to normalise it. Movies like Padman, Period. The end of sentence,  are all efforts to do the same, and we must not just acknowledge them but appreciate them as well. There is no shame in openly discussing what you go through and anyone who tells you otherwise, can take that very tampon from you and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

As an individual, as a feminist, and as a woman, own up to your body and accept it in all its forms and phases. A concept as stupid and irrelevant as Period shaming needs to be put to rest, because honestly it has nothing to be shameful about. For most of us, it is a happy time to realise that we’re not pregnant and for others, a chance to start trying at getting that baby in the belly again. So, don’t let these randomly coined terms by the society get to you, let alone break you. We wish the girl who died today in Kenya, knew how insignificant that comment was and not at all worth giving up her life for. But let’s not let that misstep go in vain, and let’s learn from it that these things have more to do about what we feel for ourselves and less about what people feel about us. So till the time you are comfortable about what is going on in your life, in your body and those panties, you don’t have to give a rat’s ass about what others have to say. It’s your f**king life and your f**king period, and you own up to it, like a f**ing boss.

Also Read : Dear Boyfriend, This Is How I Want To Be Treated When I Am On My Period

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