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Women Bleed, Not Goddesses

31/12/2015 12:12 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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It's been the year of the "time of the month". People slept, ran and took selfies to make what they thought was a statement about the phenomenon of menstruation.

In Kolkata, from where I come, students wrote activism slogans on sanitary napkins and then made sure the pictures flooded social media in what they saw as a protest, an awareness drive. Then there was the woman who ran a marathon with blood flowing unrestricted and staining her shorts, and another who took pictures of her menstrual blood.

Whether or not you agree with the shock tactics used to garner attention, the above incidents triggered a timely debate about the existing taboos around menstruation as well as unfair practices towards women experiencing their period - the untouchability, the unacceptability, the social and familial bans and exclusions in the name of religious traditions and social conventions.

Do you feel more benevolent, more charitable, more selfless than usual because your uterus happens to be shedding its lining?

But then a more worrying strand of thought - albeit well-intentioned-- gained popularity, backed with claims based on religion and pseudo-science.

To "explain" the discriminatory practices around menses - such as banning a menstruating woman from the kitchen, from temples, and even from the bed - a counter theory gained some traction, including on social media. A "pedestal" theory, if you know what I am talking about. They spoke of the "purity" of menstrual blood, they expounded on the strength and vigour of a menstruating woman (that is supposedly so fierce that even the gods fear her and keep her away). They discussed the sheer superiority of women, glorifying them and deifying them for their gender. They talked about women not being mere humans, because... well, because they menstruate!

In my opinion, these glorifications are almost as dangerous as the taboos they are supposed to counter.

Consider this, fellow divine woman... do you feel braver, stronger, kinder during "those days of the month?" Do you feel more benevolent, more charitable, more selfless than usual because your uterus happens to be shedding its lining? Does menstruation bring about in you any extra virtue, some additional conscience, some excess brain power, a superior heart? Do you need this theory, really? And do you realise that this mystification of you and your bodily processes is only complementing the discrimination that you're fighting against, although it so much more pleasant to hear?

Please remember, really, please do, that social taboos on menstruation cannot be defended with the eyewash of respect. All they have done is promote discriminations and disparities. Negative or positive, a larger-than-life interpretation of menstruation does not help women in any way.

Let's not be sidetracked by "explanations" that these proscriptions are practiced to accord women respect for their divinity. Pedestals are a form of discrimination...

We should -- we must -- know what we fight for. We must understand what we need to fight for. We need to fight against prejudice. We need to fight against practices in which girls are forced to sleep away from the familiar or not allowed to wash their hair or stopped from going to school or what have you. Let's not be sidetracked by "explanations" that these proscriptions are practiced to accord women respect for their so-called divinity. Pedestals are only an alternative, smarter form of discrimination, an excuse for unfairness, a tool for disparity. We should not give up our struggle for human rights just so we can be equated with goddesses -- goddesses that are subject to restrictions decided by other people.

May we have the courage to fight for our rights. May we also have the strength to refuse the worship. May we have the have the sanity to ask for what is right and not be fooled, trapped and trumped anymore!

We do not, do not, accept belonging either at the feet or above the head. We just want our ground, a ground below our feet, our place right next to men.

We are not evil because we menstruate. We are not divine because we do.

This is an edited version of a post was first published here.

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